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17 Oct '16

Alternated Vintage: The Story of Vegan Shoe Designer Roni Kantor

Posted by Unicorn Goods

Roni Kantor’s homegrown vegan shoe line is more than what meets the eye. | Adi Lamm PhotographyRoni Kantor’s homegrown vegan shoe line is more than what meets the eye. | Adi Lamm Photography

Bubbly lines, soda pop colors, big bold patterns, and kitten heels. In more ways than one, Roni Kantor’s style catches the eye. The 35 year old designer of vegan shoes and vintage dresses draws from a long love affair with repurposed designs. Roni Kantor’s 2016 winter collection brings her blossoming brand into its eighth year of production, adding to the line of shoes that has become known by brides around the world.

As the founder of her eponymous label, Roni Kantor (pronounced “RAH-nee CAN-tour”) was inspired to start her label by her travels. Born in the small coastal town of Atlit, she served in the Israeli army as a military teacher, immediately buying a one-way ticket to South America after her service terminated. She then lived in New York for six months, honing her hustle on the streets, where she peddled handmade jewelry items using techniques she learned in South America. She financed her six month stay in Williamsburg by splitting an apartment and waitressing before moving back to Tel Aviv to get married and attend university.

Roni Kantor’s shoes are handmade from 100% vegan materials.Roni Kantor’s shoes are handmade from 100% vegan materials.

While vacationing in Thailand, she discovered a stock of unworn vintage dresses at a market stall. Through a friendship with the woman selling the dresses, Roni found a tailor nearby who altered the dresses to make them wearable.

Roni brought this initial batch of 50 dresses home to Tel Aviv to sell out of her living room. After a collaboration with an online fashion magazine that resulted in some unexpected press, she soon found her small apartment filled with shoppers vying to get their hands on a Roni Kantor frock. But they also asked for something unexpected – vegan shoes.

Roni Kantor designs each pair of her vegan shoes with customers in mind.Roni Kantor designs each pair of her vegan shoes with customers in mind.

Inspired by her new customers’ interest, Roni got to work figuring out how to make shoes free of animal products that complemented the retro style of her vintage dresses. She enrolled in shoemaking classes at Shenkar, the leading fashion school in Israel, and started to search for ways to manufacture her designs. She knew she was onto something. The universe seemed to open before her. As Roni says, “When you do what you’re supposed to do, when you find you’re calling, everything you adjusts for you to make that happen.”

Roni’s husband Amir, who she met in South America, became CEO of the budding company. Quite the power couple, both have the business brains to match their passion, receiving respective degrees from Tel Aviv University in Marketing & Management and Engineering & Management.

Roni Kantor’s whimsical shapes and metallic colors make the shoes popular among brides and wedding parties.Roni Kantor’s whimsical shapes and metallic colors make the shoes popular among brides and wedding parties.

With the design know-how to match her hustle and business brains, Roni set about securing the materials and means of production for her shoe line. Since Roni Kantor shoes are first and foremost vegan, materials are extremely important. As Roni says, “I want to sell things that I believe in and that reflect my beliefs in life. I’ve been vegetarian for many years. So it was obvious that I wasn’t going to design and sell shoes that had any products from animals.” This included animal-based glues, which contained gelatin for the most part, a product derived from bones. Finding an animal-free materials that met her standards was a challenge.

Her searches finally led her to Guangzhou, China’s third largest city, on the Southeastern coast of the continent just north of Hong Kong. Perched on the Pearl River Delta and a starting point for the historic Silk Road trade route that connected Asia with Europe for millennia, Guangzhou (“gwang-JOE”) forms part of one of the biggest “super cities” on Earth with a core population of 13 million and a metropolitan population of 44 million people.

This low pump by Roni Kantor is great for going out or wearing around the office.This low pump by Roni Kantor is great for going out or wearing around the office.

In Guangzhou Roni found what she was looking for: pliable, breathable faux leather, perfect for her retro shoes. She still travels to Guangzhou every six months to ensure that she’s getting the best materials as close to the production source as possible, helping to keep the costs of her shoes low.

At the same time that Roni was researching materials, she was also looking for a factory to assemble the shoes. She reached out to the woman in Thailand who had initially sold her the stock of dresses, who in turn started looking for a factory in Thailand. Together, they identified a small-scale family-owned factory.

