A few years ago, Meg and Komie Vora, together known as the Vora sisters, noticed that luxury fashion often comes at a cost that has got nothing to do with its price tag. That cost is the drastic impact it has on the environment. Fashion, in fact, is the second most polluting industry in the world, and despite luxury fashion’s exclusivity and durability, sustainability is still not its strong suit with raw material production a huge concern. It’s exactly what led the Vora sisters to start their fashion label, Delikate Rayne — a cruelty-free, vegan brand aimed at changing the prevalent narrative around luxury fashion.
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Brown Girl Magazine recently got an opportunity to interview Meg and Komie about what motivated them to start Delikate Rayne. We delved deep into what the brand represents, the Vora Sisters’ experience as South Asian entrepreneurs and their hopes for the future of fashion. Below are excerpts from our conversation:
How about we start with an introduction to Delikate Rayne. What is the idea behind the brand and what are some of the core values that drive it?
Delikate Rayne is an award-winning, environmentally progressive, vegan fashion and lifestyle company that is taking animals, humans and the planet out of the fashion equation. We produce in made-to-order/limited quantities to keep in line with zero-waste practices and our commitment towards not overproducing and contributing to waste in landfills. Part of our manifesto is to “abandon convention” which means breaking the rules, unlearning what you may have been taught about luxury and challenging the norms. We like to design pieces that are timeless yet make a statement, focusing strongly on impeccable craftsmanship while adhering to our vegan and eco principles. Our company’s DNA is acutely entrenched in consciousness, kindness and mindfulness towards the planet, never having used any animal derived elements in our pieces and being 100 percent committed to a cruelty-free future.
[Read Related: Doodlage: Designer Kriti Tula’s Virtue to Fast Fashion’s sin]
What motivated you to start a brand around veganism?
We wanted to embark on a new kind of luxury — something that was peaceful and didn’t have to sacrifice a life to gain a product. We started out of a love for fashion, animals, activism and the desire to contribute something meaningful to the world. Even if it was just through knowledge sharing and making consumers more aware of the social and environmental impacts of their buying habits. It was important to us to at least get the conversation started. Being born and raised as vegetarians also played a role in the way we started to view many things around us. Fashion ended up being a constant that we continually would re-visit. We couldn’t find sufficient answers to our questions about ethics and cruelty-free products, especially those which embodied the aesthetic we desired or the style we gravitated towards. Therefore, we started out by trying to build a completely animal-friendly wardrobe and so our label was something that just came organically and made obvious sense.
Tell us a bit about how your journey of setting up a vegan luxury fashion brand. How has Delikate Rayne evolved from the time of conception to now?
It really began as an impossible wish. Our parents weren’t too keen on the idea of “fashion” being our career of choice like most traditional Indian parents. We don’t come from a background in fashion and had no prior contacts in this industry when we started. While continuing to build this company from the ground up, it felt like we were going to college all over again. Not only learning everything from scratch but having to prove to our parents and the community around us that a creative path is feasible. It has taken a lot of trial and error, long sleepless nights (we often still have them!) and tons and tons of research to get here. We literally walked the streets of downtown LA when we were first starting out—physically going door-to-door to find the right factory. We enrolled in sewing classes, visited every pattern and sample maker we learned about to find someone we could connect with and could properly execute our vision.
We are still learning to navigate as the fashion industry is truly a chameleon — constantly changing and adapting. We never set out to make Delikate Rayne a “for vegan made by vegans” company. Our philosophy has always been to lead with compassion and follow our motto, the Triple E factor: edgy, ethical and everlasting. Today, Delikate Rayne serves as a platform through which we get to share our story with women in the hope that it will encourage and empower them to go after what they desire, no matter how daunting it may seem. It has evolved into a brand focused on creating awareness about the many overlooked issues in fashion including sustainability, cruelty and ethics combined with the desire to make compassion “cool” by changing the preconceived notions of what luxury is.
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What are some of the challenges you faced in the industry and how did you overcome them?
It is an ongoing battle — changing the preconceived notions of what luxury is and how animal-friendly clothing is just as good in quality, style, look and feel as its non-vegan counterparts. It is still a constant challenge for most consumers to clearly identify the same connection they attribute to harming an animal and consuming it for food versus how it correlates to fashion. Since animal-friendly fashion in general is still a new concept, many find it to be a struggle to walk that fine line between fashion and compassion. In addition, the idea of cruelty-free dressing and what that means in relation to their wardrobe is still a pretty foreign concept to many. In the end though we believe it all comes down to awareness. By sharing knowledge through conversations about how it is all interconnected will ultimately help people see the bigger picture.
Also, a lot of people are jumping on the sustainable bandwagon so green-washing is at an all-time high. Being able to stand out from that noise is a newer challenge but one that is going to continue to push us to keep reinventing ourselves and stay relevant.
