With the FALL art season in full swing, I almost forgot that it coincided with New York Fashion Week for Spring 2015. If there were a miracle mash up where both art and fashion can happen in one event, it would be sheer heaven. My prayers got answered last weekend when a friend of mine who is a devout vegan invited me to be her plus one to an event where a vegan designer will show a collection in an art gallery. Amen, Hallelujah to that!
The show was going to be held at Alexander Gray Associates on West 26th Street on a Monday night, September 8th. I have always been curious about fashion that is ethically opposed to using animals as material. We know that fur is murder but there is still the wool, cashmere and the leather. I have always equated vegan fashion as alternative with the big B’s (Birkenstock, Burlap sack, and Bran to Granola). I wanted to see how far vegan couture has come.
Joshua Katcher created his vegan friendly line, Brave Gentleman, and billed it as Principled Attire and Responsible Supplies. He was filling the void in the market where vegans can wear fashionable looking clothes worthy of the runway and be glamorous without the guilt high end garments entail with the use of animal skins or hairs. His inspiration was taken from old photographs of his family members dressed elegantly in tailored pieces.
Before the fashion presentation, Joshua had a talk about his upcoming book, Fashion & Animals. It details the historical and pictorial evidence of the morbid love affair of fashion utilizing animals in copious cognitive dissonance where tons of editorial images or ads featured a model posing with an animal yet wearing an article of clothing from said creature – for example: a model with a fox wearing a fox fur coat, one has a tiger on a leash but sits on a tiger skin rug, another perched a parrot on her arm while wearing its feathers on her hat, etc. It was an interesting preview and snippets of what the book will tackle and most certainly gave a pause to any Cruella De Villes in the down low.
He goes on to elaborate that to get the high end look of luxury materials that he turned to international based textile mills and manufacturers that advocate humane practices by not killing animals, reuse / recycle is the norm, develop new textiles from remnant source material and serves the poor communities by providing ethical labor. Future leather, future suede, future fur, etc. are all manufactured and developed to be equal or surpass the conventional high end counterpart. He had one model wear a future cowhide motorcycle jacket.
Following the talk was the models mingling with the guests during the cocktail reception serving organic cocktails and vegan cuisine. Close observation of the materials used in the clothes and down to the shoes cemented the fact that it is the future for Vegan Principled Vestments. It is also touted to be durable, washable, and performs better than the original animal based material. To prove itself by product testing, a pop up shop was installed in one of the gallery’s rooms where guests can try on items and purchase as well. Certain items will have the proceeds given to a wildlife fund sanctuary. The clothes were textured, colored and tailored very well to make the pages of GQ magazine. Suits were tailored to the inch of sharpness and the material is from a mill in Italy that makes fabric out of used rubber tires. The feel is much different from the super lightweight wool of leading Italian made suits. But that synthetic feeling mitigates your guilt from wearing a shorn or slain animal to created fibers. Ethical dressing is now the new market as more designers are becoming animal material adverse like Stella McCartney who remained high end but banned fur or animal based material for her fashion line.
All of this was done at the very spacious and unique lay out of Alexander Gray Associates where their current show featured Siah Armajani for The Tomb Series. It featured large-scale sculptures, miniature models, and drawings inspired by great thinkers and philosophers that influenced the artist. It was the monochrome monuments of the idea and quite fitting for the occasion really.
For vegans, the use of animals is the scent of death. Pioneering gallery owners like Alexander Gray who support, advocate and wear the ethically responsible couture are nailing the lid on the old adage of dressed to kill. It was wonderfully presented and showcased by Joshua Katcher that fashion for vegans has come a long way. It has risen from the ashes of granola and now vibrant in the resurrected innovation of future fabrics. Now the vegan population with the advent of more designers like Katcher can now be dressed to thrill!
Watch out for Joshua’s upcoming book, Fashion & Animals and visit his website to view the fashion at: www.bravegentleman.com
Siah Armajani: The Tomb Series / On View: September 4 – October 18, 2014
Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday (11 am – 6 pm)
Alexander Gray Associates. 510 West 26th Street. NYC, NY 10001
Article and photos by Oscar A. Laluyan