Interviewed by Be Kind Magazine I January 27th, 2020
Why do you think so many consumers are now seeking vegan fashion alternatives?
Sy & Lisa: More and more people are seeing documentaries or social media posts on animal cruelty in slaughterhouses. This inevitably makes them more aware of what they can do to alleviate the problem, whether by choosing more sustainable products or changing their diets. Without a doubt, social media has been key in making people think about living a more conscious life. Vegan and sustainable fashion are both part of that journey.
Do you think High Street and mainstream fashion brands need to take more ethical responsibility over the type of fabrics they use to produce their products?
Sy & Lisa: The time will come when the fashion industry is fully conscious of what really happens in the whole manufacturing process. However, it is entirely up to designers’ personal beliefs and their creative pursuits whether they will continue using certain materials or not.
Most man-made materials are not eco-friendly and there are very few ones out there that are vegan and eco-friendly. The available ones have to be purchased at really high prices or quantities (which most brands cannot afford) and/or they come in limited colors or textures. The good news is that the industry is definitely changing and they are becoming more aware of what they have to do to fulfill their customer’s demands.
We also need to consider the durability of the vegan materials. With high-end fashion items, people expect their purchase to last a lifetime as it is an investment piece. So, these brands might not use new vegan/eco-friendly materials if they are unsure whether the fabric will fall apart after a few uses or even a couple of years. At the end of the day, what’s more earth-friendly is for us to not produce more waste on the planet. So we completely understand all the challenges.
Brands who want to be ethically responsible also need to make sure their entire production process is fully transparent (fair labor and working conditions) and they do what they can to give back to the environment. We are in the beginning of this social change and it will take time but we definitely believe this is the direction the world is moving in.
Ultimately, the consumers must also prepare to understand and accept the higher prices as a result.
Can you give me three examples of vegan alternative materials?
Sy & Lisa: The options are either man-made materials or plant-based materials.
Man-made materials can be categorized as (a) woven or non-woven base material in nylon, polyester or cotton which are then coated in PU (polyurethane) or PVC (polyvinyl chloride), or (b) artificial fibres which are derived from plant cellulose or regenerated from natural resources like wood or cotton linters.
As for plant-based materials there are linen, cotton, bamboo, ramie, jute, hemp, mushroom, agave or fruit-derived such as pineapple and apple.
We can’t discount the rise of fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles or shoe bottoms made from recycled rubber and even bike tires.
How have you seen the vegan fashion industry grow since you began HEXA?
Sy– Definitely. The future of fashion is moving in this direction, even if not vegan, there is a bigger pool of sustainable products for consumers to choose from. Funny enough, I began HEXA 2 years ago with a determination to not use animal skins after I came out of my family’s leather bag business. Leather was the ultimate luxury item, be it cow, snake, crocodile, ostrich, etc. There was no question about it. I was questioned by many people if HEXA could have any future at all. (haha)
Right now more and more people are talking about whether it’s the right thing to buy a bag made from crocodiles or ostriches. Whether it’s the awareness of the benefits of a plant-based diet or PETA’s hidden camera footage of slaughterhouses, people are re-thinking their lifestyle choices. These people obviously do not wish to promote or be associated with animal-derived products or services.
Lisa–The vegan fashion industry has a long way to go in changing the general population’s conception that leather is a “quality” product. Most affordable leather comes from tanneries with appalling conditions and pollution. In the past, all vegan “leathers” weren’t as durable as animal leather or they were made with very toxic substances like PVC. Whereas now, we have access to much more durable and cleaner leather alternatives. The challenge for these other suppliers will be how they can also create a sustainable product that isn’t just vegan.
What do you predict for the future of the vegan fashion?
Sy & Lisa: People are becoming more aware of the alternatives. The media, celebrities, and brands are all showing alternatives to anything that is an animal by-product. Of course, there will still be people who prefer leather-based items, people who have mixed items in their closets, and there will be people who are loyal to non-animal based products. At the end of the day, we both strongly believe people have the right to buy, eat, live the way they want to.
What materials do HEXA make their fashion pieces from?
Sy & Lisa: We need to use materials that are soft and flexible enough for footwear so that’s very important. It needs to be durable and affordable but we also don’t skimp on material costs. Even the insole foam we use is made from recycled foam and castor bean oil (instead of petroleum). Our bottoms are made from recycled rubber. For our upper materials, have a mix of low toxic microfiber-based PU, jute, canvas, and we are constantly testing out new eco-materials to use for our next collections.
What are some of your most popular items?
Sy & Lisa: Definitely all of the styles on 1-inch heel collection and the 3-inch pumps such as Superwoman and Raven. Our customers also say they can really walk and stand on our 4-inch heels for hours, which is exactly what we designed them for!