USE CODE 'ETHICALMADEEASY' FOR 10% OFF
Velvet Heartbeat is a New Zealand based company (big tick already ‘cause that’s where EME’s founder is from), so we were automatically inclined to love them. Aside from this obviously valid reason, this is a company that takes pride in everything they do, from the way in which they handle business to the incredible products bearing their name, and we could not fault the Velvet Heartbeat team or their inherent values at all. There is so much to love about this company and we cannot wait to tell you about them.
Established in 2017, Velvet Heartbeat is still in its baby stages, but their ethos and voice is so clear and fleshed-out that you’d think they’d been operating since The Wild Thornberries still graced our TV screens. Oh, and when we say there’s a lot to love about this fabulous company, we damn well mean it. First of all, Velvet Heartbeat is adamant that no animal should be harmed in the name of fashion, which is why they are a completely vegan brand. They also have a complete Fabrics Guide in which you can have a squiz at every single material (all of which are animal-free) that they use. Here’s a taster:
“Deadstock is a term used to describe merchandise that was never sold or used by customers before being removed from sale. For us this can be end of roll lengths no longer required by a designer, fabrics with flaws we can work around, crafts-people destashing, swatches, emporiums, discount warehouses, bins – you name it, we’ll be looking! These materials are often high quality but surplus to requirements and have the potential to end up in landfill.”
“Piñatex® (AKA pineapple leather) is a sustainably-produced plant based textile, developed according to the principles of a circular economy. The pineapple leaves that form the basis of Piñatex® are the byproduct of existing agriculture, so no additional land, water, fertiliser or pesticides are required to produce the raw material, and by adding value to a waste product provide an additional income stream to pineapple farming communities.”
Re-Purposed or Vintage
“Often if you look at something in the right way it has the potential to be more than trash. We like to re-purpose when possible, this could be thrifted materials, hardware from clothing or accessories that cannot be repaired or the hessian coffee sacks we use as internal structure on some of our bags. Additionally, vintage items are often built to last and have been around long enough to become cool again. We try to incorporate a little bit of vintage where we can like these colourful zips.”
Brand New Materials
“Although the bulk of our materials are acquired through the first two avenues, there are times we need something we just can’t find such as new thread, sewing supplies, labels, some hardware and fabrics. It is very important to us to keep this to a minimum so we can avoid adding to an industry that has so much waste already.”
The Chloe Pinatex Pineapple Leather Crossbody Bag in Black is our personal fave, and we literally wore it everywhere we possibly could have. Grocery shopping? Yep. Dinner at a dumplings restaurant? Uh-huh. An afternoon at a family friend’s barbecue we had absolutely no reason to bring a cute bag to? You betcha. Like most other companies that work within the sustainable fashion industry, the Velvet Heartbeat team design their goodies with longevity in mind, and their products will defy trends for years to come.
Velvet Heartbeat is an absolute knockout of a company—it’s basically the Margot Robbie of the vegan products world. They’re 100% cruelty-free and 100% transparent, and they are always searching for better ways to do ethical and sustainable business. They even want you to get involved! If you have any questions at all about their products or processes or you have a good tip on how to operate that little bit eco-friendlier, they would love to hear from you. Oh, and you can get 10% off their products with the code ETHICALMADEEASY! Velvet Heartbeat, you have Ethical Made Easy’s heart.
Want to know where Velvet Heartbeat sits and what they’re working on in terms of these 5 values? Hover over these values to find out.
Our packaging is plastic free, aside from the document pouches required for our international packages (something we are actively looking to resolve). The internal structure of our bags is also plastic free, and we utilise recycled hessian coffee sacks and hemp string for our piping instead of traditional plastic or animal hair stabilisers.
Everything is made in our own workroom with wages budgeted to meet or exceed the New Zealand living wage (currently at $20.55/hour). The brand is still small so it's very easy to keep production in-house at this stage, however there are a number of very skilled workers in local factories that can be properly vetted and regularly visited to ensure we consistently hold a high standard as we grow.
Minimal waste is incredibly important to the business. Everything from cardboard patterns to fabric pieces is cut frugally to produce as little waste as possible. Offcuts of a reasonable size are utilised in smaller designs and too-small scraps and loose threads are collected and incorporated as stuffing in designs like our faux fur pom pom keyring!
