The Vegan Fashion Show – Driving Culture Towards Compassion

(Featured image: Models walking for designer Diane Kroe. Photo credit: David Fillion.)

On Sunday October 2nd, 2022, Canada got their first major vegan fashion event. The Vegan Fashion Show premiered in Toronto, proving that animals don’t need to be exploited in modern day fashion.

This non-profit, educational show broke boundaries showcasing the benefits of vegan fashion and elevating animal-free collections from various designers on the catwalk. Vegan vendors, the next-gen material display, performers, raffle prizes, and more dazzled the evening. The unique event brought a meaningful experience to all guests and participants with $6,105 CAD in donations sent directly to Animal Justice to help animals in Canada.

Executive producer, Vikki Lenola, is a prominent model/ influencer and an animal rights activist. An extensive and relevant background positioned her well to produce the show, including writing the evidence-based research for the presenting sponsor, Umano.org’s empathy workshops. Her own boutique PR agency, Lenola PR, sponsored public relations for the event. Photo credit: Mark Yaamon.

This project all began when model/ influencer and animal rights activist Vikki Lenola was doing activism and realized just how many people were unaware of the ethical and environmental issues that come with exploiting animals for fashion – nor the alternatives available. Using her educational background and experience in environmental studies, business, effective altruism, public relations, designing, and modeling, Vikki Lenola decided to offer a solution by founding and producing The Vegan Fashion Show.

(Board member Laura Christine Warner signing in models at the model casting call.)

The Vegan Fashion Show provided, “a perfect opportunity for individuals and communities with aligned values, which support the growth of vegan fashion, to directly support this animal rights movement,” says board member Laura Christine Warner, “Vegan fashion frees and liberates animals from being used, abused, and labeled as products. This show opens up doors and platforms for vegan brands which are actively producing alternatives and awareness so that they are empowered, appreciated, and supported. It is also an opportunity to showcase the beauty in vegan-friendly makeup and hair styling products. With the help of the community, this show was able to donate 100% of earnings raised to an important organization which is fighting for legal animal rights.”

(A model walks down the runway for The Honest Whisper brand, wearing pants that say “Stop Killing Animals”. Photo credit: Majid Mehraban Photography.)

Drones zoomed around the two story venue capturing the models as they walked the runway showcasing this years’ designers at The Vegan Fashion Show. The event showcased designers and brands who displayed their animal cruelty-free fashion lines: Diane Kroe, The Honest Whisper, AVE Bags, Kandy Intimates, and Eleanor Geraldine.

(A model holds an AVE Bag made from cactus leather on the catwalk. Photo credit: Majid Mehraban Photography.)

Diane Kroe debuted her collection called “fusion” at The Vegan Fashion Show. “We are a slow fashion brand and make to order for our clientele,” says Diane, “we utilize all of our textiles with minimal waste and pay our workers a fair wage,” says Diane Kroe. While Diane’s collection at The Vegan Fashion Show was vegan, she is not vegan and has sold wool in the past. In an Instagram caption she included the following: “Now that I’m participating in The Vegan Fashion Show and learning more about the truth behind the use of animals within my industry, my views are changing and my eyes are opening.” The next brand, The Honest Whisper, is making a difference by donating all the profits to animal rights organizations like Animal Save Movement in Canada. They offer activewear, t-shirts, sweaters, and accessories with clever activism slogans, custom printing. The third designer, AVE Bags, uses cactus leather to make their products, a next-gen material which is much better for the environment than previously established vegan leathers could offer. Next, the show had Kandy Intimates who is known for their motto “Made for every body, for everybody.” Lastly, Eleanor Geraldine wrapped up the line up of designers. Lead designer Krystal Biehler debuted her sustainable collection of Eleanor Geraldine “Vogue Noire 2.0” at The Vegan Fashion Show. The line included alternative leathers and fabrics including a unique homemade paper leather with an eye-catching gold finish.

(Model wears Kandy Intimates on the catwalk. Photo credit: Majid Mehraban Photography.)

Executive Director of Animal Justice Camille Labchuk was in attendance as an impactful speaker. Camille is one of Canada’s leading animal rights lawyers, and has worked to protect animals for over a decade. “When people learn about the suffering that goes into fashion products made from animal-derived materials like wool, leather, and fur, they’re shocked,” says Camille, “This consumer demand for vegan alternatives is driving incredible innovation, and spurring on a new field of compassionate design. Cruelty-free fashion is the future!”

(A menswear model for Eleanor Geraldine added some eye candy on the runway. Photo credit: Majid Mehraban Photography.)

One of the highlights of the evening was from the host and spokesmodel Angela Bell who turned heads at the show with her outfit. She wore a jumpsuit made of recycled wood pulp, encircled with a custom belt displaying the names of animals who have been held in captivity; Kiska, Ryder, Holly, and Sarah. From the loneliest whale in the world Kiska, to Sarah the silver spring monkey who was unethically harmed in behavioral research, Angie represented just a few of the countless animals being mistreated for human profit. “Events like the Vegan Fashion Show could not come at a more pivotal time for both the animals and our planet,” says Angela Bell, “This show created needed space for important conversations – about animal cruelty, sustainability and alternative options. There is a desire for this, the event being sold out is a testament to that. People want to do better; they just need to know how.”

