Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time learning and writing about ethical and vegan fashion, and I’ve come across a fascinating world where respect for the environment and love for animals become one.
So a while ago we talked about the vegan brand Kinds of Grace, and about how they approach sustainability through their designs of beautiful ethical bags.
Well, after delving into the world of vegan leather, and learning about the values of the brand and the materials they use, I wanted to know even more about the ins and outs of running a vegan label. I’m fascinated about the growth of vegan fashion in recent years, and I feel that we need to highlight all the virtues of this part of the industry: vegan fashion is not only 100% cruelty-free, but also more eco-friendly compared to animal-based fashion.
And what better way to dive deep into the heart of the brand than talking with its creator? Today I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with Grace, founder and designer of Kinds of Grace.
I wanted to learn about her experience and her motivation to create a sustainable brand, as well as her insights into the fashion industry. She’s an inspiring entrepreneur and an agent of positive change towards a kind and fair world. How? By creating an accessible brand of high-quality ethical bags supporting her values.
Hello, Grace! First, tell us a bit about yourself and your background in the fashion industry
I’ve always had a love of fashion that ran in my family. My grandmother back in China used to design and sew her own dresses, as did my mother in Hong Kong. I used to love ‘helping’ by cutting fabrics etc and in my play time used to design my own outfits for my dress up dolls (the only toys my mom could afford when I was a kid)
Professionally I got into the industry through a role with a large online virtual fashion app, where I started with trend research before moving into creative direction, garment and accessory design and overseeing production. By the time I finished up there, I had created over 1000 online designs in a range of aesthetics, and I loved that process. So that gave the inspiration to start with my own label.
Why did you choose to start a vegan and eco-conscious brand? Was there a defining moment that inspired you to start a value-centred business?
There was. I’d always loved luxe leather bags, but after moving from Hong Kong to Melbourne and becoming vegan and learning about the reality of the fashion industry, it was a lightbulb moment.
That actually was one of the triggers to take the leap and try to start my own business. It helped that my partner Simon was also starting his own vegan startup around the same time (in food) so we decided to embark on our entrepreneurial journeys together.
What is your definition of sustainability? How do you approach sustainability in your business?
To me, sustainability is about reducing the impact on the planet and those that inhabit it, human but also animal, both wild and farmed. It’s about leaving the world in a better place for future generations, something as a recent new mother I feel viscerally. It’s impossible to be perfect right from day one, but that you need to take steps in the right direction.
For us at Kinds of Grace, it means trying to make sure everything we do is a big improvement vs the default bag industry and then try to extend and improve over time. It’s the reason why we started with a PU leather line (which turns out to be a lot more sustainable than animal leather) and are introducing new Piñatex collections from repurposed excess pineapple fibers over the coming months.
It also means giving back, and recognizing that it will take the efforts of everyone, small and large businesses, researchers, campaigners, scientists etc. I made a decision early on to donate 20% of all profits back to groups working to change the system for the better, and do see Kinds of Grace as a mission-driven company.
Can you describe your design process? Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in nature, more specifically in vibrant animal and mineral motifs. Whilst I appreciate the current trend of minimalist monotones, personally I prefer to go bold with color and pattern, like a painter or photographer would in capturing the wild beauty of nature.
I usually start with what I see when out in the bushland (one of the joys of living in Melbourne) and also watching wildlife documentaries and reading up on new material innovations.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for the current fashion industry?
There are many, but the big three in my eyes are: exploitation of animals, exploitation of humans particularly in fast fashion, and the environmental impact, from emissions through to water usage, pollution. Our big challenge is to move to a cruelty-free approach that takes us forward in all three aspects.
Do you think small ethical businesses have other challenges?
Oh yes, there’s still a lot of work to educate about the issues, that frankly most consumers aren’t aware of. For example, explain to a typical luxury shopper exactly why and how their leather bag is so soft and smooth and they’ll get a big surprise, and not in a good way.
So there’s the extra ‘workload’ to try to explain, educate as well as operate as ethically as possible ourselves, whilst still remaining viable in terms of pricing. It’s the reason we put a lot of effort into writing articles about the topics each week, in addition to working on our own product and brand, but it’s something we feel passionately about.
I find learning about vegan alternatives to animal materials and new plant-based leather innovations (such as Piñatex) fascinating. Do you think the future of fashion is vegan and ethical?
Definitely! I believe it’s the future, and I’m working hard to do my part to bring that world into reality.
Do you have a personal favourite from your current collection?
Design wise, I’ll always have a soft spot for my Paeony Blush tweed bag. It was one of the first bags I designed, and I remember the excitement when I wore my first prototype out to town.
Recently I’ve had a lot of fun designing my new Piñatex tote (launching soon) which rocks a very futuristic vibe. But look, all the designs are my babies, I love them all!
Remember that you can learn more about the ethical and eco-friendly materials used by Kinds of Grace on this post, or you can go directly to their website to get your hands on one of their beautiful bags.