0 comments / Posted on by Emma Hakansson

'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 KatcherJoshua Katcher, captured by Eric Mirbach

 

When and why was Brave GentleMan founded?

Brave GentleMan was founded in 2010 and was the first fully vegan menswear brand. It emerged from my blog The Discerning Brute, which I started in 2008. I launched The Discerning Brute because I saw a glaring void in addressing masculinity in veganism and sustainability in general. At the time, most of the brands and media promoting a vegan lifestyle were geared towards a femme audience, and I wanted to understand why caring about animals or being able to proudly embrace compassion was seen by so many mainstream men as something to avoid. Mainstream masculinity was therefore a roadblock to veganism and more broadly, sustainability and an ethical lifestyle. So I started writing about it in a way that I thought would appeal to a more masculine audience.

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. 

 


Joshua Katcher in Brave Gentleman


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. 




Brave GentleMan shoes


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. 

 


The Brave GentleMan store
Brave GentleMan's past store in NYC, via Bright Zine 

What are some of Brave GentleMan’s greatest achievements so far? 

Being the first vegan menswear brand in the world feels pretty cool. I've won some lovely awards from organisations like The Fur Bearers and PETA. I've spoken on some exciting panels and helped draft legislation. I've gotten to teach at Parsons and lecture internationally because of Brave GentleMan. BGm has been in Vogue, The Financial Times, Forbes and others, and we've worked with some very talented people.

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!



Revenant sneakers
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. 

 



mylo unleatherMycelium leather, featured in an article from Antagonist penned by Katcher
 


Tell us about what’s new or upcoming at Brave GentleMan, a brand at the forefront of innovation?

I have used some of my illustrations to design fabrics in collaboration with EcoSimple, made of all waste-diverted and recycled cotton and recycled polyester. This will be used to make a collection of recycled outerwear and bags.

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!
 



fashion animals book


Do you have a favourite quote that guides or reflects you?

Tolstoy's "what a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness". I think this is especially poignant for fashion where beautiful objects often conceal the very awful reality of how they were made.

I also often think of the dedication I wrote for my book Fashion Animals which touches on the same idea:
 
The fashion mausoleum may be spectacular, still and full of soft and exquisite things—but we mustn’t mistake the stillness for peace nor the softness for goodness. 

Despite the décor, there is little sympathy for fashion’s dead, nor mercy for its doomed. I dedicate this book to every animal whose body has vanished into a silent fashion object. 

You did not go quietly.
You did not go prettily.
You did not go willingly.

 

Explore Brave GentleMan styles at Vegan Style.

0 comments

Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing