The lady at the other end of the table appears mildly confused. I seem to be being judged by her wool coat, leather shoes and calfskin bag. However, I am not here to interview for a job because I “want” to work in fashion. In fact, I have many years of industry experience. Yes, I am vegan. This is “so uncommon” in fashion circles, as the lady keeps pointing out. I didn’t get the job. After decades of being a pescatarian, I became vegan in. I was aware that veganism was possible after years of being a vegetarian. Jonathan Safran Foer and his harrowing Eating Animals were what really pushed me over the edge
I was nauseated, in tears, when I read the book, and it still brings up unease to this day whenever I look at it on the bookshelf. It is unconscionable what we do to sentient beings. Once I realized the extent of it, there was no turning around. I was done with fish, wool, and any animal products had to be kept out of my home. I felt lighter, more at ease and comfortable as a result of this lifestyle change. My life seemed to be on the up. I was a fashion journalist and copywriter. After two years in Milan, I had just moved to London. My job as a fashion writer meant that I was able to swoon over leather and marvel at the beauty of cashmere. I also enjoyed celebrating clothes I wouldn’t wear. As I left work each day, the little voice in my head was asking me why I was doing something that I did not believe in and would rather fight for.
Other people were also making fashion change happen – and this isn’t just Stella McCartney, who I admire greatly, but she wasn’t the only one. Forward-thinking entrepreneur Leanne Mai-ly Hilgard brought her brand Viète Couture to New York Fashion Week, making it the first 100% vegan brand to do so. Joshua Kutcher, a professor from NYC’s Parsons School of Design launched Brave Gentleman, a vegan menswear brand. He also created The Discerning Brute, a vegan fashion blog for men. Celebrities wore Beyond Skin shoes, and Jill Milan bags were carried on international catwalks. Change was on the horizon.
Since I was old enough for a magazine to be bought, my nose has been in one. I saved my pocket money for international editions of ELLE or Glamour, and it was logical that I would eventually start writing for magazines. My passion for glossy pages was quickly tempered by dismay when I looked through them. So I started my own magazine. Yes, digital. My dream of printed pages never came true, but Vilda Magazine was a respected publication that I and my team of freelancers built up over six years. It was mentioned in international media and nominated for awards.
After my contract as a freelancer for one of my full time copywriting clients ended, I began to wonder if I would like to return to fashion. I was offered interview opportunities for the same position as I left, but I decided to hang up the phone and ignore the recruiters. Instead of following my heart, I fought with persistence, many applications, and repeated interviews for the job that I wanted at an animal rights organization. My fashion knowledge came in handy: since joining, I’ve taken journalists shopping for vegan fashion on the high street, watched fashion writers embark on challenges where they only wore vegan clothing for a week, and helped persuade Helsinki Fashion Week – the first sustainable fashion week in the world – to drop leather from the catwalks.
As I sat in the front row of HFW admiring the innovative leather-free clothes, I realized it. Vegan fashion was here to stay. My days were filled with the vegan fashion revolution. Leather made from pineapples, mushrooms, apples and other vegetable oils began to appear, and fur was no longer in style for designers like Gucci, Chanel and Prada. In order to make university students feel comfortable, the fur industry offered them fur free of charge and paid for their collections. To counter this, I visited UK fashion universities and gave guest lectures on vegan fashion. The lectures were always extremely well received and remain my proof that vegan fashion will be the future. Students were eager to learn more.
I was still learning a lot and was writing Vegan Style: My Plant-Based Guide for Fashion + Beauty + Home and Travel. It was published by Murdoch Books, then later on Simon & Schuster imprint Tiller Press. It was the first book to be dedicated to vegan fashion and won a PETA Fashion Award. It’s already two years since its publication and I feel it is time for an update. At the time, items like orange silk, cactus leather, and flower down were not available. Innovation has advanced a lot, and there are many more amazing things to come.