- Huw Hughes |
London - Veganism is undoubtedly on the rise. While the subject was once restricted to conversations about food and diet, veganism has now made itself comfortable in almost every facet of society, with the issue of humans’ use of animal products making its way more and more onto the centre stage of fashion, and even branching out into the political sphere.
This growth of veganism seems to be steady: Grand View Research reports that the global faux-leather market will be worth 58 billion pounds (74 billion US dollars) by 2025, while Global management-consultancy firm Bain & Company recently reported that ‘animal welfare’ stands out as the key criteria for consumers under 35.
"Younger generations in particular are driving the sustainability revolution"
Speaking to FashionUnited about the rise of veganism in recent years, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said that they were unsurprised by its boom in popularity, considering the animal-product alternatives which are readily available. “There's an abundance of cruelty-free, natural materials to choose from – including innovative and unique ones like soya-bean fibre, bamboo, and leather made from pineapples, apples, and even wine (or rather, grapes),” the animal welfare group said.
But how do vegan brands compete with an industry still dominated with non-vegan labels? Sitting modestly on Folkestone’s Old High Street, UK, Delicious California is a 100 percent vegan independent brand which proudly describes itself as ‘Ethical, original and fun’. FashionUnited spoke to Ewen Macaulay - the passionate owner of Delicious California, who runs the brand with his wife, Susanna - about the growth of the company, and the challenges they’ve faced along the way. He didn’t pull any punches:
How did the idea of the Delicious California label come about, and how quickly did it grow?
'Delicious California' is a lifestyle brand. I have always been in search of the ultimate fitted t-shirt with stylish and original design prints. I am an artist by trade and a graphic designer of 20 years. I love drawing graphics and I have a particular interest in ‘Board Art’ (which is Surfboard, Snowboard and Skateboard Art). I love the raw original designs. I’m also strongly influenced by Graffiti Art, Tattoo Art and Pin-Up Art.
Back in 2009 I decided I wanted to design some of my own graphics for clothing - I didn’t want to simply have them printed onto t-shirts, so I figured I would create a name - an overarching brand or lifestyle name which people could relate to. So 'Delicious California’ was born. For me, whether you have been to California or not, we all have an idea of California: palm trees, surfing, sunshine, fun, and cool people. So by buying a 'Delicious California’ t-shirt you are buying a little bit of the fun and sun and bringing it into your life. Our strap-line is ‘Never A Dull Moment’.
Why do you think there’s been such a huge boom in the growth of veganism (both in fashion and outside of it) in the last 5-10 years?
There are so many reasons for the growth. For me, the internet without question has been a massive tool for bringing the horror of disgusting factory farming practices to light. It’s harder now for these hellholes to be hidden from the public eye. Once you have watched one of these documentaries - like ‘Earthlings' or from 'Farm to Fridge’ - you will be changed forever. If you haven’t, then I feel everyone has a moral obligation to watch them, at least to be aware of what is going on. Then you can make an educated decision on what you eat and how you live.
Other beings, sadly, don’t have a choice. Additional reasons would be the environmental issues that are linked to agriculture and the culture of mass producing cheap meat. Governments are under more pressure than ever to advise the public on the health implications of eating red and processed meats. After all, it’s the NHS health bill that will continue to suffer if we keep going the way we are.
What is the biggest challenge (technically, commercially or financially) when creating a vegan brand?
The initial start up costs are always hard, especially when you invest and you don’t see much or very little reward at first. But commercially you have to believe in your products, especially when reinvesting. Customer feedback and satisfaction is key in this process. Internet growth is definitely hard to develop. I believe it’s a trust thing. Especially with a clothing brand, people like coming to our shop, chatting to us, talking about the products, designs and trying things on - really touching and feeling the quality of the products is important. But we are slowly growing our database of customers and online sales.
How difficult is it to create a brand that is 100 percent vegan?
It does require thought and it takes time sourcing certain products - especially if you want something really unique. It always amazes me how many products have animal by-products in them, like the new 5 pound notes, for example - there’s no need for it. I read the other day that certain new antibiotics have animals by-products in too. So yes, that aspect is disappointing and difficult. Things are changing with public awareness and public demand.
One misconception is that just because something says ‘vegan’, the people using or selling it must be hippies. It’s not about that. It’s about being aware of exactly what is the products that we use. We also focus on the environmental impact of other parts of the manufacturing process. For example we use water-based inks and the cleaning products we use in the screen printing process are environmentally friendly.
With the UK high street going through a very turbulent patch at the moment, and Brexit fast-approaching, have you seen an effect on sales, customer interest, or any other aspects of your business?
Yes, we have noticed a downturn. People are struggling. Money is tight for everyone. The cost of fuel keeps rising - I always think the fuel prices are a good indication of what’s going on.The huge growth in cheap fashion is destroying a lot of the small independent brands out there. I always like to make it very clear: Delicious California is NOT fast fashion.
And then there’s that word, ‘BREXIT’. People are concerned, and off the back of 10 years of austerity, the high street is not in good shape. Personally, I think the government is not doing enough. You have these huge internet companies who are smashing the high-street by paying so little tax - or not paying at all - in order to sell products much cheaper. This needs to stop.
Where do you see Delicious California in 5-10 years from now?
Smiling… I am not sure where it’s all going, but fundamentally we are having fun, and if our customers continue to love what we're doing, then the products and designs will keep coming. We’re cautious business owners, but we are not afraid of pushing the brand further. Susanna [Ewen’s wife] has been instrumental in this aspect, and we have a great network of friends and family that are always keen to help. I really couldn't thank them enough! I have always said that I would like to financially help animals with no voice - one day that might just become a reality.
Life is about change. I never thought I'd own a Vegan Clothing Brand, nor that I would not be eating meat. I changed some things in my life and I am loving what has happened! We’re looking forward to developing new designs and products for 2019 and hopefully doing some good whilst riding the wave.
Photo credit: Delicious California, Facebook