Each month, The New Fashion Initiative invites a leading voice in the sustainable and ethical fashion revolution to answer 17 questions about themselves, both personal and professional. It’s our green and socially conscious spin on Vanity Fair‘s beloved Proust Questionnaire. This month, our interviewee is Joshua Katcher, a fashion designer, activist, author and educator. Katcher launched the first vegan, ethically-made menswear fashion brand, Brave GentleMan, in 2010. His new book, Fashion Animals, shows how and why animals are exploited in the fashion industry.
1. What is your favorite article of clothing?
It’s definitely the prototype for the Brave GentleMan moto jacket. It’s made from a 100% waste-diverted cotton/poly gray tweed, with zippers made in California using solar power. The lining is recycled poly and it was constructed here in NYC. Getting this prototype made years ago was incredibly challenging, and the fact that I still have it and have repaired it a couple times is a reminder of both how far I’ve come with my brand but also how clothing becomes part of our stories and identities.
2. What is the most wonderful thing about the fashion industry right now?
Innovation. I am blown away by what we’re capable of. From a design standpoint, the ability to grow materials in the laboratory, to synthesize biological silks and leathers like Bolt Threads and Modern Meadow are doing, to grow furs like Furoid is doing, to turn citrus peels and apples and mycelium into gorgeous fabrics. I really think we are on the brink of the next industrial revolution in regards to material innovation, biofabrication, and cellular agriculture and it makes me really excited and optimistic.
3. What do you think is the most shocking thing about fashion today?
I still think that what happens to animals in the fashion industrial complex is something that is intentionally hidden and is happening at such a huge scale (in the billion-per-year) that it’s abstracted and mind-boggling. Each and every one of those animals feels pain and wants to live. There have been many undercover investigations that have revealed that some of the worst cruelties, from killing snakes like a balloon with an air compressor hose (it stretches the skin) to anally and vaginally electrocuting foxes on fur farms to death (it doesn’t damage the pelt) exist because they increase profits and they are considered standard industry practices. This is why I wrote my book Fashion Animals, to understand the fashion industry’s relationship with animals better.
4. What’s your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?
I think Berlin has had the biggest impact on me. What’s happening in the vegan food and fashion scene there is impressive. One of the best meals I’ve ever had was at Lucky Leek, and the creative engine of Berlin-based Vegan Good Life seems to be transforming people’s perceptions about the vegan lifestyle as curated, aspirational and indulgent. On top of that, there is a palpable awareness of history’s lessons that seem to remain an important part of the culture at large.
5. What is your favorite indulgence?
The croissants and french-macarons from Confectionary! in the East Village.
6. What makes you happiest?
Spending time in nature with animals. I especially enjoy visiting sanctuaries where rescued farm animals have a chance to live out their lives. It’s a good lesson in forgiveness to connect with an animal who has every reason not to trust human beings but has overcome that fear and is loving life.
7. What environmental or social problem are we overlooking?
Leather. We should be far, far more worried about the impacts of the leather industry. All the cradle-to-gate EP&L data, as well as data from Copenhagen Fashion Summit’s Pulse report, points to leather having, by far, the hugest impacts on the environment.
8. Are you more introverted or extroverted?
Pretty even. I do fine speaking publicly or socializing at a party but often I just want to play my guitar alone in my room!
9. What do you do first in the morning?
I feed and walk Enzo, the 15 year-old Chihuahua who I adopted about 12 years ago. Then I go in search of matcha or espresso.
10. Can you describe the happiest moment of this past year?
Watching my husband, James Koroni, who is a modern dancer, perform at the 92nd Street Y.
11. Best professional moment of your life thus far?
Testifying in front of the New York City Council at City Hall as an expert in support of a ban on the sales of new fur in New York City. The bill is INTRO 1476, so please contact your councilperson and tell them to support the bill!
12. What was the last outfit you wore that made you feel amazing?
The matching botanical-print pants and shirt I designed, made with organic cotton and waterless digital printing.
13. Favorite movie?
I’ve got a soft-spot for nostalgic, 80’s fantasy films, so probably Legend or The Dark Crystal (and I am SO excited that the Dark Crystal came back as a series on Netflix!)
14. How do you recharge?
Cooking, playing guitar or getting a massage.
15. What three words describe you best?
Driven, creative, hungry.
16.What makes you laugh the hardest?
17. Favorite book?
Well, obviously my book Fashion Animals. But otherwise, A Philosophy of Evil by Lars Svendsen (Also love his perspective in Fashion: A Philosophy).
Read previous TNFI Questionnaires:
Parsons fashion and race researcher Kim Jenkins
Designer and Women’s March organizer Tabitha St. Bernard
Sustainable couture designer Ronald van der Kemp
ReDress Hong Kong founder Christina Dean
Digital solutions expert at Avery Dennison Akari Shono