“I’m surrounded by volunteers, everything is coming to fruition because the models and the team donated their time,” said Emmanuelle Rienda, founder of Vegan Fashion Week, on the event’s return last weekend to downtown Los Angeles, for the first time since 2019.
One has to admire her determination to make L.A. the ethical fashion capital of the world. Rienda had to give up her showroom to fund the third iteration of the event, held on the top floor of the USC Tower. The theme was “Expansion,” and the runway collections from South Korean label Vegan Tiger, Argentinian label Nous Etudions (a 2020 LVMH Prize finalist) and others spoke to the rising popularity of cruelty-free fashion around the globe.
Designer Romina Cardillo’s Nous Etudions oversize coats, jacket and pants made from biodegradable neoprene with puzzle piece-like perforations proved vegan fashion can have avant-garde flair, while Vegan Tiger’s silky print pieces in acid brights, faux leather halter top and slip skirt, and plush faux-fur tiger printed coat had luxe streetwear appeal.
Rienda also introduced a trade show concept, inviting brands to set up shop for attendees to discover vegan cactus leather accessories by Desserto from Mexico and vegan sneakers from veteran Paris footwear designer David Tourniaire-Beauciel’s L.A. brand Shoes 53045.
“Without any marketing, California became our second largest market,” said Samuel LeRoux, cofounder of Montreal-based, B Corp-certified watch brand Solios. Retailing for less than $300, the solar-powered watches have vegan leather straps.
“This is my vegan coming out,” joked Sylven New York founder Casey Dworkin, who recently pivoted her four-year-old sustainable shoe brand to being fully vegan. Showing off her bestselling white apple leather “Almasi” bootie, she underscored the intersection of veganism and sustainability. “There are so many issues with the leather industry, and I realized the single best thing I can do to reduce my carbon footprint is to stop using animal products all together.”
While the fashion industry may be heralding its sustainability efforts and recent moves to stop using fur, when it came time to find Vegan Fashion Week brand sponsors, Rienda hit a wall.
“I didn’t find one and I’ve been trying so hard,” the fashion activist said. “I think because people are not ready for vegan and I’m talking to a lot of people who still do leather….But I have a mission and this needed to be done. I don’t want the message to die.”