What do you think are some common misconceptions about vegan fashion brands, in your experience? And how does Delikate Rayne help break these stereotypes?
Vegan fashion is consistently looked at as a style of clothing reserved for a specific type of person and lifestyle. That’s definitely not true. Vegan or not, style, quality and sharp aesthetics are universally desired. Some of the most stylish tastemakers and recognisable names embrace vegan fashion and actively seek it out. An even more categorical, false assumption is that vegan fashion is just not as luxurious, coveted or can uphold the standards of items found in well-known luxury houses. Delikate Rayne is breaking this mould by providing green luxury – bringing definitive and progressive designs with a purpose into existence. We have gone against the grain by defying our traditional, cultural and gender expectations to create a lux cruelty-free contemporary label. Made by us, women who love the planet and animals. Our pieces are ethically and consciously made in LA and are 100% animal friendly. Behind the scenes, there is also care given to everyone’s well-being across the supply chain. We also do not have seasons — we release pieces here and there, which stems away from the traditional fashion industry. We focus on making investment pieces that will be timeless in your wardrobe. This in turn helps you lower your fashion carbon footprint.
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How has your heritage played a role in setting up the brand?
Our company’s name is what our two full names mean put together in Hindi. We were raised on the foundations of Hinduism which has strong ties to compassion and Jainism which adheres to principles of Ahimsa (respect for all living things and avoidance of violence towards any other living being) so cruelty-free living was instilled into us at a very young age. Raised as strict vegetarians who are now vegan — we have never tasted meat before nor had the desire to do so. Our grandmother wouldn’t even eat any vegetables that had to have their roots cut to be eaten because by cutting off the root you are participating in violence against the plants. Our upbringing really opened up our eyes to how a much more serene way of living can be obtained overall, through the choices you make in different areas of your life and paying special attention to consumption and the direct correlation it has to peace. We were taught to respect and love animals and mother nature just as we would each other. As we got older we started making the connection of how animals were equally as harmed and tortured for a plethora of fashion products and it didn’t sit well with us. We wanted to change that, we wanted to create and contribute something meaningful and tangible. Which is what led us here.
It isn’t easy to sell the concept of conscious consumption in the age of fast fashion. Can you tell us how an average consumer can incorporate more mindfulness in everyday fashion practices?
It is all about baby steps. Approach it the same way you would approach changing your diet except you’re dealing with clothes. We like to refer to it as the ‘wardrobe diet.’ Just like starting a food diet, you start off by removing certain things and reading labels. To avoid feeling discouraged, start with one area first such as removing fur for instance. Then go in your closet and remove all fur products from your wardrobe. Once you have eliminated one fabric, move on to another such as leather and so on. It’s important to find alternatives too before eliminating things from your closet so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Instead of tossing these items away, try to donate or gift them to your friends.
When shopping, look for top-notch eco-friendly fabrics — a mix of natural fibres like recycled cotton, and innovative ones like tencel and plant-based leather substitutes. It’s always good to choose a variety of textures in the same colour, structured silhouettes that fit well, a neutral colour palette and lots of jackets. Jackets go with everything and anything — they have the ability to pull together an outfit instantly. Also, a good mix of vintage and designer/luxury pieces make up a much better closet. It feels more personal and not as forced. Vintage helps lend an element of exclusivity since no one will be wearing what you have got on. In addition, it’s a great way to incorporate and score on your favourite older designer pieces while participating in the art of reusing clothing. Like mama always says in regards to finding a significant other; “you should focus on investing in something that will stick around long term not just serve you for a night.”
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Entrepreneurship often goes hand in hand with self-discovery. Can you girls tell us something that you have learnt about yourself through Delikate Rayne?
Discipline will take you places, motivation can’t, don’t ever get too comfortable. Believing in yourself is a full-time job, just like running your own business, there are no days off!
What is the one piece of advice you’d like to give budding entrepreneurs in the sustainable space?
When you have a company with a purpose, especially a fashion brand it isn’t just about sales anymore, you have so much more to prove and deal with — you will constantly be tested on that. You have to be hyper-aware and extra knowledgeable about all of the latest textiles that are being released — can they work for what you are doing, are they environmentally conscious, is it apparel-grade ready, does it fit your company’s aesthetic? Also, since this is such a new wave to ride you have to remember, you are helping to create a movement, something that is going to contribute to radical change down the road. This reformation can and will continue to exist because your work is providing fuel for the metamorphosis of changing an industry that has operated in the same way for decades.
Together, the Vora sisters’ abilities to unify ethics, consciousness and humanity with a fresh perspective make Delikate Rayne a force to reckon with in its space. In addition, their honesty, compassion and passion in everything they do make their products a definite value-add to any wardrobe. Check out Delikate Rayne here and we promise you, that you will come out with elegant and guilt-free wardrobe options!