When we think of vegan fashion we usually roll our eyes; And for good reason. We want to save the Earth as much as the next dude but we don’t want to wear a beige tee with a globe on it. Well neither does Joshua Katcher, who is a strict vegan so he recently launched his own line of menswear called The Brave Gentleman. It is more Tom Ford than Bob Dylan.
Joshua was born and raised in Poughkeepsie and his grandparents lived in Brooklyn so he has always been surrounded by the creativity of New York City. “ I was hanging out on 8th Street with all the punk bands when I was a teenager,” he laughs. It was in high school when veganism entered his life. He was your typical meat and potatoes kind of kid but then he became a member of SWIFT: Students with Ideas for Tomorrow. The group bought an acre of rain forest to protect it and then realized it was being cut down just for cattle to graze and to grow soy beans for the cattle to eat. “My friends and I decided to go vegetarian for a week and in order to inspire us we watched a documentary on slaughter houses and I was blown away,” he explains. He thought, “I don’t want my cat or dog to go through what I just saw a cow go through, so that was it for me. I was 15 at the time.”
Joshua’s website, The Discerning Brute, is dedicated to fashion, food and etiquette for the ethical gentleman and has become a go-to for like minded men around the world. It has received its’ fair share of press. As he told us, “Fashion is a very powerful form of visual communication. You look at what religious and political groups wear and it makes you think how they convey their assumed power through dress. So I wanted to create power through sustainability. Sustainable thinking is often times feminized. If we can build up power, confidence and masculinity through sustainability I think we can turn the tide.”
While there are many sustainable brands that Joshua is a big fan of (as you will see below), he still couldn’t find a good dress shoe or suit that was sustainably made. Women have someone like Stella McCartney who is leather free but there isn’t anyone representing the men’s category.
The number one issue with the leather industry is raising the livestock. Car, plane, train and boat pollution aren’t as harmful as livestock. Then you have to tan it on top of that. Most hides are tanned in Bangladesh in horrifying conditions. “Nobody wants to hear all of this awful news, so we focus on the positive and just show people amazing products. Bantering about all the negative is what a lot of activists focus on but we are focusing on the positive side”, Katcher explains. The leather companies have put a lot of money into ‘durability, quality, suppleness”. When you use imitation leather it’s hard to talk about it without trying to aspire to being real leather so Joshua calls these textiles, future leather, future suede. “The future leather I use for my shoes is better quality than animal hide. Puma is a global leader in athletic wear and they are phasing out all leather. This is huge.”
Joshua decided to create the first vegan, sustainable high end suit and showed them at New York fashion week in September. He reached out to lots of great friends to help including the designers John Bartlett and Victoria Bartlett (not related). Everything but the shoes are made in New York and the suits are made with organic cotton, linen and recycled synthetics and Corozo buttons. His belts, wallets and gloves are crafted with Italian microfiber and recycled Japanese synthetics.
For his shoes he has teamed up with Novacas, a New York based Vegan shoe brand. They are constructed in Portugal with non-toxic Italian textiles.
Joshua has been an adjunct Professor of Sustainable Fashion at the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising in Manhattan, and frequently tours with his lecture: “Fashion & Animals: The Anatomy of A Fatal Attraction”. He has spoken at The American University of Paris, Parsons, Brown, UPenn, and FIT among others.
Read on to hear about some excellent and ethical brands that Joshua wears as well as his own.
Says he: I focus on vintage and second hand stores mixed with brands I really want to support.
Outerwear- Vaute is my favorite company for outerwear made from recycled materials. The designer spent years designing her own textiles. There is no wool involved. Avoiding wool is something very important to me too. April 77 in Paris is designed by a vegan and they made a great coated canvas motorcycle jacket that I wear all the time.
Bathing Suit- Riz made from 100% recycled polyester board shorts.
Sweaters- Kuyichi’s organic cotton, cable-knit mission sweater is one of my fave things for fall:
Pants- L’Herbe Rouge, a sustainable fashion line from Paris that makes cool chinos.
Denim-Haikure is an Italian denim line with simple, classic style. Haikure also utilizes hemp, organic cotton, recycled poly, lyocell, tencel, linen and low-impact, plant-based dyes and aging processes. Plus, they have a really innovative tracking and transparency system in place that lets the buyer know the life-cycle and impacts of the purchase.
Monkee Genees is another that is made with all recycled or organic cotton.
Bags/Backpacks- Matt & Nat are really beautiful made with future leathers.
Sunglasses- Zeal Optics. They have a frame called the Ace made from biodegradable frames and lenses. They make really cool classic Wayfarer designs that you can throw in your compost pile when you are done with them.