The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, so the need for more eco- conscious design is imperative. Goldrad is a sustainable luxury handbag label that is 100% vegan, creating high-end handbags in a category which they call “mindful vegan luxury”, using only eco-friendly and cruelty-free materials.
The company was founded by Alexandra Donath-DeFries and Ruben Donath in 2018 with their head office located in Zurich, Switzerland. Goldrad made it their mission to bring more high-end products to the premium accessoire market by proving that it is possible to make a luxury item with no cruelty and no animal products involved
We spoke with founder and CEO Alexandra Donath-DeFries about the progressive world of sustainable fashion.
Which new vegan materials are especially of interest to you at the moment?
I just recently heard from a friend about all the developments in new materials. A couple of scientists are trying to create things like leather, fur and feathers in a lab – just like it is done with the artificial meat. Companies like Bolt Threads which are working on things like artificial spider silk or Pembient, who are creating rhino horns via 3-D printing are completely fascinating to me and this is something I will definitely keep my eyes on. Of course this will still all take some time and it is cost-wise not feasible at the moment, but once it’s done it will completely revolutionize the entire material market. Not to think of how much good it would do to the environment and the animals.
For future collections I will look much more into the new all natural derived materials like Vegea, the different fruit leathers or tree and mushroom leather, even though I tend to believe that climate change will also affect the production of some of these materials a bit.
When I first created the brand I tried to find materials that would fit my requirements, but I was not super happy with the natural leather substitutions that were available for production at that time. I decided for eco-friendly PU as an outside material and do the rest with recycled materials – like all the lining, the dustbags – all made from recycled PET bottles and our boxes from recycled paper. Even our business cards are made from recycled T-Shirts. But every good thing develops with time and you learn. So for future collections I would definitely go into all natural materials and even try to make the production even more sustainable and efficient, because this is really just the most important factor to me at the moment.
Which of your products is the bestseller and why?
Definitely the Dallas Superstar, it is a great all-rounder for day and night. It upscales every outfit – no matter how casual, you always look stylish with it. Also the Minimoto Micro Bag, that was sold out very quickly.
Why should the fashion industry continue to acknowledge veganism?
The fashion industry in general has to change drastically – for itself and our planet to survive. It is after all one of the main polluting industries that ruin the planet. This includes not only to adapt vegan fashion but also sustainable and slow fashion. We are facing very very difficult times and the problem is, most of the population doesn’t seem to be getting the picture at all.
The people are consuming like there is no tomorrow and I am afraid they will continue to do so. High street fashion companies come out with new collections not twice a year, but once a week. This is – mildly speaking – a complete disaster. To come back to vegan fashion – most people are not aware how much animal is really in their clothing and accessories. Even if they buy a pair of faux leather sneakers there is a great chance that the glue, the coating or even the thread contains animal byproducts. It is just insane and very unnecessary. Billions of animals suffer horribly for this industry – and also uncountable humans as well, not to forget this. So as a matter of fact we do have basically a lot of the same problems we are facing in the food industry which is not only a complete nightmare for animals, but also for the pollution of the planet.
I would like to add that actually all consumer goods companies – may it be cosmetics or household items – must change their production and company ethics very rapidly and basically do a complete 180. If most of the major brands would switch their products to vegan and sustainable products and also their production to being more sustainable – which is absolutely not rocket science – we would see such an incredible difference. I see a lot of talking about sustainability efforts, but no real action. In the end it’s just marketing. You could say that we as consumers have a big impact on the development of the products, but looking at the stage this planet is in right now this is not gonna cut it. There are a lot of people out there who really try to be thoughtful about what they buy, but this is not enough. The majority of people doesn’t care at all and just buy whatever is cheap or whatever they want to buy. And therefore it is so important that the company ethics change, because they have the responsibility for everything. The masses just follow what is offered to them.
What new developments are planned for you this year?
We are working on some new models at the moment and also some accessories. We are planning on also doing a men’s luxury line and are working on a more casual line, called the IAMGOLDRAD line, that we are looking to expand. Currently we have one bag available for this line. But in general, we are consistently and constantly developing.
How do you think vegan fashion is being accepted so far?
So and so. Honestly, most vegan fashion labels are still either too hippie, too alternative or too experimental in my opinion (and by saying that I unfortunately don’t mean good experimental like Jean-Paul Gaultier or Alexander McQueen). I had many discussions about this and many of my non-vegan friends just don`t see themselves wearing most of these items – myself included. For vegan fashion it is really essential that we not only get the vegans in the boat, cause they are doing already so much, but especially the fashion-crazy people as well as the average shopper, because they are the majority.
If we really want change, we have to go much more into either making high-street vegan fashion for average shoppers or more exclusive items for people who rather spend more money. Because THIS is the majority of people – if we like it or not. I am friends with founders from many other great vegan labels and can see that there is a lot of change happening in this direction at the moment. So are there some new fantastic vegan shoes, bags, jackets that are fashionable and much more mass-suitable and that is really really good news. Because I can not stress it enough – we need as many good vegan and sustainable products as possible. And I believe that all the big department and online stores will soon jump on the train and pick up more vegan brands as well. So that`s very good news, especially for new labels.
How do you envisage the role of veganism in fashion over the coming years?
I believe it will be the next big thing after the vegan food revolution that we are seeing right now. I think many investors will also start putting their money in really good vegan fashion companies, just like we saw it with Beyond Meat and Impossible. And it is really important. Because – as I said it before – as much as I love whatever is happening in the food sector, the fashion industry is such a large and extremely bad industry and so in need of changes. I am very confident that vegan fashion will soon start to steadily infiltrate the fashion industry as it is today. Just as we are seeing it right now in the food sector. There are so many new vegan and sustainable labels popping up at the moment and it is just the most fantastic thing to see. Not all of them will be here in the long run, but there are big and exciting changes taking place at the moment. I really gives me a lot of hope.
What are your future plans and where do you see your company in 5 years time?
At the moment we are really trying to look into things very thoroughly. Our company is all about slow fashion, we produce a certain amount of one bag model – which is 300 pieces – and sell it until it’s gone. We will come back with variations of models that customers love and introduce new models as well, but strongly keep our focus on exactly this philosophy.
In five years I am confident we will use all natural or science-based materials and still have a sophisticated look for our products. We would like to expand the product line and do other things as well. In addition we have some ideas for a new and much larger project, but that is actually still a bit of a secret and in its very first baby stages, so I can not really say anything about it at this point in time.