Fashion Loves Animals

Earlier this month I was incredibly surprised to receive an invitation to Fashion Loves Animals, an event celebrating the non-use of animal products within the fashion industry. The event also served as a fun-filled benefit for Farm Sanctuary, a wonderful non-profit that protects farm animals from cruelty, and additionally honored highly regarded, VAUTE Couture President and Creative Director, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart. Knowing that I've previously written about collections utilizing fur, leather, and other animal materials, the invitation was honestly completely unforeseen to me, yet  nevertheless, I graciously accepted it as an opportunity to learn more about the opposing stance.

Fashion Loves Animals was set at SIR Stage 37, a large space in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood. My good friend, Rachel Gottlieb, a wardrobe stylist and fashion designer with a deep appreciation for both fashion and farming, seemed like the perfect date to accompany me that evening.  Preceding the event she had just recently returned to the city after a few interesting months of living and working on a farm in upstate New York. Unsure of what to expect, the two of us happily donned whimsical ankle length dresses and walked excitedly into the large space.

The evening began with a delightful cocktail hour featuring delectable vegan appetizers by Jay Astafa. Somehow past experiences had lead me to believe that any food labeled "vegan" meant that it wouldn't taste good. However, to my great surprise, I was immensely mistaken. Astafa's finger food was not only flavorful as vegan, but great tasting as a meal in general. Regardless of it being green, the selections were all exotic in appearance, unique in taste, and completely fulfilling. In fact, I enjoyed the food so much that I  ate enough appetizers to satisfy me for the entire night. Although, what I found even more impressive than proving vegan food can actually be delicious, was the knowledge that Astafa is just twenty years old. Learning how to cook both from his family and culinary education, in addition to catering this large event, Astafa also recently premiered a pop up of his vegan food restaurant concept, Jay Kitchen. It proved to be a huge success and now New Yorkers, I happily amongst them, can look forward to a more permanent Jay Kitchen to debut in upcoming months. Overall, Astafa provided a great start to the evening and also happened to generously offer a private dinner party worth $1000 in an auction to benefit Farm Sanctuary. He is quite the admirable young man and I look forward to hearing more about his innovative ventures in the culinary world in the future.

Following the enjoyable opening cocktail hour was a special fashion show featuring clothing by renown cruelty-free fashion brand, Vaute Couture in addition to other great vegan brands including footwear by Love is Mighty, menswear by Brave Gentlemanhandbags by Matt & Nat and makeup by The Body Shop. Also accompanying the models were a few cute furry friends from The Humane Society of New York that only further enhanced each look coming down the runway. Again, what I expected was much less than what I saw. In the last Fashion Unfold twitter debate I participated in I made a bold statement of saying that all eco-friendly clothing lines were generally unattractive. All of these brands made me immediately swallow my words. Rachel and I both absolutely loved Vaute Couture's feminine silhouettes, adorable cut outs, bold colors and prints, admired Love is Mighty's sparkling heels, thought the male models looked unbelievably handsome in Brave Gentlemen's looks, and were ready to quickly purchase a chic Matt and Nat handbag. Everything about the show was executed perfectly and for the first time in my fashion career I actually appreciated a movement I used to be completely indifferent too.
The evening ended with some lovely and relaxing music by Rosi Golan and sweet vegan desserts by Fran Costigan. The desserts were so unbelievably amazing that without shame, Rachel and I followed the waiters circulating the space serving each plate of desserts. Within minutes there was nothing left of Costigan's sweet little bites. Luckily, we were able to meet the Queen of Vegan Desserts. We sat and discussed her career and her dessert making methods. "There's no reason for us to use animals when we can create delicious desserts without them," she said and she's right. I've never tasted desserts as delicious as those. With no eggs or milks involved, it's quite shocking. 

Unfortunately, I was not able to leave Fashion Loves Animals with a cute puppy, but I did leave with an entirely new perspective. As Farm Sanctuary showed me- the American farming industry is not always as cute and simple as it may sound. There are animals who are treated poorly when they're sick or not in shape. They are treated as products and not as animals with hearts, brains, and lunges. I am not a vegan nor am I vegetarian, but animals should be treated well while they're living shouldn't they? and if they're not being used for what they can provide than they shouldn't simply just be neglected or mistreated. I have been swayed to think more about the subject, but either way I greatly appreciate Farm Sanctuary's mission and cause as well as all of the talented people working in the vegan industry wether it be Vaute Couture Founder, Leanne Mil-lay Hilgart, or Vegan Dessert Queen, Fran Costigan, the faux leather quality handbag line by Mat and Nat, or natural beauty products by The Body Shop. They're all working for a greater cause that affects so many helpless animals and all in all it's incredibly admirable.

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