(Host and spokesmodel Angie Bell wore a green jumpsuit made from recycled wood pulp, adorned by the names of just a handful of the animals currently imprisoned in captivity. She has pinned a video of their stories on her Instagram.)

Besides serving as a fundraiser for Animal Justice, what makes The Vegan Fashion Show unique are the numerous educational components. Even the model casting call, which Lenola states “is an event on its own” was utilized as an educational opportunity. All models were fully aware beforehand and must inform her that they are happy to participate in the learning experience. At the model casting, a short video was shown regarding the implications of leather which remained objective and relevant to those interested in the fashion industry, rather than being preachy. Model Rachael Song stated, “I am not vegan but after seeing that video and being here today, it really makes me stop to think twice before I buy my next purse.” To highlight the solutions, they followed this with a brief clip about what the future of fashion looks like; bio-based, plant-based, and cultivated materials.

(The model casting was utilized as an educational opportunity and showed videos about the cause as shown here. Photo credit: Alina Chen.)

Backstage food is a must too and the opportunity was seized to show just how easy it is to choose vegan versions of baked goods and fast food favorites. On the show’s Instagram, one of the volunteers can be heard as she holds a slice of Panago Pizza, shouting in excitement “is this vegan?! I couldn’t even tell. It’s really good!”

(Gold newspaper material handbags by Eleanor Geraldine. Photo credit: Alina Chen.)

At the fashion show, a new documentary trailer was played. SLAY, directed by Rebecca Cappelli and produced by Keegan Kuhn (from hit documentaries like Cowspiracy) reveals the dark side of the fashion industry with emphasis on animal exploitation and the related negative consequences. The Vegan Fashion Show producer, Vikki Lenola, happens to be an assistant producer for this film which shares a Forbes feature with the show. The eye-opening documentary can be watched on Amazon Prime, iTunes, and Waterbear Network. Each guest also took home an educational booklet made by Collective Fashion Justice (along with other goodies like free plant-based cheese sauce samples from Plantworthy). For those who could not attend in person, resources are available on The Vegan Fashion Show website through their blog and material sections.

(A makeup artist holds a high quality makeup palette and brush from vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics sponsor, Emily Alexandra Cosmetics. The beauty line donates a portion of their profits to Supporting Water, which brings clean drinking water to people in emerging nations.)

“We’ve had great feedback from designers, models, volunteers, and guests telling us and posting about how they’ve learned a lot from the show,” says Vikki Lenola, “We are a charitable and educational nonprofit organization. We are not a vegan club – not that there’s anything wrong with one, but it’s just not what we do. We have another purpose. We are inclusive as we believe that in order to be a driver of compassion in the fashion industry and mainstream culture, we need to work with and reach many people, including those who have not yet made the connection. While we love our vegan models, designers, and volunteers, not everyone is vegan. We do consider everyone’s application, as long as they are not actually advocating for animal exploitation, as long as they are excited to learn more about our cause, and we only allow vegan products at our events, of course. You never know when you are talking to a future champion for the animals. Maybe they are just not there yet. Everyday more people are choosing to go vegan as they learn.”

(A closeup image of the textile display shows cactus leather, corn leather, and teak leaf leather handbags. Photo credit: Alina Chen.)

At the show, there was a plant-based leather display where you could see and feel innovative, next-gen materials that make for sustainable alternatives to leather. Many were plastic-free and unseen before, especially the textiles from the designer of Luckynelly such as Berriestex, made from strawberry waste and is a good exotic skins alternative as it resembles ostrich skin. Luxury brand Luckynelly also had a showcase of different yet-to-be named materials made from pears, chili peppers, and more. Another innovative, plastic-free material by Bucha Bio called Shorai was also displayed – a highly anticipated material which won’t even start to be available commercially until spring of 2023. Other plant-based materials were shown as well such as corn leather, cactus leather, teak leaf leather, and coconut leather. Two models stood at the display area wearing a gold jacket and a bikini top both made out of Piñatex (a material made from pineapple leaf waste).

(A close up image of Berriestex swatches by Luckynelly, was one of several plastic-free materials shown. The material is made from strawberry waste. Photo credit: Alina Chen.)

Michelle Mackie who volunteered as the model coordinator explained after the show, “I am Indigenous and our ancestors used animal skins to survive and we hunt out of need but we also have these incredible young Indigenous designers that can still express themselves and create cruelty-free products. As much as it is a part of my culture, I also feel a connection to these animals and I cannot handle them being tortured for my benefit when other options exist now.”

(Graphics by Collective Fashion Justice at The Vegan Fashion Show like this one explained the benefits of choosing next-gen, vegan leathers.)

Overall, the Vegan Fashion Show’s first event was a major success as they were able to donate $6,105 to Animal Justice, the organization leading the legal fight for animal protection in Canada. Laura Christine Warner states, “Thanks to this show, we were able to donate thousands of dollars to Animal Justice- currently, the only organization of its kind making sure that animals have a legal voice in Canada. It is organizations and events such as this that contribute to building a strong foundation and community growth that will help change history for animals used as a fashion commodity.”

(Von Dino Records kept the music flowing perfectly throughout the evening.)

You can follow The Vegan Fashion Show on social media @theveganfashionshow for vegan fashion news and show updates like model castings, designer calls, and other ways to get involved.

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With love,

FWO