Recently, PETA India launched a campaign called ‘Fashion Fauxever’, focussing on animal-friendly clothing and accessories. For the look book of the campaign, US-based designer sisters Meg and Komie Vora were approached to be creative directors and co-stylists.
The look book had their designs and that of many Indian fashion brands and labels that also produced animal-friendly garments. The clothes were made from faux silk, faux leather, faux suede, etc. “This was to purposely show consumers that you don’t have to purchase an item that is made up of animal ingredients because you can achieve the same look and style without sacrificing an animal in the process,” says Komie.
Growing up loving animals
Meg and Komie were born to an Indian family in the US. Their father being a Jain and mother a Hindu, the sisters grew up as vegetarians and loving animals. A few years ago, Meg was working in practice management software and Komie was working for an online indie jewellery designer. In December 2013, they decided to start their own label Delikate Rayne.
“Fashion can be so superficial, so it was important to us that with Delikate Rayne, the label, we’d prove that it’s beyond that,” says Komie. “What you choose to wear can actually hold value...it can be powerful and impactful. Your choice of wardrobe could actually make a difference in the world.”
So they came up with building a completely cruelty-free or animal-friendly wardrobe. “Being born and raised strict vegetarians played a role in the way we started to view many things around us growing up, so designing cruelty-free fashion was what we wanted to do,” says Meg.
However, if you think that ethical fashion is not glamourous, you are highly mistaken. Delikate Rayne, their online boutique, is full of lace-trimmed tops, faux leather jackets, slit skirts, asymmetric dresses, and much more. Celebrities like pop singer JoJo, actor Jessica Szohr (of Gossip Girl) and actor Jennette McCurdy have worn their designs. The sister duo gets candid with Hindustan Times and talks about their label, the fashion scenario today and the evolution of ethical fashion.
Very few people have the ability to take risks. Once your collection came out, how was it received?
MV: The idea of cruelty-free dressing and what that means in relation to your wardrobe is still a pretty foreign concept to a lot of people. Many find it to be a struggle to walk that fine line between fashion and compassion. We’re grateful that people who aren’t aware of how cruelty-free fashion is a safer and more beneficial option have been very open to learning. [This is ] not an overnight process but glad it’s falling on open minds and ears. We’re letting it be known that contemporary vegan fashion can be synonymous with luxury as well.
KV: As with any new company or brand, it’s always about continuously proving yourself or being able to fulfil everyone’s expectations, and how you can keep the momentum and heat going for future collections. That said, our first collection was received pretty well, but [the task] was convincing older traditional media outlets and consumers about listening to what we have to say. It’s about constantly educating people about why we do what we do and what this all matters at the end of the day.
What challenges did you face? Are sustainable vegan materials hard to find?
MV: I believe we’re on the cusp of a big change within the fashion industry, from the inside out. Every year, people are coming out with better and better options in terms of animal-friendly textiles. When we initially started, it was truly slim pickings. It was frustrating... But as of recent times, there has been ‘leather’ made out of mushrooms and pineapples, ‘silk‘ made out of banana leaves. It’s an exciting time to witness the evolution of materials.
To us, it’s also important to make sure that the feel and look is like the original [material]. That’s the point: to offer an alternative that is just as stylish and similar to what they’re used to wearing. We did a lot of trial and error before we found a reliable factory that could deliver the quality we sought.
KV: Meg and I do not come from a fashion background, so one of the biggest issues starting out was learning the language in the manufacturing world. We had to learn about fabrics, patterns, tech packs, CADS, stitching... There are so many ways you can construct a garment... we had to keep going back to the drawing board until something was satisfying. It’s just like riding a bike; the more you keep at it the better you get. If we didn’t go through those things, we wouldn’t know what we know now.
How was the involvement with PETA India’s campaign?
