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    Journal

    Luxury + Ethics: Our Interview with Sydney Brown

    Luxury + Ethics:  Our Interview with Sydney Brown

    Sydney Brown is a recent addition for us at MooShoes. Over the years, at our shops in NYC + LA and here online, we've been making a conscious effort to carry fewer brands with opaque or unclear production practices. On the other side of that coin, we've also been working to carry more lines that tout transparency in their production and hold on high humane working conditions and eco-friendly manufacturing and materials.

    Luxury vegan shoe company Sydney Brown most definitely fits that bill. As they state on their web site: "Sydney Brown, an American-born designer, founded her eponymous label due to her conviction that luxury could be produced in an environmentally-friendly way. The brand aesthetic is pared down and understated with the focus on luxurious materials, sculptural lines and unusual detailing."

    Co-creative director + Los Angeles store-runner Troy Farmer took some time to talk with the company's namesake to talk about how her brand was born and why ethics beyond veganism are so important to her work.

    Feature photo by Joseph Cultice.

    Troy: So, for anyone not familiar with the brand, can you give us the mission or vision or elevator pitch or whatever you want to call it for Sydney Brown (the company...not you....)?

    Sydney: Sydney Brown is a design-driven, sustainable luxury brand. It’s ideals revolve around the concept of “reverence for life.” This respect for life is extended to three spheres: human, animal, environment. It celebrates the inter-connectedness and inter-dependence on other forms of life. The rights of one species is linked to the rights of others, meaning that recognition, acknowledgement and respect for the life of all things are essential to the brand.

    Most excellent. I read that you studied + worked in Japan for a number of years—we actually just got back from our first visit to Japan and absolutely loved it. Where were you there and what were you doing in terms of work and schooling?

    Yes, it has been 17 years I’ve now worked in Japan! I initially moved there to do a masters program in sound design. I barely began the program before I shifted gears and instead began an electronic music promotion company. I grew up in Detroit and knew many of the techno artists touring in Japan, so this was a natural fit and wonderful opportunity for me. Although I sold my half of the company in 2008, I had co-founded the Taico Club music festival, based in Nagano, Japan, which I still curate and host annually. It has become Japan’s largest charity festival, supporting local environmental NGOs. We just had our 14th edition a couple weeks ago!

    Japanese design and aesthetic is a major influence on me. The national religion of Japan is Shintoism, in which people believe—in extremely simplified terms—that objects have a soul. If you create something, part of your soul is embedded into the object. This concept is extremely important for me, which is why I work on the shoes myself. There is a small part of me in every pair! I love to have time with the shoes before they embark on their adventures all over the world!

    Wow, that festival looks excellent—I hope you caught Little Simz yourself. We love her live show. (IF YOU'RE IN THE HOUSE MAKE SOME NOISE!)

    How did the sound design + music lead you to the shoe biz then (note the total avoidance of any and all 'show biz' puns here)?

    After selling my music company, I moved to Los Angeles and contemplated my next steps. I enrolled in a Spiritual Psychology masters program in 2008 and as part of the program, I began to examine all aspects of my consciousness and my consumption as well—what I ate, what I wore, which companies I supported, etc. I had always been conflicted about wearing leather as I had been a vegetarian since the age of 16, so my New Year’s resolution of 2010 was to stop buying leather.

    After about two weeks into this, I had a big event in LA and needed shoes. I realized that there were no luxury vegan options on the market except for Stella McCartney. Her price point was too high for me and my aesthetic was quite different. I realized that there was a huge hole in the market for people like me, who wanted design-driven, sustainably-made, luxury vegan shoes. I then sought out a shoemaker in LA with whom I apprenticed for one year and learned the craft from pattern-making, through lasting and heel-development. I began making shoes for friends and weddings and the brand grew from there. I then moved to Europe and worked in shoe factories in the UK, Portugal, and Italy.


    Nice. Why was it important to you to create a company and product that was more holistically ethical, concerned not only with the lack of animal-derived materials but also made in fair working working conditions while minimizing environmental impact?

    The fashion industry is the second largest global polluter after big oil! The environmental and human ramifications of this are unconscionable. To create more “stuff” in the world in itself is so loaded. I would never embark on producing anything if it weren’t as environmentally and socially sound as possible.

    So glad to hear that from you and just see more demand for this kind of production and thinking in the marketplace too.

