Sustainability is gaining momentum, which is also reflected in the trajectory of fashion. Rather than opting for mass produced garments, it is becoming hip to recycle, use reclaimed or pre-loved items and to invest in high quality staples.

Monday the 24th of August was Vegan Fashion and Sustainability Panel. Hosted by PETA, this exclusive event at the PYO Gallery in LA was open to the first 100 guests. The panel consisted of designers and industry talent including Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart of VAUTE Couture; Joshua Katcher of Brave GentleMan, The Discerning Brute, and Parsons; Stephanie Nicora of Nicora Johns; Rebecca Mink of Mink Shoes; and moderator Taryn Hipwell of Ecodiva and FIDM. The event also coincided with the Launch of VAUTE Couture’s Pop Up store in LA last weekend and Brave GentleMan’s appearance at Moo Shoes in LA last week.

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Just in case the deal wasn’t already sweet enough, it was catered by some of Los Angeles best. Featuring specialties from local favorites Courtesan Cupcakes and WoHo’s newly opened “Vromage” cheese.

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The Vegan Fashion and Sustainability Panel was an exciting and insightful event, a sneak peak into the world of fashion. It told the stories of passion of five respected and established professionals, who shed light on the importance of supporting ethical fashion and the challenges that they face as designers.

Sharing their latest designs, they introduced us to pieces from their collections. These garments not only looked good, felt good, and were of impeccable quality; but they are also kind to people, animals and the planet. With a growing trend of supporting products made in the US, we were also some of the first to hear word of Nicora Johns’ upcoming plan to create the first sustainable shoe factory in Los Angeles.

This is a shift away for the large volume of mass produced products that we have largely become accustomed to inexpensive fashion. According to Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, “less than 2.5% of the clothing that we wear in is made in America”. Documentaries such as the True Cost highlights that there are always social and environmental costs to consider. While you can expect to pay higher prices for first hand sustainable products, the reality is that you are paying for fair wages, high standards and quality products, which are designed to last.

With this in mind, you might be asking how can I afford to get behind sustainable companies? No matter what your budget is, there is always a solution for shopping sustainably. Designer Joshua Katcher noted “if you’re somebody that doesn’t have a lot of money, you save up for one piece and then you do the rest of your shopping at a secondhand store or a vintage store”. This was mirrored by fellow panelist Stephanie Nicora whose personal technique is to “save money and buy staples… the rest is all vintage”. Basically, invest wisely and to get to know the story behind the brands that you love in order to be a citizen investor rather than an ill-informed consumer.

In terms of the panelists’ advice for upcoming designers, the message was simple; it’s a lot of work and it’s not a cheap, easy or glamorous business. In the words of Rebecca Mink “you have to find that passion all over again so many times a day, so many times a week, thousands of times a month”. To be a sustainable designer, Joshua Katcher also added, you need to be in it for “many many many reasons” and be “somebody that wants create to cultural change”.

As sustainable companies are still part of a niche market, they have a unique atmosphere, which differentiates them from the rest of the highly competitive fashion industry. According to Stephanie Nicora “becoming a sustainable designer right now, you’re coming into an environment where it’s not competitive as much as it is collaborative”. So you can be expecting to work with and learn from fellow designers.

Just in case you’re someone whose heart is set on becoming a sustainable designer or entrepreneur, we’ll leave you with some final words of wisdom from Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart to ponder…“How can a small company with my background use these parts of my life that never made sense until this moment? How can I pull them together as tools that I can use and create a business, specifically a niche and a voice that is only me?”.

To find out more about these talented designers and their beautiful ethical brands; checkout their websites and social media links below.

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, VAUTE Couture: website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Joshua Katcher, The Discerning Brute: website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Twitter.

Stephanie Nicora, Nicora Johns: website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Rebecca Mink, Mink Shoes: website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Taryn Hipwell, Ecodiva: website, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Words and Photography by Heather Kaye