Jonathan Ohayon is an animal rights activist and co-founder of Fashion for Animal Kingdom and Environment. F.A.K.E is a global movement that supports designers from around the world that offer vegan, ethical and cruelty-free options with events and other promotional activity. We asked him the pointy questions.
Jonathan Ohayon Founder F.A.K.E. co-founder Arsayo
You’ve orchestrated many vegan pop-ups in the fashion space. What’s your motivation?
As a designer of cruelty-free, ethically made backpacks [the Parisian brand Arsayo], I know how difficult it is to find a fashion event that’s 100 per cent ethical. They can be vegan but not always sustainable, or they may be ethically made but include leather. I found it hard to showcase my backpacks next to leather, wool or silk, or brands that were not transparent about their processes. So I decided to create an event where ethical brands could proudly showcase their products in the knowledge that all the vendors are in harmony with their values, and where people could shop without having to worry about where or how things are manufactured.
What was the purpose of F.A.K.E?
F.A.K.E. was created to educate people on the solutions and alternatives that you can find in the fashion industry for a better future for our planet and everyone on it. But also to give that little push to the people to take the next step: to those who are not vegan at a F.A.K.E. event and want to learn more about it; and those who are already vegan but want to be more active and share more awareness. This is why we offer free photo shoots and makeovers. We want our guests to feel their best, so they can share how cool it is to be a compassionate being!
Where was your first F.A.K.E. event?
It was a pop-up on Melrose Avenue [Los Angeles]. I was amazed by how many designers and activists were interested in this event. F.A.K.E. became an amazing space to learn, network, socialize and have fun! F.A.K.E. is for everybody. We have many non-vegans coming to our events to learn more about the impact of the fashion industry on the environment, as well the ethical part (human and animal). One thing’s for sure: You will learn something new and meet amazing people. Oh, and it’s free to attend. F.A.K.E. is not here to make money; our goal is to help people make the right choice in fashion and to educate them. We want to touch the mainstream and this is why the events have to be free of charge.
Launching the world’s first vegan museum was impressive and you secured a lot of press. Did it achieve what you’d hoped for?
The Museum achieved way more than expected! It was supposed to be a two-month exhibition and we had to extend for another month due to its success. One of the most amazing parts was the fact that half of our visitors were not vegan and told us that they were thinking about it. We also had many designers and big brands come to the Museum to learn more about the impact of the fashion industry on the environment and the cruelty behind it. Veganism is not a trend anymore but a revolution!
You’ve said that you prefer not to use the word ‘sustainability. Can you explain your thoughts on this?
‘Sustainability’ is the new politically correct word using to avoid talking about the real problems: cruelty and transparency. I even heard some designer talking about ‘sustainable leather’, which doesn’t mean anything to me. Actually, I would love to hear a concrete definition of ‘sustainability’. The fashion industry has a bigger impact on the environment than all the international flights and maritime traffic combined. One of the things that angers me the most is the way people see animals. Many people are shocked by the use of fur but in the meantime they are OK with leather, which is nothing more than fur without hair.
As an animal rights activist, what do you say to people who think we should concentrate on human rights as a priority?
I think the two are inextricably intertwined. A lot of people tell me we should focus first on the humans, and they tell me that while they wear a leather belt or a shirt that they bought for five bucks. When you take care of the animals, you take care of the humans. The process of killing an animal causes many psychological disorders such as PTSD, domestic abuse, alcohol and drug abuse. Tanning leather is also one of the most polluting and disturbing processes for humans. I have an image stuck in my head of this man in this huge pool of chemical without any protection. The chemicals are made to remove the hair from the skin and to bleach the colour. After the process is done, they throw the chemicals into the river where kids are playing.
How can we all get involved in the F.A.K.E. movement?
Vote with your money. Five seconds can change a life – next time you buy clothes, take five seconds to think of the story behind. It can persuade you to avoid contributing to the destruction of life and our planet. The world is changing and every day more people start to be aware and to want to make a change. A new movement of love and compassion is growing and the goal is so much bigger than ego or money. It gives me hope for the future.
Images from F.A.K.E events, Los Angeles in 2019.
Main photo courtesy of ARSAYO.