    One of the...challenges for us a MooShoes is explaining to some customers the added financial cost to them for accounting for responsible business practices. Have you hut many roadblocks along those lines as you built Sydney Brown the brand and how have you dealt with those?

    When I began, I had never worked in fashion and had to simply figure out everything myself. I never did and still don’t have any partners, so I am responsible for every aspect of the company. The learning curve has been overwhelming much of the time!

    Many people assume that if the shoes aren’t made of leather, then they are made with cheap, toxic alternatives. The truth is that the development of our materials takes years. I had to basically re-engineer the shoe! I had my own factory in Los Angeles for three years that was primarily dedicated to research and development. There are 15 components in a simple shoe, for example, so if I couldn’t find sustainable or organic options, I had to develop them myself. To trace the supply chain of every single component is incredibly challenging. From the beginnings of the cotton seed being planted, how it is grown, who harvests it—the whole life cycle before it is even developed into fabric—I was chasing this. For example, just imagine tracing the metals in snaps or buckles! Where is the original ore mined, what are the social and political conditions of the workers, etc.

    Sounds like it could be overwhelming at times, but, again, even the fact that there is this demand in the marketplace and that it can be met—understandably, with much more work involved—is a huge gain, I think. Can you go into your materials a little bit? I know you seek out the higher-end, more luxurious materials—how do some of them differ from your run-of-the-mill vegan (or non-vegan) shoe?

    The main material that we use is bonded cork. Every summer we harvest the cork in southern Portugal, then shave, press, dye it and then bond it to organic cotton. This is an incredibly labor-intensive process and takes time. We can only harvest the cork of one tree every nine years, as that is duration of the regrowth process. If we sustainably harvest the cork like this, it is a renewable resource that will last hundreds of years. 

    The wood for our heels and platforms comes from PEFC-certified German beech wood. Our soles are made from natural rubber, supporting indigenous tribes of the Amazon.

    90% of shoes generally are made with pig-fat glue. It took us over four years, working with adhesive chemists in Italy, the USA, and Portugal to finally develop a suitable alternative.

    How is the iridescent material constructed? It's so impressive visually.

    Like all of our materials, we developed our iridescent materials in-house over the years. This material is made from polymers derived from natural renewable sources and is an extremely high-tech, future fabric. To develop and produce this is incredibly involved and much more expensive to produce than leather. We are still working on improving this. We are far from perfect, but we try to refine it with every collection. The creation of 100% solvent-free, petroleum-free products, with zero environmental impact, is the near-future goal for our R&D.

    Was there a conscious decision to elevate ethical/sustainable fashion a bit from your end; battle the misconception that all vegan or ethical fashion is stunted in terms of fashion-forward-ness?

    Yes! Many people still think of vegan footwear as being granola, hippy, clown-shoes. We have aimed to be on the shelves next to luxury brands, so that if customers see two pairs of well-designed, beautiful shoes, ideally they will choose the consciously-constructed option!

    We were just discussing this at an event for EcoSessions recently. I feel like that's the ultimate goal; creating this product (be it shoes or whatever) that can stand next to its rival that uses animal leather and look just as stylish, be just as well-made in worker-friendly conditions, just as or more eco-friendly, and cost no more than the non-cruelty-free product; eliminating the barriers to shop cruelty-free in all aspects of life. Then what kind of asshole would actually chose the product that does hurt animals/people/the earth?

    Switching gears though, we love what you've got so far, but any plans to expand the men's offerings in the future?

    Yes! For SS18 we are adding a chukka style and we will slowly grow from there. This is a new market for me and I want to be as thoughtful and prudent in the development as possible.

    Personally, I have to say I'm very much looking forward to that. Anything else lined up for future release that you're excited about and can talk to now?

    For SS18, we are launching a new material made from the vegetable, fennel!

    WHAAAAAT‽

    We are constantly experimenting and after a couple years of development, this is finally ready for production. It almost looks like a psychedelic print, so we are very excited about this!

    That's absolutely rad. Also rad—I really dig your site design; love the video loops for the men's + women's collection. Who designed all of that for you, if you don't mind my asking?

    I designed the website myself and the video is a collaboration between myself and a wonderful filmmaker in Porto, Marcelo Graf Reis.

    Awesome again! Well, we can't wait to see what else is to come from you. Thanks again for taking the time to talk, Sydney.

