A Vegan Chat with Susanna Cates of Urban Originals
We were thrilled to get the opportunity to chat with Susanna who is the founder and chief of Urban Originals. Urban Originals is a PETA certified 100% vegan, bag and accessories company. The company sells in some of the world’s most prestigious shopping destinations including Nordstrom, Macys, David Jones and many more. We chat to Susanna about how it got started and what markets it will be entering in the future.
Tell us how UO came about and your personal connection to veganism
I have been a vegan for most of my life. Urban Originals began in 2000 with the intention of redefining Australian style and creating a collection that was both fashion-forward and ethically produced. Fashion shouldn’t come at the sacrifice of an animal or human welfare.
Your brand looks at ‘ethical’ in a holistic fashion, what are you most proud of in terms of production and the materials you use?
We have spent years building relationships with our suppliers to make sure that we are sourcing and producing the best quality product in the most ethical manner. We personally visit all our factories on a regular basis and believe that supporting ethically run factories is the only way to operate. Urban Originals is Sedex approved and is a member of many department stores ethical sourcing programs. Above and beyond we use the best quality vegan leathers or PU (polyurethane). We never use PVC (polyvinylchloride). Consumers seem to forget there is a big difference. In addition to being vegan, sustainable materials are constantly sourced including cotton canvas and recycled nylons.
Vegan is becoming more of a higher-end fashion term in 2019, have you noted a shift in the industry?
It has definitely become a ‘trend’ in the industry, as has all forms of sustainable and ethical processes. I think the better-educated consumers become, the more they will demand of brands. This is a huge positive! Our loyal customers hold us to our word and challenge us to always do better. What we have to remember is that this massive change in the market is an evolution, not an overnight solution. We should be celebrating all brands that are making steps to change for the better, not only picking apart where brands are falling short.
Who do you look at for inspiration in the industry?
Locally, the girls at Spell & The Gypsy are really killing it in all facets. They are driving a lot of change just by leading by example. Internationally, it is great to see high-end fashion brands like Stella McCartney making huge commitments to eco-friendly materials.
Where do you hope to be with UO in 3–5 years?
We have made some big progress in the US market and we are focused on maintaining that growth. Additionally, we have huge potential in the Asian market, as their focus on ethical and sustainable fashion is some of the biggest worldwide at the moment. But most importantly, we are reintroducing ourselves to the Australian market and in coming years we want to be the destination for vegan accessories
Do you have a celebrity or figure that you would most like to see wearing / using UO?
Natalie Portman would be a dream. She lives by the vegan ethos we have instilled in our brand, but she is also timeless style personified.
How can people begin to shop more ethically and sustainably? Any simple tips for the everyday person?
Great question! There is no such thing as ‘too small’ now. Every action makes an impact. Do your research when shopping — become a conscious consumer. Stay loyal to brands that are doing the right thing. Avoid fast-fashion — nothing that cheap is ever free, someone, somewhere is paying for it (human life or mother earth). Spend your money where it counts and drop that need for ‘instant gratification’ — brands that are working to do the right thing often have very small margins and a slower production cycle.
So there you have it, fashion and style without the compromise of ethics and lives. We love what Urban Originals are doing and encourage everyone to go out and support this great brand! Thanks, to Susanna & the team for sharing your story.
If you would like to read more inspiring stories like this one, visit our Vegan Chat section HERE.