After a very successful launch just two weeks ago, the co-founders of Irish vegan accessories company, Forester Products, are on a high. Their PETA-approved first collection is a collision of ethics and style, marrying sustainable materials like cork with practicality. We spoke with one of the brains behind the brand, Sean Forester, about setting up a vegan accessories company.
The first nugget of an idea that would become Forester Products first struck Sean when he went vegan and tried to find a replacement for his old leather wristwatch. He quickly learnt that quality vegan accessories were hard to find, especially for environmentally conscious vegan males. And he endeavoured to change that.
“I was shocked [at the lack of options] considering the huge choice in food we’ve seen in the past few years, but it really opened my eyes,” he said. “I started looking at what other products people would want to update when they became vegan; traditional leather accessories like belts, wallets, watches and bags. I realised that there wasn’t much that combined ethics with style and that’s really where the idea was born.”
The company has come a long way in a short time, and their recent launch drew great interest in the vegan community in Ireland and abroad. “The response has been brilliant so far,” he said. “We’ve been getting great feedback from all over the world, saying they’ve been waiting for something like this to come along. Within seconds of launching the website we had an order for a belt. People obviously have the same frustrations that I had. We’ve been completely blown away.”
Although Forester Products aren’t the first Irish fashion company to include vegan items in their range, they are certainly at the forefront of the movement. “I think we are the first in Ireland to start a [fashion] brand with the vision of vegan first,” Sean continued. “We always like to think that we make cool products which are vegan, as opposed to vegan products that happen to be cool. A lot of our customers may not be 100% vegan but each purchase is a little step towards a positive global change.”
Both Sean and co-founder Alannah McGhee believe that everyone has the power to positively impact the world at large and they are optimistic that other Irish companies are moving in a cruelty-free direction. Sean describes what he calls “an awakening” regarding the environmental impact of products made with non-sustainable, unethical materials and plastics.
“There is a major movement happening,” he said. “[And] companies will have to respond to changing public opinion. We think this is amazing and these movements will only get stronger. This is why we aim to use as many plant-based sustainable materials as possible. You can still have amazing, non-leather products [without compromising] quality and style. It’s such an exciting time for vegan fashion.”
The first collection was inspired by Ireland’s landscape and its people, and Sean has said that meeting real Irish vegans at vegan festivals has been instrumental in the evolution of the brand. “These events have been extremely important for us as it gave us a great chance to meet people,” he said. We’ve built the range around the feedback [we received].”
Sean has stated that 10% of all profits will go to causes that match the brand’s ethos. Although they haven’t yet announced the causes they’ll be partnering with, a charitable ethos is at the heart of Forester Products. “This was absolutely a fundamental reason as to why we started the business. We believe that we can all make a positive impact, not just through our life and the people around us but also through what we choose to do in our working life. Altruistic principles are at the core of our business.”
The range is made up of stylish essentials, but Sean’s favourite is the Classic Red Wallet. “It probably suits my style the most,” he said. “I think the colour just pops. Because our wallets are made with cork, every single one has a different finish, which I really like about the range. It’s the perfect size for me as well, slim and lightweight. Alannah loves her Everyday Black Backpack, she uses it all the time.”
With veganism on the rise, Sean and Alannah have a promising future ahead of them. “[When the website went live] it was a really big moment for us and when it all became very real,” Sean said. “We have something in the pipeline which we’re very proud of. It’s completely innovative and unlike anything available in Ireland, but we can’t share the details just yet!”
Forester Products’ first range is online now at foresterproducts.com and you can get 10% off your first order by signing up to their mailing list.