     

     

     

    Brand Spotlight: Ahimsa

    Brand Spotlight: Ahimsa

    Today, we're highlighting a brand we carry in the store—Brazilian vegan shoe-maker, Ahimsa. Though the company's only been around a few years, they immediately became a favorite in both our New York store and our Los Angeles one.

    Ahimsa's truly a family affair, having been started in 2013 by Gabriel Silva and his father, Cisso Silva. Before he got in the vegan shoe biz, Gabriel was an airplane pilot. But, after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, he had to hang up his wings.

    The diagnosis also led to some bigger life changes for Gabriel, moving him to a vegetarian—and eventually vegan—lifestyle. As he began to make these lifestyle changes, he returned home to work with his father—a 30+ year veteran in Brazil's footwear industry. As he started to eliminate animals from his diet, Gabriel came to the realization that most vegan footwear available to him wasn't up to the standards of the traditional, hand-made, high-quality footwear .

    From there, the rest is history. The father-and-son duo started Ahimsa by outsourcing production for a small line-up of products in their first 6 months. But after that initial run and the positive reaction to the products, they decided to step up their game, starting their own, all-vegan shoe factory.

    Today, Ahimsa continues to produce high-quality, stylish shoes using durable, sustainable materials while employing old-world tradition. They family-run factory pays fair wages to their workers and has brought a thriving industry to the region, keeping cruelty to animals out of the mix at every step.

    If you're in the area, come by our New York or Los Angeles stores to see the shoes for yourself; or you can always check out their brand page her online.

    All photos: raven + crow studio.

    Ahimsa

    Ahimsa

    Ahimsa

    Ahimsa

    Word of Mouth Vegan BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Recipe

    Word of Mouth Vegan BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Recipe

    Last weekend, we hosted Los Angeles' newest all-vegan food truck, Word of Mouth. While they were in front of the store, we asked them to give us a behind-the-scenes look in the truck as they made one of their menu favorites—the BBQ Pulled Jackfruit Sandwich.

    Owners Chris + Staci happily obliged. Watch below as Chris walks up through the process of getting the perfect jackfruit, how to get your BBQ sauce as thick or thin as you like, and how he makes Word of Mouth's excellent pickled celery. Full recipe courtesy of Word of Mouth below.

    RECIPE: Pulled Jackfruit Sandwich

    Ingredients

    Canned jackfruit

    Cole slaw
      -cabbage
      -vegan mayo
      -shredded carrot
      -apple vinegar
      -celery seed

    BBQ sauce
      -white onion
      -cloves garlic
      -smoked paprika
      -brown sugar
      -apple cider vinegar
      -ketchup

    Pickled celery
      -celery stocks
      -mustard seeds
      -black peppercorn
      -distilled vinegar
      -sugar
      -bay leaf
      -water

    Directions

    Cole Slaw: Shred cabbage. Shred carrots toss into cabbage. Add veganaise and vinegar. Season to taste.

    BBQ Sauce: Sauté onion and garlic lightly. Add smoked paprika and simmer 3-5 mins, add brown sugar, continue to sauté for a few more mins. Place into blender combine ketchup, vinegar and cold water and season to consistency.

    Pickled Celery: In a pot place water, sugar, mustard seeds, bay leaf, black peppercorn, and vinegar. Bring to a boil then simmer. Once cooled down add celery and store in refrigerator for 12-24 hours.

    Jackfruit: Rinse and shred jackfruit. In a bowl add minced garlic, shallots, and herbs. Toss in BBQ sauce. Sauté.

    Interview with LA's Word of Mouth Vegan Food Truck

    Interview with LA's Word of Mouth Vegan Food Truck

    If you're vegan in Los Angeles right now, chances are you've heard of the new vegan food truck in town, Word of Mouth. They only started hitting the streets of LA last month and already they've got a huge following. It's easy to see why though—with a menu full of crave-able, distinctive vegan dishes like onion-ring-topped cheeseburgers, a Chick'n sandwich build around a thick fried cauliflower steak, and fried mac + cheese bites and some solid, fun branding on the truck, they've hard to miss and easy to love. We thought we'd get the low-down on the origins of the truck, so we talked recently with the couple behind it, Chris + Staci (pictured above, left-most, with Staci's sister to the right).

    Troy: Alright, first off, introduce yourselves—who are the masterminds behind Word of Mouth?