MV: We’re really excited that we were able to serve as creative directors and co-stylists on the PETA look book. Helping to curate this project and [the] overall campaign was a wonderful learning experience and a welcome creative challenge, as we had to specifically cater to the Indian market. Since that’s not something we are used to doing with our main line, Delikate Rayne, it was a nice change.
KV: With the campaign, Fashion Fauxever, it was imperative for us to highlight mainstream and indie brands, including Delikate Rayne, that consumers are already familiar with, and then show them how to achieve an animal-friendly look... it’s a lot easier than you think.
The word ‘faux’ is often used to mean something ‘fake’ or ‘not real’. In this particular campaign, we were showcasing pieces of clothing that were made from faux silk, faux leather, faux suede, etc. This was to purposely show consumers that you don’t have to purchase an item that’s made up of animal ingredients, because you can achieve the same look and style without sacrificing an animal in the process. Fashion is supposed to make you feel good and we want people to really feel that both internally and externally.
Who has been your fashion inspiration?
MV: It’s not so much a ‘who’ as it is a ‘what’. I feel like that changes constantly. More and more, it’s the idea, the concept of what doesn’t exist and the unknown. The entire technology overload we are constantly exposed to, it’s making us all robotic and completely out of touch on a number of levels. Everything and everyone looks, acts, does and says the same thing.
I like to think I’m inspired by a person or society’s authenticity, but I don’t even know what that is anymore. It’s one gigantic, overlapping blob. Lately, I’ve been feeling there’s this huge disconnect from what is and isn’t real. So I am continuously and consciously seeking that next wave of newness and realism to feel a fresh perspective. It’s what I don’t know that motivates me.
KV: All the women I come across that I’m just drawn to. It sounds weird, but it’s those girls that are so carefree and effortlessly cool that when I look at them, I want to be them. Not literally, but something about the way they carry themselves or rock a certain garment or jewellery that motivates me to try that out. I often find myself lost on Tumblr and Instagram, hopping from account to account, and being so inspired by women all over the globe.
Running a company together, what is the best and worst part about it?
MV and KV: We already know for the most part each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Komie’s weaknesses are Meg’s strengths and the other way round. That’s definitely a plus. You don’t really have that luxury when working with strangers until you get to know them better, if ever. But because we are so close professionally and personally, there are always blurred lines, and sometimes navigating those can get tricky.
Having roots in India, do you ever plan to expand here?
MV: Yes, we’d love to do that. Currently, we do offer international [shipping] to particular destinations, but having a more pronounced presence in our motherland is what we ultimately hope to achieve.
KV: Yes. Being first generation born and raised in the US, it was always very important to us to someday go to India and do something extremely special. Our brand, Delikate Rayne, embodies compassion and a cruelty-free lifestyle, and we wanted to show people that you can dress like this anywhere in the world. This is why we were really eager to compose the PETA India campaign and do something memorable for the Indian demographic.
Do you think a lot of ‘ethical’ fashion presented on the runway does not match up to the norms? Should there be a body certifying collections/ creations as really ethically produced or sustainable?
MV: I think it’s continuously evolving, to get to a space where it’s more ‘normal’ for the masses, if you will. The designers who’re operating in the sustainable space are trying to create greater awareness, so potential customers can understand the difference between what they’re offering versus what ‘fast’ fashion or non-eco-friendly companies are [offering].
Yes, if there were more obvious ways of identifying a label’s commitment to ethics, it would probably make it more official and instil a greater sense of trust in the brand. The more information consumers are able to receive about a company, its products, and its processes, the more confident can buyers feel about their purchase. People feeling good about where they’re spending their money will usually translate into repeat customers.
KV: You don’t see a ton of ethical fashion on the runway, but designers like Stella McCartney do a great job to show compassionate fashion. Other fashion houses are slowly transitioning into utilising sustainable fabrics, but there’s still a long way to go. Nonetheless, I’m happy every time I do see this on the runway, because that means things are starting to change and people are becoming more open-minded.