'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 Joshua Katcher, the designer behind Brave GentleMan.
Joshua Katcher, captured by Eric Mirbach
When and why was Brave GentleMan founded?
I started Brave GentleMan both to make the things I personally wanted and also to prove that vegan fashion can be superior to mainstream fashion in performance, aesthetics and quality. I believe that for design to be considered "good" the supply chain and the manufacturing processes must also be good.
It’s been a long time since you first became prominent in the vegan, ethical fashion industry – what’s changed?
You're right! So much has changed. I went vegan in the 1990s when many people didn't even know what the word "vegan" meant. I feel like I've seen such a massive transformation and so many advancements in every category from fashion to food to finance. For a long time, "vegan fashion" was less of a brand or product category and more of something that you would adhere to for your own wardrobe. It certainly wasn't perceived as desirable or cool. Today, the most exciting innovations in material technology are happening in the circumfaunal space with the explicit goal of bypassing animal inputs.
What still needs to change, both within the vegan and wider fashion communities?
I sometimes worry when people in both of these communities treat what is considered "good design" like religious dogma. We must cultivate evolution and adaptation. That includes our activism as well as fashion.
Something I've noticed in the vegan community is a desire to reject all of fashion as a symbol of shallow vanity. This is changing as more and more vegan brands use their platforms to address important issues, but I think there is still work to be done.
Another thing I'd like to see change is for the more mainstream sustainable fashion community to have a real reckoning with the greenwashing and humane-washing of farmed animal materials. I just can't take any conversation around circularity or biodiversity seriously if it doesn't acknowledge the need to rewild grazeland and pasture.
Brave GentleMan's past store in NYC, via Bright Zine
What are some of Brave GentleMan’s greatest achievements so far?
To be honest though, I think the greatest achievement is simply having been able to stay in business for almost 12 year as a small company. Every entrepreneur knows how challenging it is to keep all the gears turning year after year. I still have very big plans for Brave GentleMan, and I still consider BGM a new company, so look out!
The Revenant sneaker from Brave GentleMan, in grey and neon orange.
What is your personal favourite Brave GentleMan shoe?
The line of REVENANT sneakers are really great because for years I was interested in doing something more casual, more affordable and made with mostly waste-diverted materials. I also love the name "Revenant" because it comes from zombie folklore about the dead returning to warn us of impending doom. In a way, the materials used for these shoes can be seen that way as it relates to fashion's impact on the climate, biodiversity and resource usage.
Tell us about what’s new or upcoming at Brave GentleMan, a brand at the forefront of innovation?
I have also been testing more innovative materials for footwear like mycelium leather, and vegan leathers with plant-based polymers or a significant percentage of biomass from fruits and agricultural waste. The performance of these materials is improving and I look forward to the day that they surpass the more conventional vegan leathers. Also, I may be launching some heels soon!
Do you have a favourite quote that guides or reflects you?