    Chris: Hi! We are Chris Chavez and Staci Stewart, the duo behind Word Of Mouth Truck.

    So where did the idea for starting up a vegan food truck come from int he first place?

    Staci: As vegans, we were tired of attending events around Los Angeles where we couldn't find any viable options to eat. As a Chef, Chris explained to me how rare it is to find a restaurant that does not cross-contaminate, which always left us feeling uncertain. We knew we couldn't be the only hungry vegans at these events and wanted to change that! This is what sprouted the seed of bringing veganism to the streets.

    Well, I think it's safe to say the vegans (and non-vegans) of Los Angeles thank you for doing so. Why a truck though? Why not a brick-and-mortar?

    Staci: We love the idea of spreading the word of good food while promoting a vegan lifestyle. We believe that getting out to different areas in the city helps to start a dialogue with people who may have not be open to the idea of going out of there way to experience plant-based food. We would also love to grow into a brick-and-mortar in the future!

    For those of us not versed all the work that goes into what you have to do to start up a food truck and get square with the city on regulations, can you give us a brief run-down of all the work that went into it?

    Chris: How much time do you have‽ Honestly, we are still learning and we are less than a month old. The birth of Word Of Mouth Truck has been over a year!

    Yeah, I can only imagine it's a ton of work. Moving to your menu, I seriously had no idea that the Chick'n Sandwich (pictured below, Buffalo-style) was a fried cauliflower steak when I first had it—what's the secret in making that so awesome?

    Staci: We are so happy you like it! That is our favorite menu item and I seriously eat it everyday!! I would say what makes it so awesome is our unique batter. The blend of herbs and spices really bring out a resemblance of "chick'n" while not being a heavy processed faux meat.

    Yeah, it's seriously crave-worthy. Speaking of batters and the like, how do you get the outer part of the Mac + Cheese Bites (below) so crispy and keeping the inside so creamy + gooey?

    Staci: I'll let the chef answer this one...

    Chris: We make a cashew creme that we incorporate into the dish that helps it achieve the creamy/gooey consistency.

    Well, highest compliments to the chef. I think you menu's been pretty static since you started up a few weeks back—do you all plan to keep it that way or add new items as you go?

    Chris: At the moment the menu is pretty set. We do change up the sweets regularly and we definitely want to incorporate specials in the future.


    Anything you can tell us that we can look forward to?

    Staci: We are also constantly challenging ourselves to create unique meals using whole foods instead of the processed faux meats on the market. You can always keep an eye out for new creations on our social media (Instagram /Twitter/Facebook)

    Can do and will continue to do. So, how has it been going into business together? Do you all work well together? Does one person handle one thing and the other, other things?

    Staci: Going into business together has been great, because we are a couple we compliment each other well in different areas. Chris's background as a chef plays a huge role in the menu and day to day kitchen operations, while my acting background helps me when interacting with people daily, and keeping up with our social media. Its also nice to have a significant other who knows how hard you work and ultimately is working for the same goal.

    That's a great way to put it—Katie and I definitely do treat things in a very similar manner with our creative agency and with MooShoes, but it's hard not to take great working/living relationships for granted sometimes. Are you two native Angelenos?

    Chris: No, we are both from Columbus Ohio. We moved to Los Angeles in 2009 as an aspiring actor and chef, respectively.


    How you did you meet?

    Staci: Chris is a really awesome skateboarder and I was in the mist of learning how to skate. We met through friends but I think our first interaction was after I ate it on a half pipe. He came over to see if I was okay.

    Aw. And I'm kind of assuming you're both vegan—when did you each go vegan? And do you remember when you made the decision? Like, what led to it or caused that shift in thinking?

    Staci: Yes, we are both vegans. I remember when I decided to go vegan, from being a vegetarian. My sister and I started a plant-based diet together, so we could hold each other accountable and talk about the favorite products we found. I remember researching about animal testing and started to buy all cruelty-free products. I lost weight. People took notice and wanted to know what my secret was. I told them to "Go Vegan!" Chris went vegan last year but, prior to that, he had eaten a lot of vegan meals during our relationship.

    Chris: I was inspired by Staci. Whether it is going with her to protest the circus or fur-free Friday, her compassion for animals is electric. Also, after visiting Farm Sanctuary and meeting the animals, they reminded me so much of our two dogs and cat that I couldn't help but to reflect. I didn't want to contribute to anymore suffering. Thats when I gave it up for good.

