‘Sustainable style’ is the trend du jour – caring about the planet is finally in – but as #ecofashion hashtags continue to rise, we have yet to find a brand that unites key criteria (sustainable, locally produced, vegan) into a sleek and desirable capsule wardrobe. Until now. Meet Melanie Linehan, the designer behind so-cool-it-hurts new brand Animal Behavior – the one that makes us want to buy everything.
-My co-founder and I each grew up surrounded by nature in the Midwest, says Melanie. We both feel this certainly influenced us to think of ways we could preserve our planet instead of adding to its issues.
In the name of animal protection
-After closely observing the fashion industry my whole life and studying for an MFA in fashion design, I was working with e-commerce brands in the tech industry and noticed the fashion industry touting leopard as a neutral, yet it seemed no one was taking into account that this beautiful creature is critically endangered, with less than 40 — not 400, 40! — in the natural world. It seemed self-evident to me then, and does now, that anyone who truly admires its beauty would also be interested in its preservation. I was clear and certain almost from that very moment that the first goal of Animal Behavior needed to be to protect the Amur leopard from extinction.
While the brand started from an animal-friendly point of view, finding their way to vegan style was actually accidental (and we couldn’t be happier): -We did not set out to be vegan, and at the time I had very little awareness of the whole vegan fashion movement. But in centering our endeavor around trying to protect these animals our efforts resonated with those in the vegan community, and their support is incredibly encouraging.
Focus on sustainability
-For us, having sustainability be more than a box that is checked is fundamental. In doing our research, my co-founder and I knew that creating a sustainable, locally produced brand would be a challenge, but we were up for it. We knew trying to accomplish all three of our pillars (locally produced, sustainable, socially responsible) would be met with skepticism, but they were and are paramount to our mission. We recognized that the production cycle was often the most wasteful part of development, so started by creating a bespoke process to counteract otherwise common industry issues. All of our materials, for example — from the zipper to our hang-tags — are sourced within a 10-mile radius of downtown Los Angeles.
Inspired by nature
Nature of course, as we hope to get across in our tagline of “Inspired by Nature to Protect Nature.” But our real inspiration is the belief that our brand and our customers can change the way brands both large and small think about their impact on the natural world around them. We hope to help create awareness among consumers of the power of their purchases. One of our biggest role models, Jane Goodall, said that consumer purchasing power is the last driving force to push the remaining, stubborn corporations to become more environmentally and socially responsible. Without customers to buy their products, she reasoned, these companies will either have to shape up or will “become defunct like so many of the animals I love.” We share her views on the power of the consumer.
A conscious consumer
-We tend to think of our buyer as anyone with taste and a conscience, but if I had to narrow it down: she’s educated, thoughtful in her actions and purchases. It means something to her that the label she chooses to wear makes a positive impact.
-I had a very clear sense of what I wanted the brand to be down to the very last detail, and am happy to be able to say very little has been lost in translation from concept to production. And because I wanted the brand to be as timeless as the line and our challenge and purpose is not going to disappear overnight, I think it will age well and require little adjustment over time relative to some other brands that constantly expend energy trying to reinvent themselves and who they’re trying to appeal to.
The beauty of eco
We are still nascent as a brand, so I don’t think the challenges are behind us yet, but the greatest obstacles so far were more a matter of finding the right personnel, red tape and funding, the same hurdles any entrepreneurial business would face when launching. The amount of work that goes on before a consumer has any idea the brand and product exists can be taxing, if not discouraging. More specific to us was having to prove that sustainable and chic and go hand in hand, and to educate our consumers on the what differentiates our products and the value inherent in our price points.
Our Panthera jumpsuit is our first true statement piece as a brand; clean, confident and impactful. We have had so many women tell us how great they feel and look, and how often they are complimented when wearing it. And unlike other jumpsuits, our clients say that the Panthera jumpsuit flatters even those of a shorter build.
What does the future hold?
Based on the demand for our Panthera jumpsuit, we are considering another run in a few new colors. We have also started development for our next collection, which will be inspired by and protect another endangered species. Not too long ago vegan fashion seemed oxymoronic, and the word vegan had a negative connotation from a distance. Things are evolving quickly, and if consumers continue to vote with their dollars, we may quickly see the day where vegan fashion becomes a redundant phrase, where all fashion is vegan. Just as vegan diets have gone from being in the fringe to seen as good for both your health and for the environment, I like to picture a future where vegan fashion will follow the same evolutionary path.
Read more about Animal Behavior’s mission here.