Roni Kantor is based in Israel, a rising design hub nested in a historic part of the world. | Adi Lamm PhotographyRoni Kantor is based in Israel, a rising design hub nested in a historic part of the world. | Adi Lamm Photography

After designing the collection and traveling to Guangzhou to procure the materials necessary to produce the designs, Roni delivered the materials and the designs in person to the newfound factory in Thailand, where Roni Kantor shoes are still produced today. There, each shoe is handcrafted with love in a lush tropical setting. Even after eight years, Roni is hands-on with every step of the production.

When the first pair of shoes came back from the factory, Roni couldn’t contain her excitement. “I learned how to design the shoes of my dreams,” she says. She soon moved sales from her apartment to her first storefront, which she outfitted to feel like the intimate living room her customers were used to. “You felt like you were going inside my life,” Roni says of the quaint 1930s shop in which she spent four years. During this time, her customer base continued to grow, and her wholesaling business picked up, allowing her to sell her dresses to other stores under her own label.

All Roni Kantor Shoes are made from 100% animal-free products, down to the glues used in the production process.All Roni Kantor Shoes are made from 100% animal-free products, down to the glues used in the production process.

After four years, she outgrew her first storefront and moved with newfound confidence to an expanded storefront on Dizingoff Street in the busiest shopping district in Tel Aviv. She launched an online store, and continued to sell through Etsy, bringing each new collection to the fingertips of as many people as possible. Roni Kantor is now a global brand and releases a new line every six months in the summer and winter.

Roni draws inspiration for her collections from her own life, pulling in influences from travel to books she’s reading and music she discovered. As an aesthete, or lover of art, she is one of the leading organizers of the second-largest burn outside of Burning Man, the famous annual art festival that takes place in the southwestern American desert that Roni attends regularly. This year’s collection takes special inspiration from the band Benjamin’s Brother, a folksy alternative rock set with a dreamy and surrealist music video set to their song Story About A Broken Heart.

 Roni Kantor is involved in every step of the design process, from the drawing board to shipment. | Adi Lamm PhotographyRoni Kantor is involved in every step of the design process, from the drawing board to shipment. | Adi Lamm Photography

Each Roni Kantor shoe is a labor of love, the result of nearly a decade of inspiration and commitment to a cruelty-free lifestyle. The shoes that are designed to compliment vintage dresses, are built to last and eventually become vintage themselves. This holds true to the designers original inspiration. As Roni says, “The value of using something that is already there–like reused vintage–and not creating new things was there in the beginning. It will always be there.”

Shop Roni Kantor on Unicorn Goods here.

12 Oct '16

No Fur or Leather, Wear Your Own Skin This Fall

Posted by Unicorn Goods

Daily Trojan: No Fur Or Leather, Tessa NesisBy Tessa Nesis for Daily Trojan

As fall comes into full swing, chunkier fashion pieces, such as leather boots and wool sweaters, are being resurrected from closets. Even though Los Angeles weather — which barely drops below 60 degrees at night — doesn’t necessarily insinuate the need to wear thermal garments, keeping up with fall fashion is paramount (to most fashion-savvy Californians). While the quality and warmth of products is vital, wearing dead animal skin as a fashion statement is cruel and harmful. So, here are reasons you should “wear your own skin, not animals” this fall. Special thanks to peta2 for the extensive knowledge I accumulated about the animal skins industries for our Skins campaign this past summer on the Vans Warped Tour.

In recent years, fur has become less socially accepted. Nevertheless, fur products are still on the market. Before purchasing a fur-trimmed parka, keep in mind that regardless of what the label reads, the jacket could be made out of rabbit, beaver, fox, mink, dog, cat, raccoon fur or any combination of said furs. These animals, among other furry creatures, are killed in the most inhumane ways for their fur, such as neck-breaking or drowning, according to peta2.

After being skinned for their fur, their carcasses are often dumped into landfills. Aside from the evident animal exploitation, fur is up to 10 times more harmful to the environment to produce than a faux-fur item, according to a 2013 CE Delft (an environmental consultant) study. Additionally, the chemicals used to prevent animals’ flesh from rotting after being turned into a coat or trim are highly toxic and carcinogenic.

Consider returning your recently purchased leather jacket, purse or belt. Every year, “the global leather industry slaughters more than a billion animals,” according to peta2. Goats, pigs, sheep, lambs, horses, deer, kangaroos, snakes, alligators and elephants are all exploited for their skins. Perhaps even more alarming is that in China, the world’s largest exporter of leather, producers skin an estimated 2 million dogs and cats every year. These skins are often not labeled or deliberately mislabeled in order to keep consumers in the dark.