It's absolutely something we are keen to add, with animal, environmental and people based charities relevant to our values. Currently the majority of profit has gone straight back into building the brand but watch this space!
We can trace some of our supply chain. Using deadstock makes it difficult to trace a large portion of our materials as they will often come with no information about their origin so we only know the supplier we are purchasing from. All materials purchased new come from reputable suppliers that can be traced and that meet our values.
Behind the Brand
“From day one I've built my values into the core of the business, starting with being cruelty free so I don't use any animal fibres or skins. I then thought about the other impacts the fashion industry has on people and the environment and wanted to make sure I wasn't causing harm there either”.
What made you start Velvet Heartbeat?
I started Velvet Heartbeat in November of 2017 as both a creative outlet and to fill a gap in the New Zealand market for ethically made and cruelty free accessories. I was pretty fed up with buying poor quality vegan leather accessories only to have them break, crack or peel a few months down the track and I knew I could do better (and have a lot of fun doing it!). I started in the sun room of my house working with odd ends of fabric I’d collected over the years and built it up to where it is now that I can source innovative sustainable textiles to bring to the New Zealand market and ship worldwide!
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
It always starts with coffee and a bit of admin and social media (from bed if I’m honest!) which gives me a good starting point to plan my day before hitting the workroom.
What’s the biggest barrier you’ve found to succeeding as a socially conscious business?
I think the biggest hurdle is getting our story across with the products. There are plenty of vegan (or what’s commonly called accidentally vegan) accessories in chain stores so people are expecting a certain price point and a lower quality in comparison to leather accessory brands. It’s my job to tell people about the quality of the pieces, the materials and who made them so they really understand our values and mission as a brand.
Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is “who made my clothes?”. In the scope of Velvet Heartbeat, who made the things you sell? Can you tell us about them?
Basically, I do! Most of the additional help I hire is on things like photography, marketing and events so I can spend time on the whole process through design, cut and sew which is really where my passions are. Obviously as the brand grows and things get busier I’ll look at getting more assistance with the making side through local contractors and hopefully some in-house creatives! I’d like to keep the brand New Zealand made and help foster more growth in the local industry.
Why did you pick the fabrics you have chosen to work with?
From day one I’ve built my values into the core of the business, starting with being cruelty free so I don’t use any animal fibres or skins. I then thought about the other impacts the fashion industry has on people and the environment and wanted to make sure I wasn’t causing harm there either. Luckily I’ve spent a few years working in both the fashion industry and in film making costumes, so I have a few good contacts for deadstock fabrics and hardware. As the brand has picked up it started to become a challenge to keep finding enough deadstock vegan leather of a good enough quality, so I spent a lot of time researching to find one that wasn’t PVC (that I could get without a huge minimum order quantity!) and luckily found a beautiful range of microfibre PU. I also wanted to provide some alternatives for people concerned about the environmental impact of conventional vegan leathers, this lead me to Piñatex pineapple leather.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
“If the fashion industry won’t give you the job you want, give yourself the job you want!”
What’s next for you and Velvet Heartbeat?
Slow and steady growth, further exploration of innovative sustainable textiles, possible expansion into other products like clothing and homeware, and continued pursuit of happiness!
One book and/or documentary everyone should read/watch? Why?
It has to be “The True Cost”. It’s the main turning point for so many people. I always hear “As soon as I saw The True Cost I changed how I shop”. Honestly I actually only recently watched it this year, I think I put it off because I felt afraid about how it might upset me, and that I didn’t need to see it because I know how bad things are (in the same way as watching animal cruelty videos is horrifying and can’t make me want to eat meat any less). However it was incredibly well made, both upsetting and uplifting, I learned so much more and really lifts the veneer off the industry to reveal the truth.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
I am an avid follower of Ethically Kate, Nisa ethically makes beautiful underwear basics with a team of refugee workers, Summers The Label makes gorgeous clothing from deadstock and natural fibres, and Toniq Collective have just launched their sustainable fashion rental business with an incredible collection of vintage and ethically made fashion! I could go on, there really are so many excellent people shaking up the industry right now!