January 15, 2019 by Emily Farra of Vogue.com
Vegan designers like Stella McCartney (whose Fall 2018 show is pictured here) are exploring mushroom leather, cruelty-free silk, and other high-tech vegan fabrications.
In the alphabet soup of Fashion Week abbreviations—NYFW, LFW, MFW, PFW, et al. —Emmanuelle Rienda is adding another: VFW. She’s organizing the first-ever Vegan Fashion Week in Los Angeles on February 1, just a few days before the Fall 2019 shows officially kick off in New York. At first blush, a Fashion Week organized around veganism admittedly sounds a little, well . . . intense. Even Rienda concedes that the vegan label can have a vaguely aggressive, judgmental undertone, particularly when it’s applied to fashion.
To say Rienda is aiming for a different vibe would be an understatement. On our call, she said her goal for VFW is to simply be “very inclusive and open.” The two main events on the schedule will be shows featuring innovative, avant-garde fashion by emerging vegan designers as well as nonvegan brands interested in changing their materials and impact. “It’s not about being vegan or not. It’s about what you’re doing right now [to improve your label], and how can we all evolve together?” Rienda says. In fact, if all goes as planned for Vegan Fashion Week, she’ll more or less redefine the concept of veganism altogether. “Now is the time to create a Fashion Week that shows how being vegan today is not only about animals—it’s about being good to all beings on the planet, humans included,” she says. “It’s not a matter of style anymore. It’s a matter of choice.”
Still, planning any Fashion Week is a serious undertaking, let alone one that’s in Los Angeles with mostly emerging, disruptive brands. But Rienda has essentially been working toward this for the past decade: She arrived in L.A. from Paris in 2008 to open a showroom for French designers looking to expand into the U.S. market—brands that, more often than not, were of the fast-fashion variety. “In a way, I was contributing to fast fashion,” she admits. “I was already a vegetarian [at that time], but I had a personal realization a few years later and became a vegan. I felt like I needed to align my values with what I was doing [in my work]. Selling those products didn’t resonate anymore—it was affecting animals but also humans and the planet.” So she closed her showroom, worked as a stylist focusing on animal-friendly garments, and eventually introduced those brands to celebrities and young Hollywood stars. “I was styling these kids from Disney, and I was amazed because they wanted to wear animal-free fashion,” she says. “It’s the new generation.”
More recently, she helped organize the Future of Fashion conferences, which brought organizations like PETA and Fashion Revolution together with representatives from major fashion houses to discuss sustainability, technology, and social justice. “What I’m really trying to do [with VFW] is create a platform to bring designers together and show that the future of fashion is actually here,” she explains. “We don’t have time [to waste] anymore—we have global warming, climate change, the way people are treated in the fashion industry . . . . It’s a real emergency, and our generation needs to act right now. I believe we can do it right away with what we wear and what we eat every day.”
Also in the VFW lineup: a “vegan world” space where everything will be cruelty-free, including food, fashion, and beauty. “It’s about fashion, but we’re creating a lifestyle,” Rienda says. “It’s about answering a lot of questions. What is our responsibility as a generation? What do we want to leave for our children? Those are the things we need to put on the table, but let’s do it in a way that’s fun, creative, attractive. Let’s make it something amazing so it’s not so hard to answer those questions.”
Even if you’re not in L.A., it’s easy to get inspired by Rienda’s enthusiasm—and it’s even easier to take her advice and make better shopping decisions. “Buying vegan fashion is easy,” she insists. (By the way, vegan doesn’t just mean she avoids leather and fur; it applies to all animal products, including wool, alpaca, and silk.) “Vegan garments are already accessible in a lot of larger brands and houses. You just have to educate yourself on what is vegan and what isn’t. It’s about awareness, and that’s what we’re trying to explain.”
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