    Yeah, it's hard not to be truly affected by these things once you start earnestly thinking about them. Years back, when we re-branded Farm Sanctuary, in fact, we had a similar experience of their message and work re-envigorating us and aligning our paths more.  You guys seem to have been going full throttle since you started, popping up all over the city, multiple times and places in the same day sometimes. I know you're in the grind phase where you're working hard to get your name out there right now and you're doing great, but do you all ever get a second off?

    Staci: It seems like there is never enough time in the day! We are a small operation at the moment, so we wear many hats. Sundays are usually our day off, unless we have an event. We enjoy spending time with our animals: Poochie, Luna, and Wizard, watching movies, working out, acting, and online gaming with friends.


    Any bit of advice for anyone hoping to start up a truck or restaurant in Los Angeles?

    Staci: DO IT! Keep in mind It takes a lot of research, hard work, and long hours but it's worth it. Being proud of something you created is an incredible accomplishment. A motto I like to use is: 'You never know unless you try.' So dream big and go for it!

    Nice. Do you all have long-term or bigger picture goals for the truck?

    Staci: Of course we can't wait to expand our reach throughout LA! We are really excited to share our passion with the community and look forward to where that takes us.

    That's great to hear. Design hat back on here: We totally love your branding and design—who did that?

    Staci: Thank you so much!

    Chris: Staci had a great vision of the brand we wanted to create. I'm really proud of her creativity and how she continues to think outside the box for all the small details tying everything together.

    Yeah, it so shows when care and a lot of thought is behind an element like the branding and presentation. And the name—where did it come from? What's the origin story?

    Staci: We were brainstorming ideas together... had a memory of a business my grandparents started 'Take a Look.' It was a classic car dealership and I always loved the name. Then Word of Mouth naturally just flowed from that, so I owe them a big thank you!

    I know you often don't know where you're going to be until day of, but any events you're doing coming up or scheduled stops that you can tell people about now?

    Chris: We will be at Vegan Street Fair in March. You can always check out Instagram daily for where we will be @wordofmouthtruck. And if anyone is interested in having us at their event you can e-mail us.

    Awesome. Thanks again for talking!

    Staci: Thank you so much for your support!

    Chris: Thank You!

    Interview with Aubry + Kale of the Herbivorous Butcher

    Interview with Aubry + Kale of the Herbivorous Butcher

    As promised, we intend to use this space for more than just highlighting vegan shoes; amongst other things, we also want to use this web journal to celebrate the work of some of our favorite vegan businesses and business owners. First up, an interview I did with brother + sister duo, Aubry + Kale, of Minneapolis' Herbivorous Butcher, the first all-vegan butcher shop, focusing on small batch, meat-free vegan meats and dairy-free vegan cheeses. We got a chance to meet both Aubry + Kale at last year's Vegan Beer Fest/EatDrinkVegan and thought both they and the products they were putting out were great. Coming on the heels of them announcing a campaign to open a 100-acre animal sanctuary in Minnesota, we thought it'd be a good time to catch up with the two of them to find out more about the story behind their shop, its inspiration, and plans they might have for the future. 

    Troy: Alright, first thing's first, ya'll—how do a Minnesotan brother + sister duo come up with the idea to start up a vegan butcher shop?

    Aubry: I was vegan for a long time, since I was 14, then Kale grew up and saw how I wasn't eating meat. We're in Minnesota and hail from the island of Guam, and both places are super meat-heavy. Since I decided I didn't want to eat animals, it was a pretty seamless transition. I was so driven by the fact that I didn't want to impose cruelty on other creatures but I still wanted to eat meat. So I was eating all these plant-based meat products which sucked and were like hockey pucks, so I started making it myself. Then Kale started making it for himself too, and it was natural to make what we were hungry for. That's how we came up with the idea. It's a weird thing because sometimes I forget that the entire world doesn't eat the same things I do, so when I look at a non-vegan menu, I'll see "chicken" whatever and then I have to remind myself that it's not vegan. Owning this butcher shop is like being in a weird fairy tale land that hopefully won't be such a fairy tale for much longer.

