Vegan Fashion Week founder Emmanuelle Rienda on inspiring change and creating a new value ecosystem
The Vegan Fashion Week in Los Angeles is set to take place from Oct. 10-12, in partnership with Ukrainian Fashion Week. FashionNetwork.com sat down with founder Emmanuelle Rienda, to discuss impact of the event, now in its fourth edition.
FashionNetwork.com: The fourth edition of the Vegan Fashion Week in Los Angeles will be held in partnership with the Ukrainian Fashion Week. What were the intentions for this partnership?
Emmanuelle Rienda: The relationship with Ukrainian Fashion Week happened very organically. I approached them to offer my support after being affected by the war. Today, Vegan Fashion Week is recognized as an important moment in the fashion calendar. More than just clothes on the runway, it has become a hotspot for messages that matter, inspiring an international audience of industry professionals, politics and consumers to do better. For these reasons, Ukrainian Fashion Week accepted my invitation.
FNW: What is the state of fashion and fashion designers in Ukraine today?
ER: Some Ukrainian fashion designers were forced to flee their own country, some of them stayed, but most of them lost their business or are on the verge of catastrophic financial losses. They very much need international support from the fashion community to keep their creativity and livelihood alive and need a long-term physical showroom for their collections to continue to exist and be showcased to industry professionals outside of Ukraine. Long-term press & sales support is the compulsory heartbeat of a brand to continue existing throughout the war. This year’s benefits will support Ukrainian Designers via the VFW Mentorship Fund, which provides continued support for emerging fashion designers.
FNW: Does vegan fashion in Ukraine have a particular developments of note today?
ER: There is a real shift and conscious efforts to develop long-term sustainability efforts in Ukraine despite the war, both in the fashion industry and at a societal level. Veganism is an important lifestyle that even made the headlines in top Ukrainian media (with an article entitled) “How vegans make the army more inclusive,” by providing vegan rations to plant-based soldiers. Among the Ukrainians required to stay and fight in the war against Russia rather than evacuate, many vegans are among the soldiers to be drafted. Since then, vegan organization Every Animal has been tirelessly working to care for them.
FNW: How many Ukrainian designers will be on the catwalk on October 10? Who will we be able to discover?
ER: We curated a lineup of 12 sustainable Ukrainian designers in collaboration with Ukrainian Fashion Week. Designers to be showcased on the runway include: Chereshnivska, Dzhus, Gorohova, Ochis, Oversized, RCR Khomenko, Roussin, Sheezen, and more to be announced. Even though some brands are not labeled vegan, all the looks selected to be presented at Vegan Fashion Week are cruelty-free, and sustainable.
FNW: Will the Ukrainian community of Los Angeles be there?
ER: We are receiving strong support from the Ukrainian community in Los Angeles. Mika Newton, the Ukrainian celebrity who recently shared the stage with Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky & John Legend at the Grammys, will be joining us as a guest of honor. Ukrainian makeup artist Vlada Haggerty, born and raised in Kiev, is joining us as our Key Lip Artist for the fashion show and Ukrainian models will walk the runway to represent their country.
FNW: Are other non-Ukrainian brands also included in the program?
ER: This year, we are expanding Vegan World™ –the only cruelty-free and sustainable fashion trade show– by presenting a curation of international designers embodying the values of our movement. Industry professionals, press, buyers, investors and fashion lovers will be able to discover cruelty-free beauty with Artís, KVD Beauty, MOB Beauty, SoloVegan and vegan fashion, footwear and accessories with Bohema, Fan All Flames, Natalia Fedner, Nous Étudions, R99, Sentient, Sylven New York, Shoes 53045, Veganologie, Wildling Shoes, Willa Phoenix, Vegan Tiger and more to be announced.
FNW: Conferences will also be offered on the sidelines of the fashion shows. What subjects will you address?
ER: Vegan Fashion Week is a global movement pushing meaningful conversations for the future of our planet. We put together a series of panel discussions by inviting experts to discuss digital fashion, Web3 & DAOs, vegan & clean beauty, sustainability & ethics, intersectionality and social impact. We are also opening Vegan Fashion Week on an important date, Columbus Day, that is now celebrated as Indegenous Peoples’ Day – a holiday meant to honor the culture and history of the people living in the Americas both before and after Columbus’ arrival. It’s an eloquent parallel with the modern colonialism Ukraine is experiencing in the hands of Russia.
FNW: Generally speaking, how has the state of vegan fashion been over the past few years?
ER: When I started Vegan Fashion Week in 2018, the conversation around sustainability in fashion was just starting and leaders in this emerging space were still actively promoting the use of animal-derived materials (leather, wool, silk…) as being “sustainable”. Short answer: it’s not. For example, leather production is catastrophic in terms of animal cruelty, deforestation and biodiversity loss, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. A lot of people argue that leather is biodegradable so it’s better for the environment, but that is entirely the tanning process that makes most of today's leather production unable to degrade.
FNW: How did Vegan Fashion Week grow?
ER: With no marketing budget, Vegan Fashion Week created an organic media impact of more than 50 million dollars in media value, made headlines on all continents and was featured in more than 3000 articles. By skyrocketing our mission in top media, we created a cultural shift changing the narrative around vegan fashion. Today we can see top fashion houses moving towards plant-based alternatives such as Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Karl Lagerfeld, Hermès, and more... Vegan Fashion Week is not about being perfect, it’s about inspiring change and creating an ecosystem around values that are truly impactful for humans and non-humans.
FNW: Are there any other projects coming up?
ER: I am working on launching the first vegan, ethical and sustainable product certification to inform and protect consumers and I am continuing to advocate with the Mayor’s office to solidify Los Angeles as the Ethical Fashion Capital in the world. My efforts coincide with the California fur ban, a legislation that as of January 1, 2023 will make it unlawful to manufacture and sell fur; one of the strongest animal rights laws in U.S. history.
FNW: You also founded the Vegan Fashion Library in Los Angeles, a showroom dedicated to product placement, influencer strategies and public relations. Have you seen more attention from talent and the media in Los Angeles?
ER: It’s a strategic move on my part to have launched the first completely cruelty-free, vegan and sustainable showroom in 2020 (during the pandemic) to seduce an important demographic of the entertainment industry. To this date, we have provided vegan clothes for celebrities including Billie Eilish, Gwen Stefani, Mya, Olivia Rodrigo, Jay Shetty, Sofia Reyes… and the list goes on! I am also working on introducing our portfolio of designers by curating concepts such as “Ad Infinitum”, the first vegan and sustainable fashion activation in collaboration with Informa Markets, PROJECT’s curated space that celebrates the importance of – and the continued pursuit for – circularity, environmental responsibility, and sustainable practices within the fashion industry.
FNW: How does such a structure work today to be profitable?
ER: I invested my life savings in Vegan Fashion Week. To this day, it’s still a personal investment in addition to a community effort to produce this platform. In order to take the movement to the next level, I am looking to surround myself with a skilled team, a board of advisors, philanthropic donors and politics.
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