(Updated December 23, 2019) | The Second Edition of Vegan Fashion Week took place last October. This time around, the theme, Fashion Is Activism, went beyond just the innovations like leather made from pineapple leading the industry toward a future when animal-based materials are obsolete. And actor Mena Suvari, who rose to fame following her role in the 1999 drama “American Beauty,” gave her full support of an animal-free future of fashion.
Suvari adopted a plant-based diet in early 2018. According to the Rhode Island native, it was a series of events that led her to a more cruelty-free lifestyle. She had worked with Last Chance for Animals, a nonprofit founded by “General Hospital” star Chris DeRose, on an anti-vivisection PSA. After that, she watched the 2017 documentary “What the Health,” which explores the link between diets heavy in animal products and chronic disease.
“I believe it was not only seeing footage of what happens within our world towards animals, but also the way that the documentary clearly explained the health aspect of veganism,” Suvari tells LIVEKINDLY. “It all just instantly clicked for me and I went plant-based overnight.”
Embracing Eco-Friendly Vegan Fashion
A few weeks later, Suvari made the connection with fashion as well. In a post on fellow vegan actor Alicia Silverstone’s blog, The Kind Life, she recalled visiting vegan musician Moby’s Los Angeles-based restaurant, Little Pine.
“I recall the moment I walked into Little Pine with my overpriced, designer handbag (which was a massive leather tote) and feeling like an a**hole,” Suvari wrote in May 2018. “I knew then that I would donate it all! All my handbags, my shoes, my leather pants and start anew.”
It was then that she decided to donate all of her animal-based fashion and start over new.
“I’ve always loved fashion,” says Suvari. “Particularly, I admire the workmanship that goes into a design. Fashion is fun to me and a great way to express myself and my ideals.”
At first, Suvari found it challenging to find vegan fashion that stood up to non-vegan counterparts like fur, leather, silk, and wool. But, she was determined to rework her entire wardrobe. “It all became a sort of fun mission for me,” she says.
Suvari turned to the web and found inspiration through Instagram. “I fell in love with so many awesome designs and couldn’t believe how much was out there that I’d never known of,” she wrote on The Kind Life. After purchasing a pair of MooShoes and Sydney Brown clogs, she “saw things differently.”
Not only did Suvari want a vegan wardrobe, but also “I am a fan of anything that is eco and sustainable,” she says. “I try very hard to follow these guidelines within my wardrobe and style and feel very lucky to have met some amazing designers, like ENDA, along the way that will work with me to create pieces for events.”
Fashion’s relationship with animal-derived materials dates back to times when humans had no choice but to rely on fur, leather, and wool. But the industry is adapting to increased demand and new innovations. “I love that I can have so much and such a fun variety in my closet. And most importantly, it’s honoring these individuals who choose to work hard with pure passion to change the fashion space,” Suvari wrote. “Plus, a lot of these companies work with a variety of different charities and donate a portion of sales to them. To me, that’s the most special.”
Her new lifestyle led to her attend Vegan Fashion Week last February. There, she sat front row during the runway show. “I never could have imagined how much it would change my life,” she recalls. “Being at Vegan Fashion Week was one of the most exciting times I’ve ever had. To be able to meet incredible individuals, full of knowledge within this space, creating incredible designs was absolutely awesome and I cannot wait for the next one. It’s only getting better and better and changing people’s minds and the world!”
This year’s theme, Fashion Is Activism, really hit home for Suvari. It’s a belief she shares with Vegan Fashion Week founder, Emmanuelle Rienda. She feels it’s just as important to talk about the use of animals in the clothing and accessories we wear as it is for the food we eat. Although it’s called Vegan Fashion Week, all brands are welcome. To both Suvari and Rienda, it’s important to be open to people from all walks of life.
“To me, you have to address the issue from all sides, and fashion is extremely important to be addressed,” says Suvari. “The fashion industry not only negatively affects animals, but it is hurting our environment, as well. So, for this Vegan Fashion Week to be labeled as such is very apropos.”
As for what excites Suvari about the future of fashion? “Everything,” she says. “I mean, whoever thought we could make and wear garments out of apples, pineapples, and mushrooms! That’s riveting!”
Vegan Fashion Week in Los Angeles
Beyond the runways, Downtown Los Angeles is a hub for tourism. The Theater at Ace Hotel, where Vegan Fashion Week takes place, is a historical theater built in 1927, prized for its ornate Gothic cathedral-style architecture. It’s blocks away from the Grand Central Market, home to the all-vegan ramen joint, Ramen Hood, famous for its noodles topped with a realistic vegan egg. Downtown also boasts two vegan pubs: Beelman’s and Modern Times’ Dankness Dojo.
You can also sample all the vegan eats that nearby neighborhoods Silverlake and Echo Park have to offer. The “vegan In-n-Out” aka Monty’s Good Burger, Sage, Bulan Thai, Mohawk Bend (mostly vegan), ELF cafe (vegetarian), Floré Vegan, and the fully vegan Counterpart Deli are all blocks from each other in Silverlake and Echo Park. If you have a sweet tooth, stop by dairy-free soft-serve joint Yoga-Urt, grab a giant vegan cinnamon bun from Cinnaholic, or a classic donut from Donut Farm. You can even swing by the PETA headquarters to say “hey” if you want!
Downtown is also a short drive from Highland Park, LA’s hippest neighborhood. Be sure to hit up York Ave on Tuesday nights for vegan taco trucks parked outside of Block Party. Highland Park is also home to LA’s best new vegan hotspot, German beer garden Hinterhof. It’s a must for dinner or brunch. And speaking of brunch, head down to Kitchen Mouse on Figueroa for a full vegan English breakfast, baked goods, and delicious coffee. Or, just swing by Donut Friend and grab a pastry (or two, or three).
There’s more to do than just eat your way thru Echo Park – ride pedal boat lakes at Echo Park Lake, play video games at Button Mash, Shop at MooShoes – Silver Lake’s vegan shoe store, or shop at PF Candle Company – cruelty-free, vegan, phthalate-free candles make the perfect gifts.
All three neighborhoods are also great spots for eclectic Airbnbs or vacation rentals. You can also cozy up at the ACE Hotel Downtown. The beach is nice if you want to be close to the water; Erin McKenna’s Bakery in Santa Monica not only serves up the vegan baked goods (they’re all gluten-free, too) but it also serves vegan pizza and lunch items. The left coast’s favorite health food store Erewhon has locations in both Venice and Santa Monica, so you can stock up on all your vegan eats no matter where you’re staying. And be sure to check out celebrity chef Matthew Kenney’s Plant Food and Wine on Abbot Kinney for some vegan fine dining.
Love shopping? Shop at ROW DTLA: Banks Journal features menswear organic cotton, PVC, and phthalate-free inks. Polyester made from repurposed soda bottles. Designers use FS- approved paper on swing tags and catalogs. GALERIE.LA offers up women’s clothing and home décor. The team at GALERIE.LA prioritizes designers who use sustainable production methods and employ ethical business practices to benefit people and communities.
Vegan Fashion Week took place at the California Market Center in Los Angeles from October 10-15.