In 2023, innovative cruelty-free materials are everywhere, and thousands of animal-friendly products are being designed and offered for a hungry high-end vegan market.
We met Dominique Side at the 2022 Vegan Women Summit (VWS) in Los Angeles. Conceived and hosted by Jennifer Stojkovic (Issue #15: The Future of Food is Female), and were enthralled by her charisma, charm, and passion for putting the vegan lifestyle on an obtainable pedestal.
Side is an entrepreneur who, through her business – The Luxury Vegan – is easing one high-wealth client after another through the transition. She shows them that they do not have to turn their whole lives upside down and start from scratch, but with her help, they will get an inside line to the absolute best food, luxury fashion, and wellness options in the world.
“Sometimes I feel like a very small person … but when I think about the fate of our world, I know that by using my platform to affect change in other people, I’m doing my best work. I became a vegan because I have compassion for other beings, and I have compassion for the planet, and I have compassion for myself. My mission now is to help others unlock those levels of compassion in their own lives and embrace the wonders the luxury vegan lifestyle offers them.”
We spoke with Side about how she became aware of this elevated lifestyle that benefits her health and the planet.
“Now more than ever, veganism is on the rise, with the number of vegans in the United States skyrocketing from 0.4 percent to almost 3.5 percent in the last two years or so. But despite this growth, veganism still holds an odd place in the minds of most consumers; they tend to think both of radicalized hippies and the organic Whole Foods produce they can’t even afford. It’s a confusing duality.”
Her journey to veganism began four and a half years ago. “I was on a specific workout regimen, and one of my trainers said, “Try this plant-based protein powder. It’s better for your digestion.” So I did, and I loved it! So much that it got my wheels turning about makeup… and as soon as I did even cursory research, I saw that vegan cosmetics were far better for both my skin and the planet. Next came vegan cleaning supplies, and a few products for my kids … and yet I still wasn’t thinking about food… until I watched a documentary on veganism. And then it was all over. I knew I could never return to eating animal products again.”
Moving forward, Side knew her life was changing at the speed of a racing train but transitioning to veganism was not something she planned to do alone.
Side: Taking Many Along for the Ride
“I immediately began scheming on ways to convince others that veganism wasn’t just the right choice but a fantastic and life-enriching choice. So, I built a boutique vegan grocery store and clothing company. I made sure my studio, media complex, and production facility were all eco-friendly. Then I started to think about ways to help individual influencers embrace the vegan lifestyle. I knew that making the leap was the toughest part and that people could use help easing into the transition. And after doing some research, I saw that the luxury market wasn’t getting a lot of love from the vegan community… which seemed like a missed opportunity.”
Recognizing that those with means could also change their worlds quickly, sometimes on a whim, Side immediately began planning to expand her business to encompass this market. “After all, top earners and wildly successful people have the resources to surround themselves with the best of the best, but they are often too busy to do their research. So, they may gravitate toward whatever society or the media tell them has value. If I could show them that veganism was the best possible choice for the environment, for animals, and for their health and longevity, I could bring some seriously heavy hitters into the vegan fold! I could elevate veganism overall and create a generation of influential individuals who led by example… and that’s how my compassion-based luxury lifestyle consultancy, The Luxury Vegan, was born!”
From Dining to Designers
Interestingly, when she was working with elite clients, many of them thought of ‘luxury’ and ‘vegan’ as opposite ends of the spectrum. They knew that a vegan lifestyle could be costly. Still, they assumed any animal-free wearables, skincare options, and menus would have that earthy, boho, downmarket feel to them, and this aspect piqued her curiosity. So, she investigated if entrepreneurs in the fast-emerging luxury vegan market struggled to convince customers that their meticulously crafted wares were, in fact, cruelty-free.
Side spoke with 17 innovators in the vegan world, from chefs and food production experts to cosmetics formulators and fashion designers, and nearly all of them explained that when questing for the absolute best materials and ingredients, they are generally vegan. Even if you are not looking for vegan options, the best quality components tend to be plant-based and cruelty-free.
For example, Nina LaBruna, CEO of LaBruna Skincare, explained to Side that her research led her naturally to buy and use exquisite ingredients. “Most of our carrier ingredients are actually luxurious. They’re really expensive,” LaBruna said. “I buy goji berry oil and sea buckthorn in their pure form, where other lines might water them down with carrier oil. My ingredients are really pure, really rich, and that makes them really expensive. So I do consider my line to be a luxury line.”
These days, some of the biggest names in influence and commerce are wellness brands, like Canada’s own Lululemon. In a recent report for Luxe Digital, Florine Eppe Beauloye pointed out, “Wellness is the new affluence and status symbol. Wellness has become a luxury lifestyle to be enjoyed and flaunted.”
Clean diets, strict yoga regimens, and toned bodies are all brag-worthy these days. Many people embracing the wellness revolution gravitate toward veganism for health reasons. Like Side and other vegan luxury influencers, as soon as they investigate what they are putting into or onto their bodies, they find the vegan options more appealing.
Gucci, Choo, and Chantecaille
Gucci has developed its vegan leather alternative called Demetra, which has drawn accolades from vegans, luxury shoppers, and luxury-loving vegans. High-end beauty formulators, including Chantecaille and Josie Maran, have begun to offer vegan and cruelty-free options. PĪFERI, a footwear line created by the former head designer at Jimmy Choo, offers exquisite heels, sandals, and boots that are entirely animal-free and aimed squarely at affluent consumers. Across industries, luxury eco-conscious and compassion-minded options are multiplying.
Luxury Options Proliferate
Side’s research leads her to believe that vegan products, restaurants, and wearables are gaining traction in the luxury space partly because they are being produced en masse for the first time in history.
Vegans have more options, including more high-quality, high-end options. And as more entrepreneurs and investors get wind of the money to be made in this segment, more and more options and opportunities will crop up.
But beware, vegan pioneer and visionary Dominique Side warns newcomers not to enter this space JUST because it is trendy because vegans can sniff out a poseur in a millisecond or less!
- Helen Siwak is the founder of EcoLuxLuv Marketing & Communications Inc and publisher of Folio.YVR Luxury Lifestyle Magazine, PORTFOLIOY.YVR Business & Entrepreneurs Magazine, and digital women's lifestyle magazine EcoLuxLifestyle.co. She is a prolific content creator, consultant, and marketing and media strategist within the ecoluxury lifestyle niche. Post-pandemic, she has worked with many small to mid-sized plant-based/vegan brands to build their digital foundations and strategize content creation and business development. Helen is the west coast correspondent to Canada’s top-read industry magazine Retail-Insider, holds a vast freelance portfolio, and consults with many of the world’s luxury heritage brands. Always seeking new opportunities and challenges, you can email her at [email protected].
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