vegansaurus!

10/05/2010

Guest post: The first-ever San Francisco vegan fashion show!  »

When I became a vegan, a list of “projects” arose for me. Looking at my life as different projects makes challenges feel more manageable and gives me an excuse to do Cher’s squeal from Clueless—“Ooh, project!”

There was the “Find a Vegan Cheese” project; the “Find a Cruelty-Free Body Product” project and—being obsessed with fashion—the “Create a Vegan Wardrobe” project.

I gotta tell ya, as much as I enjoy researching my favorite labels for the 3 percent of their merchandise that’s vegan, it’s still a daunting task. So when a clothing or footwear line comes along that is ENTIRELY vegan, I am beyond happy. And when a vegan fashion show arises to showcase the efforts of vegan designers and entrepreneurs, you don’t just sit by. These designers not only have the challenge of researching and acquiring legitimately vegan and ethically-produced materials, but also of becoming profitable in an industry that has mostly no regard for animal suffering. So you go to the show. You go, and you support them.

San Francisco’s first-ever vegan fashion show (Canada’s ahead of us on this one)  happened last Saturday, as part of the 11th Annual World Veg Fest. Karine Brighten organized the show pro bono; a planner of eco- and animal-friendly events for places like Farm Sanctuary, Nature’s Express, and Cinnaholic, she’s also vegan. The audience packed the auditorium to see the lovely vegan models walking the show in cruelty-free clothing, accessories, and footwear. Rory Freedman of Skinny Bitch emceed the event.

Six vegan labels showed: Mission Savvy provided pieces from various designers split into five collections that each benefit different animal welfare causes. Five percent of proceeds are donated to related organizations. Cri de Cœur had footwear made with animal-free, eco-friendly materials and without toxic PVC or vinyl. Vaute Couture brought animal-free, classic and trend-conscious outerwear, tees, and sweatshirts made of high-performance, recycled, recyclable, upcycled, closed-loop, zero-waste fabrics and deadstock, and vegetable ivory buttons. Melie Blanco supplied affordable but luxurious faux-leather handbags. Reco Jeans brought their recycled high-end denim. Lion’s Share Industries had eco-friendly T-shirts adorned with vegan-artist-commissioned graphics. Pansy Maiden provided handmade handbags of animal-free, fair-trade, plant-dyed, organic, reclaimed/vintage fabrics and animal-derivative-free glue.

One of the brilliant aspects of the show was splitting the event into sections to highlight each line, including a description. This was a nice way to educate the audience, many of whom may not have known much about these particular designers or the vegan movement in the fashion industry in general.

From a purely design perspective, I had mixed feelings about the pieces—just like how I would feel at any fashion show! Because I’m not a hater, here are the items that I loved and with which I would now like to fill my closet:

 1. The adorable “Upcycled Indigo Windbreaker” from Vaute Couture (made with the remnants of another Vaute coat’s lining), with an elasticized empire waist, oversized gathered collar, and bubble hem. [Ed.: LAURA WANTS ONE VERY BADLY];
2.
The edgy “Stella Cutout Cage Wedge”, which wraps the feet in bars of faux patent leather;
3.
A cropped black blazer with gold trim from Mission Savvy.

As for the venue, I think Veg Fest was a perfect place to have the first show, because it was the most visible way to promote it to the vegan community. For future shows—and according to Rory Freedman, there will be one next year—I’d love to see a more luxe location, one that can house an show focused on style in a way that lives up to the pieces being showcased. A night spot, a gallery, a loft…. The auditorium at the County Fair Building kinda screams “I also did my high school play here.”

Still, that a vegan fashion show even happened, that there is a fashion community that cares enough about animal rights and environmental welfare to put a show like this together speaks volumes about how far veganism has come. Seeing a group of designers and entrepreneurs who have navigated their way to success while sticking to their ethics is beyond inspirational. Here’s hoping that their efforts will not only inspire current designers to rethink their practices, but that they will ignite something in a new set of vegan artists and visionaries who may look at a pair of shoes at Saks and think “if only…”

 Check out more photos, including behind-the-scenes shots, here.

This is Vi Zahajszky’s second post for Vegansaurus (you can see her first here!). Vi left her motherland of Hungary as a child and has spent most of her life in Boston and New York. Two years ago she drove across the country to San Francisco with husband Chris Carlozzi and a rescue pup named The Bandit. Here, among other things, she’s studying fashion design and pattern-making, and has plans to develop a vegan clothing line. Also, she’s enjoying no blizzards. Photo enhancing by Chris Carlozzi.

08/31/2010

Guest post: the Hodo Soy Beanery tour!  »


There are three main reasons I was pumped when I found out that Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland offers tours of their factory: 1. I eat a lot of tofu, and I like to know how stuff I eat is made; 2. I’ve been playing with the idea of making my own tofu and goma dofu (sesame seed tofu) at home and wanted to see a larger version of the process in action; and 3. My favorite part of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was when he’d go to some factory to see how backpacks or pencils are made—and this was my chance to experience that thrill live! So last Wednesday, my childhood friend from Boston, Ivy, and I headed out to Oakland to see how beans become that curd we all love.

