Vegan Fashion & Food Make Waves During New York Fashion Week
While ethical textiles are rare within the fashion industry — which is notorious for glamorizing leather, wool, fur, feathers, silk and so on — there were corners of Manhattan where life was respected during this installation of New York Fashion Week, with clothing, accessories and cuisine absent the standard speciesist ingredients.
Though the list of exclusively compassionate companies featured during NYFW is frustratingly finite, two contemporary fashion brands and one packaged food brand stand out from the static, supplying an antidote to the death-draped runways and cruelty-laden plates conscientious consumers are accustom to being repeatedly disappointed and bored by, season after season.
Enter Arden Wohl x Cri de Coeur, Brave GentleMan and Gardein. Representing, respectively, chic handbags and footwear for women; dapper menswear; and delicious plant protein, these three names the past several days delighted vegans and non-vegans alike, and are without a doubt paving the way for the future.
Arden Wohl x Cri de Coeur Wow with Expectation-Shattering Style
The W Hotel Union Square was the place to be last Thursday, when that afternoon Arden Wohl x Cri de Coeur drew throngs to its SS15 luxury accessories showcase. Held in a spacious room with generous windows, sunlight streaming in, models posed on a stage at center dressed in neutral togas and sporting long tousled locks, crowned with foliage wreaths, further conveying the collection’s tropical motif.
Inspired by the art of French Post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin — who spent plenty of time in Tahiti — footwear and handbags on display proved simultaneously post-modern and island-vibrant. Bold floral patterns, jute espadrilles and woven natural textiles complimented polished wood, lucite and patent leather. Texture ruled and imagination reigned.
Cri de Coeur first emerged in 2008, begun by Julie Dicterow and Gina Ferraraccio. A successful venture in its own right, in 2013 the duo joined forces with philanthropist, socialite and trendsetter Arden Wohl.
“We met at a charity event,” Dicterow said of how she and her partner initially connected with Wohl. “She has a lot of passion for animals, like us, was excited about vegan shoes and wanted to collaborate.”
Vegan six years so far, Dicterow told us she was compelled to enter the industry due to a void in the market. “There was nothing around for fashionistas like me to wear without compromising my values,” she lamented. “If you can’t find it, create it! There is no need to use the skin of a living, breathing creature to look good.”
As for why she originally gravitated towards a plant-based lifestyle, Dicterow attributes this first and foremost to morality. “To me it’s just the right thing to do, since I don’t want to hurt animals and I don’t want to be complicit in America’s disconnect from the realities of mass production.” She went on to add that the consumption of sentient beings — for fashion and food — is “Bad for planet, bad for health, bad for animals, bad for energy, bad for soil, bad for water, bad for you and bad for me.” That’s one apt way to put it!
Wohl had largely the same to say: “I’ve been vegetarian my whole life, so why wear something that’s dead?”
She continued, sharing the impetus behind her desire to link up with CDC. “I’d given up wearing leather entirely, so part of my political statement was to make [cruelty-free] shoes that were beautiful and affordable.”
Not to mention durable, comfortable, breathable and all around fabulous. Peruse their current inventory here.
Brave GentleMan Impresses with Technologically Advanced Textiles
Monday night marked the Brave GentleMan Spring/Summer 2015 presentation, hosted at tony Chelsea gallery Alexander Gray Associates. Comprising a provocative conversation about fashion and animals (soon to be a book); an off-the-rack capsule collection — demonstrated in 3D by three dashing male models — for sale onsite; and hors d’oeuvres and desserts from Miyoko’s Kitchen and Sweet Maresa’s, the evening proved a slam dunk triumph, attracting a sizeable crowd of fresh fans as well as longtime supporters (including CFDA award winner John Bartlett).
When asked what prompted him to launch his own line, Brave GentleMan founder Joshua Katcher — a vegan for 16 years and counting — replied matter-of-factly, “Out of necessity. There were things I wanted that didn’t exist. So, I started writing about it [in 2008] with The Discerning Brute and started making it [in 2010] with Brave GentleMan.”
Articulated Katcher, “Brave GentleMan takes traditional production methodologies and matches them with visionary innovations in textile design that are 100% cruelty-free.” As for the aesthetic, the apparel speaks for itself; Katcher’s latest wares — all of which are made under fair labor conditions — include tailored suits and sumptuous motorcycle jackets (made in New York), sleek shoes and brawny boots (milled in Italy and assembled in Portugal) and handsome hats (made in Los Angeles), among other accessories.
“This collection is about bringing together the worlds of rebel and businessman,” explained Katcher, alluding to the deliberate juxtaposition of his suits and boots and jackets. “Furthermore, what I’m making and how I’m making it is what’s truly rebellious. I’m going against the grain as far as what mainstream manufacturing models are and have been.”
So, how does Katcher do it? With sustainably produced future leather, future suede and future wool. Transforming recycled plastic bottles into felt fibers and sourcing other cutting edge materials, the 33-year-old designer is challenging the status quo in a major way.
As for Katcher’s forthcoming endeavors, he confessed: “I want to open a brick and mortar. That’s my goal for the next year. To find funding to make Brave GentleMan a New York City establishment in Manhattan and have that presence, have a destination. I think that’s important.”
Gardein on the Scene
Similarly encouraging, mock meat brand Gardein — a title derived from garden and protein — has dubbed itself the “Fuel of Fashion Week,” providing participants a substantive alternative to “Starbucks and protein bars,” as spokesperson Angie Sagnelli put it.
“Our goal is to introduce Gardein — which is low in calories and fat, but high in protein and iron — to the fashion world, as a convenient and delicious meal or on-the-go snack,” she said.
Lending dimension to their efforts, Gardein enlisted 21-year-old plant-based chef Jay Astafa, whose talents the brand has tapped in the past.
“The fashion crowd really loved everything,” recalled Astafa of the events. “Most popular among the mini bites we created were the ‘Pub Style Fishless Filets’ and the ‘Sweet Chili Chick’n Satay.’ While the clothing showcased at these events wasn’t entirely vegan, it was still great to expose people to animal-free food.” No argument there!
Gardein also donated products to Brooklyn-based brand William Okpo, which last Friday hosted a “back-to-school” themed fashion show. (The brand designs with horsehair, so an education in kind dining could definitely come in handy as a superb first step towards conscious consumption as well as conscious creation…)
Next up? Gardein intends to get intimate, planning a partnership with Lingerie Fashion Week in October. Oh la la! Makes sense, though, given eschewing meat, dairy and eggs is a surefire way to look at least a wee bit more fit in your skivvies!
Brave GentleMan Photo Credit: Damani Moyd Photography
Arden Wohl x Cri de Coeur Photo Credit: Dan Lecca