'Behind the Brand' is our latest blog series, which asks designers behind the ethical brands curated by Vegan Style more about how they began, what their influences are, what's coming next, and a whole lot more...
First up, meet Gabriel Silva, the brain behind Ahimsa.
When was Ahimsa founded, and why?
Ahimsa was founded in January 2013 and started sales in July 2013.
After being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I had to quit my previous career of flying corporate jets and returned to my hometown to work with my father in his footwear agency business.
I worked exclusively with him for about 2 years, and within that time I decided to turn vegetarian first and later vegan, at which point I decided that working directly with regular leather shoes was no longer an option for me.
First I thought I would need to find a new career again, but when searching for
the available vegan footwear options at the time I saw a gap in the market, especially in my home country of Brazil, so together, my father and I decided that there was an opportunity there to start something.
Combining his experience and network, with my drive and ambition, we started Ahimsa to deliver high-quality, durable, ethical and sustainable footwear options to the market.
Tell us about why you chose the name Ahimsa, and how it reflects the brand?
When developing the idea for the brand, the initial missing piece was the name. I wanted something simple, pronunciable in as many languages as possible, that carried some meaning with the animal cause.
Digging around for what could be the first iteration of the idea of equality between species, I found the word Ahimsa, which in Sanskrit means "Do No Harm". This was very powerful to me and felt right. It also began with "A" which is a plus when thinking about sorted lists and web ranking.
The philosophy behind the word Ahimsa, which became our name, is reflected
strongly in everything that we do, because we aim much further than just making vegan shoes.
I joke that vegans are known mainly for not eating animal products, but that the "issue" is much more than that. So, the Ahimsa philosophy drives us to be conscious of our activities, grounded with our goals and ambitions, ethical with everyone involved and sustainable with our production.
Shoes being made at the Ahimsa factory. Image courtesy of Avesu Vegan
I think, to some degree, people tend to think that we are like car factories, with robots and loads of automation. We do take pride in how everything is made and whenever I have the chance to either further explain to or show someone around our facilities, they seem impressed about how manual everything really is.
What are some of the greatest misconceptions surrounding the footwear industry?
We do of course have machines, but they are there mainly to gain speed in some processes, but everything could still be made 100% manually, which I don't think is still true for many industries, like the automotive industry, for
We know an increase in automation is coming, we see the move in the footwear industry itself for simpler, more automation-prone, styles and constructions, but we do want to keep things going as they are for as long as possible.
We really believe what we do is a form of art and we would like for our skilled artisans to be better recognized for what they do.
Is there anything new and upcoming from Ahimsa you can share?
We have recently launched our first real "active" products, bringing for the first time options for both running and for hiking. With that said, over the coming year we plan to iterate on these and also on our proven products, making sure we
stay at the forefront of the vegan footwear market.
Do you have a favourite quote that guides or reflects you?
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
― Mahatma Gandhi