Wednesday, October 30, 2019

meet Joshua Katcher .. the game changer

Joshua is a warrior! He is most definitely not a dilettante nor one of those who gives lip service to the buzz words du jour like sustainable, eco-friendly, green-designed, recycled, upcycled and environmentally friendly… you get the idea... He is committed to the entire universe, concept and development. He is also a published author on the subject…. Fashion Animals.

Joshua is a key player in the fight against the use of animal cruelty in fashion.  I am always amazed at how much he knows, not only about the history of animals in fashion but also in terms of what innovations are being made in the use of new materials that are replacing things like leather, fur and exotic skins.  He is definitely someone I look up to in this struggle to change the industry for the better. Alexi Lubomirski, photographer

Mr. Katcher writes about it, lectures about it, teaches on the subject and has dedicated his career to educating all of us on so many of these topics. Don’t get the wrong idea in that he is this preachy holier than thou soapbox orator as I have personally met him and spent some time with him and despite his dedication, he is certainly not lecturing while he is engaged with you. 
Personally, I am always awed by those who possess such well-informed dedication and have done more than just talk about it. His apparel collection, though abbreviated was rather wonderful and appealing. My point with him was that all of these noble quests filter down to an educated consumer which at this point in time seems less than plausible given the state of our country BUT education and being informed takes time and future generations will greatly benefit from his research and zeal on the subject.
As I explained to him, my issue is that until this genre of fashion can be made accessible to the masses, pricewise and appeal, then it might take longer than we might hope. It is a topic that must be addressed and not only addressed but put in motion by more than just one or two educated designers. We need a groundswell of support from the fashion industry and only then can this mindset become a reality.
 All my opinions aside, here is Joshua speaking on the so very topical subject of sustainability and all that comes with it …  
 Jeffrey Felner: First let’s talk about how you got to where you are today in your life …   a sort of resume!

Joshua Katcher: I grew up in Poughkeepsie, two hours north of New York City. My parents were teachers; my grandparents were all children of immigrants who became glove-makers in Gloversville, NY.  My mother’s mother was a fashion maven – I have images of her dressed up like a vampy movie star. My father’s mother was apparently a math genius but her husband wouldn’t allow her to work. I grew up visiting my paternal grandparents at a federally funded housing project in Brooklyn. New York City was a place I knew I wanted to be one day. I loved comic books and alternative rock music. I would often stay home making art, playing my guitar or reading X-Men. Comic books were important to me as I was moved by the idea of heroes who would fight for truth and justice, who would not compromise their ethics and wanted to make the world a better place.  I was a closeted introvert who was bullied for being effeminate and different, who loved art and counter-culture. All of this has crafted who I am today.
From a professional standpoint, I’ve taken a lot of risks. I’ve kept going when people have told me I should stop and I have defied the safe and easy path. Fresh out of college, I worked for one year in a corporate job that made me feel empty. I’ve been a lifeguard, an EMT who drove an ambulance and an assistant to my parents who photographed weddings on the weekends as a side-gig.  I freelanced as a camera operator at MTV; I edited videos and worked on indie films. Eventually, I started a vegan lifestyle website in 2008 called The Discerning Brute. Soon after I launched my brand, Brave GentleMan, which was the first vegan menswear brand in the world. I began lecturing and teaching at universities like Parsons, NYU and FIT as an expert in animals in the fashion industry. 
 JF: You are a writer, a teacher and an advocate ... please explain each of those to us and why?
JK: I began writing about fashion in 2008 with The Discerning Brute. At the time, sustainable and ethical fashion concepts were (and to a large extent, still are) perceived as feminine concerns, and therefore considered trivial, silly and ultimately about surface and vanity. So, I began writing to appeal to a more masculine audience. In writing about fashion I realized that the intersection of fashion and animals hadn’t been researched or taken seriously.  There is a real lack of meaningful data and legislation concerning animals in fashion. What happens to animals in the fashion industry is unimaginable, and the scale and history is staggering. We’re talking about billions of individuals confined, trapped, processed and killed every year and a little-known history of extinctions, extermination campaigns and socio-political scandals. And that reality is intentionally hidden behind sleek marketing and PR designed to make us think only about the aesthetics of the finished fashion objects. Beauty is seen as good, therefore beautiful objects, even if they were made in a horribly ugly way, are perceived as good.  I spent about 5 years, while an adjunct professor at Parsons the New School, researching and writing my first book, Fashion Animals, which grapples with how and why animals have been exploited in fashion, and the systems and ideologies that allow otherwise kind and good people to continue participating in and funding cruelty and violence that is out of sight. 
JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?
JK: I’d invite three amazing youth leaders, with 2 incredible wise elders:
Greta Thunberg - 16 year old Swedish teenage environmental activist. Genesis Butler - 12 year old animal rights activist.
Omari McQueen - 12 year old Omari McQueen is the youngest award winning vegan chef in the UK. Dr. Jane Goodall - English primatologist and anthropologist.
Dr. Margaret Robinson - Indigenous Mi’kmaw, professor of Indigenous Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax
 JF: Let’s talk about vegan, vegetarian, sustainability and the environment...   What brought you to become so involved with any or all of them and why?
JK: The first time I ever really considered where my food was coming from was in high-school when my class purchased an acre of rainforest to protect. We later found out that it had likely been illegally burned and cleared for cattle-grazing. I remember being just baffled at the idea of invaluable rainforests being destroyed to make cheap burgers. It’s a difficult question to answer because so many things brought me to care about veganism and sustainability and they’re connected. A broader idea of a more compassionate world just makes sense to me and worth fighting for by any means possible.  Another thing that compels me is having been bullied myself and being open to considering the suffering of others, whether that’s a factory worker, a cotton harvester, or a fox in a cage. Animals want to live just like you and me. We continue to underestimate their capacities to have complex inner and social lives and we underestimate their ability to suffer. I see sustainable fashion as a means by which to create and express a visual identity that aligns the beauty of a fashion with the beauty of how it was made.  Fashion is a wonderful and perfect place for transformation. 

 JF: Lastly let’s speak of your clothing and accessory collections ... How would you like to see them evolve and if you could choose any collaboration at all, who would you choose and why?
JK: I want to make a large-scale change in the fashion industry. That requires scaling up. I am not content just having Brave GentleMan staying a small brand. I envision Brave GentleMan expanding sustainable, vegan menswear into major retailers with more product categories like basics, underwear, grooming and athletic wear. I also want to work with the most cutting edge innovations – from mycelium and lab-grown leather to bio-printed fur and algal biopolymers. I think people need to see an articulation of future-fashion that is exciting, hopeful, inspiring, aspirational and still grounded in classic aesthetics. If I could do collaboration right now, it would probably be with a team of scientists and engineers to make lab-grown keratin fiber that would be biologically identical to vicuña and chiru. If I were to do more practical design collaboration right now, I’d like to work with Tom Ford on a sustainable and vegan capsule collection.

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