This post could be the angry post in which the vegan designer rants and preaches and spews her righteous disgust at the world for its behavior. But- wait, don't leave!- this post will not be that. Because I am a cruelty-free interior designer, not a vegan. I have vegan ideals from which I aspire to shape all of my choices most of the time, but I fall short of my lofty values- often.
Full disclosure: I am a vegetarian, and I have had a love affair with cheese my whole life. I am Sandy and cheese is my Danny Zuko. I’ll also eat salmon and tuna salad once or twice a month. My choices are all about where my head is at any given choice-moment. That statement may sound basic and stupid, but as adults, how often and diligently do we actually work at changing the choices we make? At specific points in all of our tiring days, isn't more-than-a-bit of "auto-pilot" the norm? I haven't yet been able to conquer some of my deeply embedded food attachments because de-programming is difficult. And truthfully, I'm not always in the mood for "difficult"- many times, instant pleasure wins. It's much easier to choose from a place of: now, yummy, fun, pretty, easy, inexpensive, accessible, comfortable- what a royal pain in the can: to have to rethink my choices. I have more than a few leather goods that were either past gifts or were bought pre-vegan-design-reality. And I have no plans to get rid of most of these animal-sourced items immediately- if I tossed everything that came from an animal, I'd be left with a few bathing suit cover-ups, a straw bag and one pair of sneakers. While that, of course, is an exaggeration, I plan to use my down, leather and wool goods until they fall apart. Even just two months ago, I broke down and purchased a pair of leather Robert Clergerie shoes. It was a moment of pure weakness, justifying what felt like their ownership of me with the old, “I could never find a vegan shoe in the whole world just like them, and, well, I’ll own them forever.” What??? I don't honestly believe that, but at that shoe-buying moment, I did. You don't have to call me a hypocrite- I'll do it for you. I acted like a hypocrite. I compartmentalized the pain and suffering that I know happened to make those shoes, trading facts for the soothing mythology of luxury. The human brain is good at believing in myths- my mind just loves fantasy stories is excellent at doing this. Many of our upholstered furniture pieces and pillows in our home are stuffed with feathers- I am replacing everything with cruelty-free options on an as-needed basis. My stance on this issue is not one of bloated virtue. Even though I am a caring human who wants to do better, I fail regularly.
Failure at achieving something yesterday is not an excuse for failure to try to accomplish something today. And change is a-comin’ regarding how we humans consume. It has too. Aside from the fact that I am a passionate and active animal advocate, my change of consumer-thus-business values comes from knowing that our planet, and our survival on it, demands that we all change. We have to change- what we consume and how we consume it. Some people have the strength of mind and the resources to change overnight. I have a daughter who is like that. She went from being a vegetarian to being a vegan three years ago and has never faltered once. And I mean not once. It’s amazing and inspiring to witness.
But I am not that same kind of person- change for me can be slower. One choice at a time- one vegan choice at a time, when it comes to what I eat and what I buy. It sees to me that making cruelty-free, vegan choices can be ranked from easiest-to-hardest like this:
- Food choices: hardest. Much emotional attachment to overcome, driven heavily by unconscious needs.
- Fashion choices: medium hard. Just slight emotional attachment. Biggest obstacle is lack of high-fashion, high-style choices. Some compromise of style (although this is REALLY improving quickly, thanks to some fantastic vegan fashion companies- more please.)
- Interior design choices: easy. Not much emotional attachment to overcome. Easy to buy cruelty-free, no feather-no leather choices. NO compromise of style, comfort, or quality with cruelty-free interior design choices.
The decision to offer cruelty-free design as one of my business’ primary values was because of this question:
I can think of no reason to NOT choose cruelty-free materials when I think of causing such pain and suffering just so there can be a sharp feather poking through a throw pillow, or a herd of dust mites and mold gathering weight in the old feather fill of the sofa cushions. There are GREAT replacements for upholstery down fill- I won't lie and say the effect is absolutely identical, but the alternative fill is VERY very very good- very squishy and long-lasting- just like down fill/wrapping, if the furniture is custom made by an upholsterer who knows what they are doing.
What is the point of the mass-suffering that is happening to make our furniture and accessories? What is the point of skinning FOUR cows to make two chairs? When there is an incredible human-made or natural material to use in place of a hide, feathers, or wool, made with no suffering and less waste, I can’t choose otherwise. Animal products no longer feel like luxurious to me. "Luxury" is cutting-edge design technologies, and beautiful, natural plant materials. Cruelty-free design, in both fashion and interiors, is The New Luxury- and a logical place to begin to change our sad and destructive consumer habits.
What I hope is that maybe, just maybe, if I surround myself with "no-denial" choices, these conscious choices will serve as a constant visual confirmation of the possibility of living compassionately with the other living beings with whom we share the planet. Eventually, I know that this compassionate way of living, if consistent, will probably displace my old attachments, and they will fade away. Awareness is a powerful tool and the queen of all values, in my opinion, is seeking awareness. Kindness, thoughtfulness, and consciousness are contagious. And I’m looking to catch a case of consciousness. That’s why I offer cruelty-free design.