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How To Adopt A Vegan Way of Life

From food to fashion to beauty, here's how you can make vegan choices this year.

Medha Dutta Yadav

If the last two years have taught us anything, it is to be kind—kind to people around us, kind to ourselves, and above all kind to our world. The year 2022 has brought with it a glaring perspective and stunning clarity. As we unlearn behavioural patterns and adopt new ways of living, the last two years have given us a chance to renew ourselves. To think bigger, to consume more mindfully, to manufacture more consciously, to create more freely, to give back more openly, and to go back to our roots wholly are the guiding principles in this New Year. Keeping true to these aesthetics, this is the right time to stress on veganism and espouse all things vegan in our life—then be it what we eat, what we wear, or what we practice.

Clothing naturally

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By the time Bert van Son founded MUD Jeans in 2012, he had seen it all. He realised that the endless demands for material, due to rapid production, was ruining our planet. He wanted to do things differently. The PETA-approved vegan certificate for his brand of denim ensures that no animal products were used throughout the production process. Jeans are one of the most polluting items in fashion. Each pair uses 7,000 litres of water and nasty chemicals. MUD Jeans makes high quality, sustainable jeans, recycling every single pair after use. What van Son realised was the ethos that defined Indian fashion for ages.

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Doodlage co-founder Kriti Tula says: “Upcycling is a deeply rooted tradition in most middle and upper-middle-class families in India. Every garment lasted more than we hoped. We were simply not wasteful. Everything was less disposable.” With her DOODLAGE X JUNE collection, she made a full circle. Each piece in the collection is painstakingly handcrafted with hand-embroidered details.

It was the disturbing reality of consumerism that spurred Germany-based Indian fashion designer Chandra Prakash Jha to make silk in such a way that no silkworms would be harmed. The collection also won him the German Sustainability Awards—Design. Jha’s brand Cocccon works closely with organic silk farmers in his native state of Jharkhand. The German brand is today the world’s largest manufacturer of ‘peace silk’. “Peace silk is the process of producing silk where the silkworm doesn’t have to give up its life. Peace silk tries to revolutionise the concept of not killing any living creature for our greed,” he says.

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Activist-entrepreneur Kunal Avanti’s I Am Animal—an all-new organic athleisure brand—was born out of Avanti’s love and loyalty to animals and the environment. I Am Animal is a PETA-approved cruelty-free brand that employs conscious 100%GOTS-Certified Organic fabrics to bring their superlative design sensibilities to life. Their primary collection, Collection Zero, comprises T-shirts, hoodies, tanks and joggers that combine comfort and wearability for the discerning Indian consumer. Avanti says: “I Am Animal is a passion project and a labour of love. It is an extension of all that I believe in, a sustainable solution that channels the value systems of the generation of today, and gives it a fashion-forward look. We have maintained ‘planet friendly’ and ‘design centric’ as our core concepts.” I Am Animal is a conscious and planet-friendly brand that walks the talk and aims to close the gap between sustainability and affordability. The brand opts for low-impact, vegan dyes that reduce water consumption.

Then there is faux fur. The fashion industry is increasingly acknowledging veganism and cruelty-free materials in their designs. Donna Salyers’ Fabulous-Furs began with a passion for animals and the belief that cruelty-free fashion could be achieved. “Our fabrics and materials are carefully selected to ensure the finest luxury faux furs. Our faux furs are made of the most natural-looking, visually and texturally exquisite textiles,” says a spokesman for the brand. The brand sells in 46 countries, setting a benchmark for quality in today’s faux fur market.

Slaying it with accessories

The percentage of sustainable fashion in India is still small and the lack of education/information has made this progress very slow. But in recent years, there has been a positive impact. More and more consumers are asking questions about how their clothing and accessories have been crafted. Brands are going the extra mile to walk the talk. Eco-friendly Mumbai-based fashion brand FOReT, which has been approved by PETA, stresses handmade luxury from nature. It endorses sustainable philosophies at every stage of production. A portion from every purchase also helps forests in rural parts of Maharashtra.

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Outhouse Jewellery, helmed by Kaabia and Sasha Grewal, is known for its dramatic fashion jewellery with an artisanal appeal. With a presence in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata—the brand is launching its very-first bucket bags crafted in PETA-approved vegan leather featuring 24k rose gold finishing. The vegan all-important accessory comes in a variety of colours. This versatile bag can be worn in different ways as it comes with an attachable top handle. Their new jewellery collection is also steeped in Outhouse’s signature aesthetic of chic yet daring creations and gives a nod to veganism. “The collection is a bridge between yesterday and today,” say the founders.