Furthermore, in India — one of the largest leather manufacturers in the world — cows are marched to slaughter for days without food or water. Those who collapse from exhaustion have chili peppers and tobacco rubbed into their eyes and their tails broken in order to keep them moving, said peta2. Animal skin is turned into finished leather using a variety of dangerous substances that harm the workers and the environment, such as mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, various oils and dyes, chromium and sulfuric acid.

As the world’s top wool exporter, Australia produces about 90 percent of all merino wool. In wool factories, the deplorable conditions create sheep and maggot infestation. To prevent flystrike, Australian ranchers often perform a barbaric procedure on sheep called “mulesing.” During this procedure, ranchers carve huge chunks of skin and flesh from the animals’ backsides or attach vise-like clamps to their flesh until they die. Usually done without any painkillers or anesthetics and deprived of food and water before being sheared, the sheep endure unnecessary pain until they are too weak to resist.

Since shearers are usually paid by the volume and not by the hour, fast, rough work is encouraged. This leads to severe cuts on the sheep’s bodies. Workers don’t give sheep any painkillers before sewing up the gaping, bloody wounds caused by shearing. The sheep’s exploitation doesn’t end at the accumulation of their skin. Once the sheep are no longer wanted, the ranchers sell them for slaughter.

These cruel practices are unfortunately not exclusive to fur, leather and wool. A variety of other animal-derived industries, such as exotic-skins, angora, down, suede, silk and cashmere exploit animals, the environment, and the workers for the sake of fashion.

Fortunately, there are many cruelty-free fashion alternatives at many retailers in Los Angeles and online, where a cornucopia of vegan fashion awaits. MooShoes, for instance, is an all-vegan leather goods store located in Silver Lake.

Dr. Martens, famous for their iconic heavy-duty boots, makes multiple vegan leather shoes. My faux-leather boots have already lasted me three years of everyday wear. Online stores such as Matt & Nat, Luca Chiara, Vegetaryn, bead & reel and jeane & jax exclusively offer vegan fashion. Additionally, retailers, such as Urban Outfitters and Free People, offer a multitude of vegan clothing options. If you’re into secondhand shopping, like me, make sure to read the label. As long as there are no animal products listed, you’re good to go.

Ethical consumerism has never been so fashionable. The alternatives, cheaper than their animal-product counterparts, more sustainable for the environment, and more compassionate towards animals and workers, make alternating faux leather for leather almost unquestionable. While fashion is an important part of our lives, being an advocate for faux products will allow you to be comfortable in your own skin, embrace self-love and respect and spread the message of compassion toward animals to those around you.

Tessa Nesis is a sophomore majoring in NGOs and social change.  Her column, “The Sentient Bean,” runs on Thursdays.

via Daily Trojan

28 Sep '16

Report Shows Faux Leather is Beating out Real Leather

Posted by Unicorn Goods

Faux Leather

In a third party report recently released by research firm Technavio, faux leather is on the rise and leather is on its way out. The numbers show that synthetic and faux leather will grow faster in the next five years. This leads vendors such as Nike and Adidas to use leather less and synthetic leather more.

While the report is being kept from the general public behind a paywall, BusinessWire had this to say:

According to Poonam Saini, a lead retail goods and services analyst from Technavio, “As a result of the high prices of raw leather, and the subsequent high prices of the finished products, consumers are now shifting toward the more affordable faux leather goods,” adds Poonam.
With the help of advancing technology, manufacturers have become successful in enhancing the durability factor of faux leather considerably and incorporating stain resistance properties. The improving quality of faux leather and the availability of faux leather footwear in different colors and textures have been propelling the growth of this segment.

Read the full report here via BusinessWire.

04 Sep '16

Kat Von D Releases Project Chimps Limited Edition Lipstick

Posted by Unicorn Goods

Project Chimp

Kat Von D Beauty has released a limited edition shade of lipstick that benefits Project Chimps. 20% of the sale of each $20 tube of the brick red shade goes directly to the nonprofit. Project Chimps was started in 2014 as a partnership between several primate advocacy and animal welfare groups. Together, they work to end the use of chimpanzees in private biomedical research and retire lab chimpanzees to sanctuary. This summer, the organization opened up a 250+ acre chimp sanctuary with the support of the animal rights nonprofit The Humane Society. 

The release of the lipstick comes on the tail of Kat Von D announcing plans to transition her eponymous cruelty-free beauty line to be 100% vegan.

Shop the lipstick here.

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