    Man, it really doesn't seem that fabled land of easy, quality, cruelty-free living is getting closer to becoming a reality every day, doesn't it? I feel like there are so many new and better options for those of us who choose not to eat animals, whether you live in a big city or not. Now, I assume you two get along pretty well given that you chose to go into business together, but is it still a little weird, working as sister + brother?

    Kale: It's pretty natural. We're two sides of the same coin. We finish each others'.... pretty well.

    So we shouldn't be concerned about that promo shot with the knives; good. I've only been to your fine city once—in the summertime—but did you all have any concern about the community supporting the concept? It's not the 90s or anything when you had to constantly explain what vegan meant, but it's still admittedly a pretty niche industry. Is there a big vegan community in the City of Lakes?

    Aubry + Kale

    Kale: We figured if we could make it here, we could make it work anywhere. And it is working here. When we started, we weren't planning on moving anywhere. We like it here, but we were still hungry so we were going to make it anyway. The vegan community is growing quickly. It's small but passionate. Every year you see more vegan-friendly businesses popping up, and the future is bright.

    That's awesome to hear. Any area vegan or vegan-friendly establishments you can give shout-outs to that you like?

    Aubry: Our one super awesome all vegan restaurant, Reverie, is wonderful. Their pictures of sweet treats on social media make me drool every morning. We don't have a lot of all vegan establishments, but I love Ethique Nouveau. They have the best products—from lipstick to t-shirts to purses and vegan snacks—that you can't get anywhere else in town. My third has yet to open, but I've been waiting for months and months and months for J. Selby's, which is an all vegan restaurant in St. Paul. It's not too far from my house so I can't wait to be a regular there.

    Those all look/sound great. So, what's the general reaction been from non-vegans to your products? Are they like 'There's no meat in this meat? WHAT‽"

    Kale: A lot of people are pretty skeptical to start, like Guy Fieri, but they try it because they have a vegan partner or relative. Then they find that they can actually do it, like my dad who's cut out meat a few times a week. It's been overwhelmingly positive so far.

    kale + aubry with guy fieri

    You totally just name-dropped Guy Fieri—I like it. I also like this photo of you three. So, I know you all fund-raised for the shop with KickStarter, right? How was that experience overall?

    Aubry: The Kickstarter experience was kind of like, 'Everybody loves us! Everybody loves us! Oh my gosh, everybody hates us, what are we doing wrong?' And then we'd lose our hair and cry and then they would love us again. It was a really crazy roller coaster. It's a great thing because of awareness, and even though we needed the money, it was vital in increasing our exposure. It's important for young entrepreneurs to have a way to 'kickstart' their businesses. Kale and I had terrible credit and no savings, so Kickstarter was an incredible opportunity. Even though we didn't sleep for a month, it was a good experience overall and it helped us reach more people than we would have otherwise.

    That's great to hear and, yeah, seems like it turned out really well for you two. I feel like I've seen a lot of crowd-funded projects go unrealized over the years—many of which I've personally given to—so it's great to see such a huge success story. Sorry about the sleepless month of hair-pulling though. What was the reason behind wanting a brick-and-mortor shop, though, over, say, doing pop-ups or something mobile?

    Kale: We started the shop because we couldn't make enough to keep our customers happy working out of a community kitchen. That's really the only reason. We needed a spot that would allow us to keep up with the demand, and we always wanted a spot to call home.

    Makes sense. You mention in your marketing that your products are protein-rich + full of B-vitamins that are often absent in non-animal meats/meat alternatives. Can you explain that for those of us not as versed in the nutrient world?

    Kale: The B vitamins come from nutritional yeast, and we use a high protein wheat flour so it's all nutrient-rich, low fat, and of course zero cholesterol since there are no animal products.

    As you've already mentioned, your family is from Guam and I know you've talked before about how deeply cooking is rooted in that culture—for those of us less familiar with Guam, can you tell us what kind of food's common or popular there? And how did that inform what you're doing with the HB?

    Aubry: Growing up on Guam, I was a cute, rolypoly child. I wanted to eat everything. A typical after school snack was something like a ham and cheese sandwich, a large Dr. Pepper, and 3 doughnuts plus chicken noodle soup. I'd eat that after school in 2nd grade and I've always loved food. On Guam, they don't import a lot of vegetables that you see in the US, so I grew up eating a lot of meat and a lot of starch. I still do that now, only it's all vegan. So things have really stayed the same but nothing has to die for anything that I consume now.

