It's not just taste that prompts shops to offer
Erica Kubersky met her first cow when she was 8, during a
visit to Israel. To hear her tell it, the experience was defining. "We
formed this connection when it started sucking on my hand," Kubersky
recalled. "I knew I could never eat meat again."
Kubersky and her sister, Sarah, have parlayed their
distaste for meat and, for that matter, all goods derived from animals,
into a vigorous business selling vegan products - that is, imitation
leather shoes, bags and motorcycle jackets - at MooShoes, their boutique
in Lower MManhattan. MooShoes, where the best-sellers include pointy-toed
microfiber dress shoes ($85) and canvas bags, is one in an expanding
roster of shops catering to people who, from motives of conscience or
style, have banned animal products from their diets and, often, their
"I haven't given up wool or silk," said Jen Mazer, a
23-year-old New York Web site designer, "but leather is where I draw the
line." Until recently, ferreting out stylish vegan clothing and
accessories had been a futile exercise. But Mazer said she's impressed
with her new options. "It looks like more designers are realizing that
people have become more conscious about the kinds of products they buy,"
Dozens of merchants now offer wares that are labeled
cruelty-free; the Web site Vegan Essentials offers hemp shoes and clothes.
And Stella McCartney, long an activist for animal rights, has added shoes
stamped "suitable for vegetarians" to her collection. Her
fabric-and-Lucite pumps are available at Nordstrom.
Vegan products are finding takers not only among the
roughly six million Americans who call themselves vegetarians, but also
among shoppers attracted to prices that are often 60 percent to 75 percent
lower than leather. A spike in demand prompted Earth Shoes to introduce 15
vegan styles this year. "We are marketing to people who, whether or not
they are vegans themselves, would be happy to have stylish vegan
products," said Vern Aisner, the company's director of marketing.
Animal-rights activists such as actress Alicia Silverstone
and skateboarder Ed Templeton have helped fuel the trend.
"Today vegan products appeal to a younger generation that
is interested in culture and fashion and has a sense of humor," said Josh
Hooten, publisher of Herbivore, a quarterly for vegetarians.
All the more reason for the makers of vegan styles to buff
up their image. "A lot of people still assume we are granola hippies or
that we are overly political," said Jeremy Crown, an owner of Otsu, a San
Francisco store selling vegan accessories. "Hopefully we will change
people's minds about what a vegan looks like," he said.
Go on to Job
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