PETA hosted their first ever Fashion Panel at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) here in New York City. So when our very own Gunas Girl and Peta’s Fashion Co-ordinator Christina Sewell reached out to us to be a part of the panel, we couldn’t resist! The evening kicked off with a welcome note by the FIT staff and students co-ordinator for their Sustainable Fashion week on campus. This was followed by a question and answer session on “How to Make It in (Vegan) Fashion” being moderated by the lovely vegan model, blogger and activist Renee Peters. Amongst the panelists that evening were GUNAS and other vegan labels such as Sydney Brown, Brave Gentlemen and Susi Studio.
The brands began with giving a background on how they started the companies and what inspired them to do so. They each highlighted the struggles they faced when starting out. The common theme here was the challenges faced in sourcing materials, educating the customer and really creating a niche for their brands in the market. Further discussions included where to find high-quality vegan textiles, why cruelty-free apparel is an unstoppable trend in today’s industry, and, in line with the panel’s title, how to make it as a sustainable designer. The discussion revolved around a positive note on how far the textile industry has come in the past 10 years and how we now have several cruelty-free options available on the market to design and create with.
GUNAS’s founder and designer, Sugandh specifically spoke about all the revolutions in the leather alternatives industry. With new and innovation materials now out in the market such as hemp, rubberized leather, pineapple leather (Pinatex), mushroom leather (Mycelium), cork and ultra-suedes all making it possible to ditch “animal” leather and adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle. As the demand for these products and alternatives rises, their prices will drop making it an affordable and more main stream option for designers and consumers. The vegan fashion industry is still quite young, with less than 20 years of history behind it. But in the 9 odd years that we’ve been a part of it, we’ve seen so much research and innovation in progress that it’s only a matter of time when alternative and performance fabrics such as these are seen more often in fashion collections than ever before.
With about 80-100 people present, the audience was a mix of students, bloggers, fashion professionals. When asked about the designers feelings about using fur and leather alternatives for fashion when they still visually mimic the real thing so much and that are we indirectly still promoting the use of the real thing, Sugandh’s perspective led her to biomimicry. She stated that as designers we seek a lot of our inspiration from nature. We are constantly trying to emulate it, learn from it, and immerse our selves in it. So if a texture can be inspired by it’s beauty without doing nature any harm, she doesn’t see anything wrong with using it. “Nature-inspired fabrics are the future of high fashion”, she quoted. After an intense 90 minute session, the audience left with a sense of positivity and a desire to drive change in their own perspectives and the fashion world. It was so rewarding to see students coming up and expressing their excitement about finding brands that care about more than just creating pretty things. Brands have to connect with them emotionally at a deeper level. People don’t simply desire objects that are made to look and feel desirable by someone else any more. They are all about individuality and really committing themselves to products and brands that speak about their true lifestyle. At GUNAS, we totally get that! We were customers ourselves before we developed this brand. And that’s why animal-free, earth friendly and ethically made products will always the heart and soul of our company.
We are thrilled to have been given this opportunity to inspire a new generation of designers at FIT. We look forward to several more academic collaborations to help spread the need for cultivating this thinking in designers around the world. Because designers, ‘Cruelty doesn’t suit us!’