A little background: Hodo was co-founded by a former investment banker, Minh Tsai, and his brother-in-law Dean Ku back in 2004. They noticed a gaping hole in the tofu market: freshness. In Asia, tofu is meant to be eaten the day it’s made—not packaged in shrink wrap and refrigerated for weeks. They sold their homemade soy products at farmers’ markets, became very popular, and decided to open a factory in October 2009. They don’t ship very far to maintain freshness; you can buy it at Whole Foods and Rainbow, and they sell to super-fancy restaurants—like Coi and the Slanted Door—in the Bay Area. Also, John Scharffenberger is the CEO. Um, random.

Our tour started in an adorable little room with one wall covered in curtains, where our group of 10 visitors were greeted by two staff members and tiny espresso cups of warm soy milk. The milk tasted more like liquid tofu and not very much like the Silk or Edensoy we all know. My friend and I weren’t fans (although she did down hers ‘cause she felt bad), but I can see how some may find it soothing and very clean-tasting. We then watched a video narrated by Mr. Tsai explaining the history of the factory and the details of the tofu-making process. Then they opened the curtain to reveal the extremely clean—and surprisingly small—factory floor.


[can’t see the video? watch it at vegansaurus.com!]


I was a little sad that we didn’t get to actually go on the factory floor, but you really could see everything from the windows and I totally get that they don’t want us nasty outsiders sneezing in their tofu. Our very friendly guide, Rachel (who knew all about Vegansaurus!), explained what every part of the factory did, including the “soy milk cow” (gross?) and the yuba station. Apparently, all their machinery was made by one of the oldest tofu equipment manufacturers in China.

Yuba is the skin that forms on top of the milk—and no, it’s not gross like the shit on old pudding or gravy. Hodo meticulously lifts each sheet of yuba and hangs it to dry on a rack (the ones that day were being lifted by a cheerful fellow named Binky, or something equally awesome, who wore giant headphones and jammed to his tunes as he worked). I’d never had yuba before, but my Chinese/Japanese friend remembered her childhood experience of it as “soapy/watered-down tofu” that she would only force down if her parents doused it in soy sauce and chili oil. But she agreed with me that Hodo’s yuba was frickin’ goooood. Delicate but kinda chewy, and very tasty! We got a whole table’s worth of samples to try, and I had to stop myself from being THAT GUEST and snarfing down the whole plate myself.

We also learned about nama yuba, which is apparently like the vegan version of Burrata cheese, and is a fresh, non-dried version of yuba. It’s not able to be mass-produced, so that shit’s only available to fancy people in fancy restaurants.

Our table o’ soy was adorned with everything from curry-marinated fried tofu chunks to braised firm tofu, spicy yuba strips (holy moly SO GOOD), and hijiki tofu salad, among others. Everything was great and totally made up for not being allowed to get all Mister Rogers on them. There were products that we could purchase, both food and clothing (like t-shirts that said “Who’s your Tofu Master?” and fab hats my friend described as “totally commie Mao with railroad engineer stripes”). We opted for just food and brought home several containers to continue our soy journey later.

While our experience at Hodo was yummy and informative, an aspect of their practices did bug me. The factory produces a massive amount of okara-–bean pulp that’s left over when the soy puree is filtered during the tofu-making process. While some people do eat it in stews or in veggie burgers, the demand is not high enough for Hodo to actually package it for distribution. So they donate it to Magruder Ranch in Mendocino to use as feed. Magruder raises “sustainable” meat in the form of lambs, cows, and heirloom pigs (cause, you know, the fourth most intelligent species on the planet is the same thing as a tomato). They even offer “bucolic weekend getaways” on their death farm, bitchin’ butchering workshops, and “happy” little videos on their Facebook fan page of piglets with their mom-–before they become the subjects of those workshops! SCORE!

I know that Hodo is not a vegan company-–they are just accidentally vegetarian. But I still needed to ask them about their choice of okara beneficiary, since I assume the majority of their customer base is vegetarian, vegan, or at least appreciative of that lifestyle. I asked them why they didn’t donate their feed to a local produce farm for compost instead. They said that they’re in discussion with some farms right now to do that, and that they have so much okara that there is plenty to go around. Perhaps I wimped out, but I didn’t feel that the environment was appropriate to start a heated debate, but I do intend to write to them to encourage them to reconsider their practice, and I think it’d be great if fellow vegans joined me. I understand that to Hodo it’s just waste that they are finding a practical way to dispose of, but it’s also indirectly supporting a meat ranch by helping it spend less money on feed. It would behoove them to consider the demographic that is purchasing their product, and, if nothing else-–even if they don’t care about the ethical implications of their actions—at least see the gesture of giving to a produce farm as a great marketing opportunity. Wouldn’t a vegan or vegetarian feel better about purchasing something without any connection to the meat industry?

I definitely do recommend the tour. I think it’s super-important to know where your food comes from, and having the opportunity to actually see it is pretty rare. Plus, the more vegans that show up and voice their opinion on Hodo’s okara donation practices, the more likely it is they will change them. I don’t believe Hodo is some evil meat-industry supporter—I think that they haven’t looked at what they are doing from a different angle. And what are we vegans good at if not changing someone’s perspective?

Vi Zahajszky left her motherland of Hungary as a child and has spent most of her life in Boston and New York. Two years ago she drove across the country to San Francisco with husband Chris Carlozzi and a rescue pup named The Bandit. Here, among other things, she’s studying fashion design and pattern-making, and has plans to develop a vegan clothing line. Also, she’s enjoying no blizzards. Photo enhancing and video editing by Chris Carlozzi.

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