Kolkata-based The House of Ganges redefines everyday vegan luxury handbags and accessories for men and women. Founders Riya and Ricky Osatwal say, “The world around us is our source of constant inspiration. When we say handmade, we mean it. We do everything in-house including product design, development, production, and fulfilment. All our products are manufactured in our own factory. As a brand, we believe in creating ethically made goods.”

Pure beauty

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The touchstone for beauty today is clean formulations with as few ingredients as possible and guaranteeing extraordinary performance. Leading Italian brand KIKO Milano, which made inroads into India a few years ago, launched its Konscious beauty range to breach the new vegan frontier. The formulas do not contain ingredients of animal origin. The packaging too is sustainable, eco-friendly, and minimalist to reduce environmental impact. “Where possible, we’re committed to using a percentage of recycled plastic from industrial waste inside our packaging. Brushes have synthetic fibres and the handle of our eye brush is made of plant-derived plastic. The paper packaging of every box is biodegradable,” says the brand in a release. Anastasia Beverly Hills, believes in creating balance and harmony. As a leading beauty innovator for over two decades, Anastasia Beverly Hills is at the forefront of industry trends while remaining true to its core. Naturally, veganism is its calling card.

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As the beauty industry makes progress, it has also become more conscious. For many, veganism is a huge part of their lifestyle. So why shouldn’t their beauty products be vegan too? “Skincare should be a joyful, nice treat for your skin to restore and maintain your skin at its natural best. Not a ‘treatment’ with a ‘mission’,” says chemical engineer Shankar Prasad, who set up the vegan beauty brand Plum in 2013.

Disguise Cosmetics is India’s first 100%vegan and cruelty-free makeup brand. From gorgeous lipsticks enriched with avocado and marula oil, the brand is driven by the need to experiment. The Mumbai-based brand was founded in April 2018 by three scientists, Desiree Pereira, Shivangi Shah and Lakshay Mohendroo. “Ditching aside the conventional definition of ‘beauty’, we set out on a journey to discover what beauty means to us in its true, raw, imperfect form,” the trio says.

India is a country that has a deep historical and cultural connection to the world of fine fragrances. A number of ingredients from India are used by luxury perfumeries around the world. Rajiv Sheth, the founder of All Good Scents, launched the brand with inspiration in all aspects of modern French perfumery and multicultural experiences stressing cruelty-free and vegan products. “All Good Scents aims to provide India with the luxury of sustainable yet affordable perfumes and fragrances,” says Sheth.

Food of the gods

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The entire talk of veganism began with food. It all started with what we put inside our bodies before moving to the outside. Restaurants today are increasingly going vegan. A lot of packaged foods have come up, riding on the vegan bandwagon. Delhi-based Getafix embodies guilt-free indulgence. The cafe was recently awarded the title of Restaurant Serving the Best Healthy Food 2021 and founder and managing director Dhruv Chawla was awarded the Best Restaurateur of the year. The eatery emphasises on making healthy food delicious and accessible without compromising on the taste or palate. It offers a carefully considered selection of nutritious ingredients and superfoods like buckwheat, barley, amaranth, and quinoa. The menu mindfully recreates every scrumptious dish in a healthier way—wholewheat hand-rolled pasta, custom-baked breads, in-house sauces, homemade yoghurt-based smoothies, slow-pressed juices, and vegan gluten-free dishes. 

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Likewise, Delhi-based AKU’s: The Brrgrr Company, founded in 2018, is a homegrown fast-casual brand recognised with superb food served swiftly. They deliver fresh meals produced with real ingredients. Created by brother-sister Akriti and Ankit Malhotra it has introduced slow-food ideas combined with fast-food service.

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Over time we have forgotten the age-old principles of healing and wellness. Sustainable slow practices ease the pressures of life and find holistic solutions to lifestyle conditions. Hence, The Trost was born. Though the inspiration for the brand came from a stint the founder had in Switzerland, the technology was adapted from there but the core product was nature’s biggest gift and very much local, Indian flora—the healing cannabis plant. The Trost aims to break the taboo around the misunderstood plant. The brand aspires to change that perception and create a platform that makes the benefits of cannabis easily accessible for everyone looking to use the plant for its therapeutic, nutritional and medical benefits. The brand also boasts hemp nutrition and CBD oils. The Hemp Nutrition segment has Hemp Hearts, Hemp Powder, and Hemp Seed Oil. A simple solution to plant-based protein, the hearts, powder, and seed, can be a part of a number of dishes and help increase a person’s protein intake, in the natural and sustainable form. Founder and CEO Harshal Goel says, “We want to be able to harness the true potential of the plant and make it available in a legal and ethical manner.”