    Great way to think about it. You guys do a porterhouse steak, right? What's that like and how do you make it?

    Kale: The steak has the same wheat base as most of our products but gets some extra treatment. We roll them out and it's baked, then boiled, then seared. It gets a little more TLC than some of the other products, but it's worth it. It's savory and has that iron flavor that you look for in a steak. All the heft, but none of that weird gristle.

    Sounds and looks really great from what I've seen online. How do you make your cheeses though and what's your favorite?

    Kale: The cheeses have a soy milk and coconut oil base. From there, we add different combinations of nutritional yeast, salt, herbs, spices, etc. to really create any flavor and texture you want. Vinegar and lemon juice can make firm and soft cheese. My favorite is the Garlic Pepper Havarti (pictured below); it's just so good. We roast the garlic and when I want something to put on crackers, it's always the Garlic Pepper Havarti.

    vegan garlic pepper havarti

    Yeah, it was a terrible idea to do this interview before lunch. We absolutely loved your vegan Double Down at Vegan Beer Fest/EatDrinkVegan (below)—any plans to make that part of your permanent menu?

    Aubry: It unfortunately is not feasible at the shop since we operate like a traditional butcher shop where everything is taken to go, and making the double down is very time consuming. So for now, we'll keep making the Italian Cold Cut and Turkey & Dill Havarti that Guy Fieri ate on Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

    vegan double down - raven + crow

    We get it—you guys know Guy Fieri. No, all kidding aside, that's awesome that they visited your shop on that show. Again, I feel like we're making a lot of headway in the mainstream. And sad news (for me) about the Double Down. But are there any other new products you're excited about possibly adding to your repertoire?

    Kale: We're more giving facelifts to existing recipes. Like we're looking into turning our Shredded Chicken into a Buffalo Chicken. There are some new things, though. We just discovered that we can make cheese in wheels so we can do pepper-crusted havarti or caraway-crusted cheddar, things like that. We're always trying to think of new things.

    Nice. So, you've touched on this a little bit, but can you both talk more to when and why you adopted a vegan lifestyle?

    Kale: I went vegan in 2012, and right now it's less about health, which is why I switched, and more about the environmental factors. Just look at the news—it's scary sometimes, and if I can do my small part to help, then there's no reason why I shouldn't.

    Aubry: I remember the moment I decided to go vegan when I was 14. I was working at a grocery store, saving money to buy a pair of leather shoes. I was bagging groceries, and the cashier had to put the meat in plastic bags because it was leaking blood. I remember putting it in the bag and thinking, 'Wow, that was alive once and this is disgusting. I don't know what I'm doing eating something that used to bleed because I bleed.' From that moment, I knew I needed to make a change and I knew that I didn't need animal products to be happy and healthy. I started reading Peter Singer books and learning about animal agriculture and that it wasn't cute cows standing in a pasture. I was really inquisitive and I think that's how a lot of other young people are these days.

    That's great. And I think it speaks to whole idea of there being so many different angles at which to arrive at an animal-free lifestyle, so many different, totally valid reasons to do so, and people like the two of you make it so much easier and more fun, there's really no reason not to go vegan.... HEAR THAT WORLD‽ Changing tracks and putting my design hat back on for a brief moment, who did your logo? We dig it.

    Kale: We had a woman just out of college design it, but we're actually in the process of working with a local branding company on a brand refinement. So THB will be getting a little facelift soon!

    Oh, that's exciting. We'll keep our eyes peeled. So, I totally want to come by your shop, but in the meantime and for those of us who don't live in the Twin Cities area, can we look forward to you all doing more fests or any pop-ups in the coming months? Or any plans to have anyone carry your stuff outside'a MN?

    Aubry: Events like EatDrinkVegan are a huge undertaking for our small staff, so we'll be sticking close to home this year. We are always open to new wholesale partners, and already wholesale to a couple places outside of the state. And of course, we have nationwide shipping options on our website.

    Awesome. Well, thanks to you both for taking the time to do this interview. And hope to see you in Los Angeles again soon!

    Editor's note: In the time between conducting this interview and posting it, it's been announced that MooShoes NYC's soon-to-be-opened sister shop, Orchard Grocer, will be carrying Herbivorous Butcher products right next-door to MooShoes on the lower east side. So stay tuned for opening announcements in the very near future.