Is it acceptable for a non-wool product to market itself as vegan wool? Absolutely not, according to Wool Producers Australia.
- A new product made from weed fibre and cotton is being marketed as “vegan wool”
- Wool producers say wool can only come from an animal
- Weganool’s retailer says the product has similar traits to wool
The peak body for woolgrowers is riled up by a marketing campaign for a new product called Weganool, made of three parts cotton and one part fibre from the weed calotropis, which is common in parts of northern Australia.
Weganool is processed in India and is being turned into clothing by Belgian designer Infantium Victoria, which markets its garments as “100 per cent organic and PETA-approved vegan”.
Infantium Victoria has defended the use of the term “vegan wool”, saying the product is marketed that way as it has similar properties to wool.
‘False and misleading’ claims: Wool Producers Australia
Wool Producers Australia chief executive Jo Hall said the definition of wool was black and white.
“I think it’s really important to be clear that if it’s not from a sheep, then it cannot be called wool,” she said.
“Any other fibre claiming to be wool is false and misleading.”
Ms Hall said she did not understand the vegan community’s opposition to wool.
“Wool is the world’s most sustainable fibre and it has all of these amazing attributes like biodegradability and sustainability and breathability and we think more people should be using wool,” she said.
Despite the rapid rise of veganism globally, Ms Hall said Wool Producers Australia would not be trying to convince vegans to wear wool.
“I’m not sure there’s any point in trying to convert a vegan, just like it’s pretty pointless for a vegan to try to convert a meat eater,” she said.
“There just may not be that common ground and they’re just not our target audience.”
Weganool has ‘similar traits’ to wool
Dinie van den Heuvel, spokesperson for Weganool and co-owner of Infantium Victoria, defended the use of the term “vegan wool”.
“The reason that it has been communicated like this is because if you touch it … it responds in the same way,” she said.
“It has the same antibacterial properties and microscopically it responds in very similar ways.
Ms van den Heuvel said she did not think Weganool would capture any of wool’s market share.
“I don’t think it’s a threat to wool, I think it’s something that exists next to it, because the fibre shows very similar traits,” she said.
Wool ‘not as eco-friendly as it’s made out to be’
Emily Rice, manager of outreach and partnerships at PETA Australia, challenged wool’s green credentials.
“I think the argument that it’s sustainable and green just because it comes from an animal is a bit of a myth that people need to challenge,” she said.
Ms Rice said plant-based products like Weganool were becoming increasingly popular globally.
“Plant-based materials really are starting to move forward because they are much more sustainable, much more viable to use and they don’t rely on a middleman that has feelings and suffers,” she said.
Ms Rice said she had no problem with the labelling of alternative clothing and food as “vegan”.
“We have this debate with things like milk, and you can pull hairs about any of these things and it really doesn’t change anything,” she said.
“The reality is, the reason these products are named that way is so that they can integrate into a market that people already understand.”