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Aarti Gill, co-founder and CEO of OZiva, India’s leading certified clean and plant-based nutrition and wellness brand, believes that with Covid-19, the interest in clean, plant-based nutrition, building immunity and taking care of one’s health are high on priority. The pandemic has catapulted the need for holistic wellness. Plant-based nutrition is one of the best dietary approaches towards ensuring holistic nourishment and longevity for the body. “Gone are the days of extreme diets, unnecessary ingredients, and false promises. People have started to take care of their diet and nutrition, and as we step into 2022, we’ll see more people continue to follow suit and eat food that is good for the body and the environment,” she says.

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Several studies have found that adhering to a plant-based diet could have a positive impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Plant-based diets are rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fibre which is linked to a lower risk of multiple lifestyle-related disorders such as obesity, cardiovascular disorders, and type 2 diabetes. It’s important to note though that adhering to a complete vegan diet needs very good planning and should be focused on eating whole foods and foods that are rich in antioxidants. Malin Petersson, co-founder and CEO of Näck, a Swedish-Indian startup, couldn’t agree more.

“Adopting a more plant-based diet lifestyle has become an important consumer shift in the industry in recent years. The health benefits coupled with the increased understanding of livestock production and its impact on climate change are major factors contributing to this shift. Here I would like to draw special attention to the plant-based protein sector where growing concerns over environmental impact from animal-based protein have led to an extensive demand for plant-based protein options. I’m sure we will see more product development in this area in the coming years especially when it comes to flavour, colour and scent,” she says.

Best foot forward

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Vegan leathers are also increasingly in demand for interior design and shoes, with innovative creations made from many plant-based materials including mushroom leather. When Aradhana Minawala, co-founder, The CAI Store, started her vegan footwear brand in 2015, it was still an untapped and new market space. “In fact, vegan products are still quite untapped, but there is a lot of potential for brands to grow this industry. We are known for our summer flats which can be worn everywhere, and build peoples holiday wardrobes. Now, we are entering the heels space where we constantly create our own structured heels to give a unique look to our designs,” she says. Celebrated jutti label Needledust has also sensed the mood and is slowly going vegan. Its stores in Mumbai, Delhi and Chandigarh celebrate vibrant vegan India with sparkles of gold fireworks in sequin, beads, details of gota and the classic dabka work. Their alternative footwear collection is 100%handcrafted and vegan.

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Sustainable footwear brand Cordalife’s passion for helping people in a sustainable way has driven the brand to start a socially responsible business from the ground up. The brand is built on the belief that giving people life-sustaining, confidence-boosting, independence-generating jobs can do more to improve the life of a person in poverty than a donation. Making rope sandals—their flagship product—creates this opportunity. Mumbai-based PAIO, a PETA-certified unique vegan shoe brand based in India, has a similar belief. Their made-to-order shoes can be completely customised and all the shoes are entirely handmade from start to finish. Shweta Nimkar says her passion for shoes started at a young age. Her brand PAIO launched its first collection in 2016. “We use fabrics and synthetic leathers for our shoes,” says Nimkar adding that her brand is currently in process of creating a range of wedding shoes for the Indian market. “These shoes are made using fabrics such as Chanderi and georgette and faux silk,” she adds.

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Catching up

Co-founder Paras Arora’s Doodlage upcycles factory waste into short limited edition collections. “What we waste is segregated and converted into accessories, soft furnishing products and paper to make our packaging or stationery products. All our pieces and fabrics are made with ethical production units and our packaging is designed to be plastic-free,” he says. The brand is known for its quirky stationery products.

Décor is increasingly going eco-friendly and vegan. There are many ways to make your home a monument of eco-friendliness, whether it’s introducing more plant life, trading single-use materials for sustainable alternatives, or even installing a suite of innovative smart home tech. One option is wood, which remains an excellent choice for lightweight construction projects, as well as finishing touches like wooden furniture, cabinetry and decorative detailing. If you need a strong, solid material, concrete mixes that include naturally-sourced material like bamboo could be the way to go.

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Niraj Johri, founder, Casa Décor, says, “Sustainability isn’t just for structural elements. Even small changes can be made with sustainability in mind. As a home decor company, we are invested with the responsibility to decide the materials and products that should be used and how people interact with their surrounding spaces. The best way to achieve sustainability is to choose quality over quantity, classics over trendy, and simplicity/functionality over embellishments.”

Photo: Pexels/The 5th; Respective Brands
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