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The untold History of Animals in Fashion — a Book Review

If vegan fashion had a posterboy, Joshua Katcher would be it. 

Katcher, easily the most sought-after menswear designer in the realm of vegan fashion, runs his own label, is a lecturer, educator and influential blogger. And he’s written and published his first book on the role of animals in the history of fashion. A glimpse into the making of this important publication.

Fashion Animals Book by Joshua Katcher – designed by Very Good Looking Berlin - Antagonist

March 2, 2021

Words & Photography — Eric Mirbach

“I am a vegan fashion designer with a decade of experience, a fashion educator who has taught and lectured at some of the top design schools in the world, and someone who has been following, writing about and interacting with others who care about the ethics of using animals in fashion since 2008. I did everything from partnering with startups who are growing animal protein materials in the laboratory to participating in talks with major luxury designers like Stella McCartney,” Katcher told us. “This is an industry I know well, and I also know how to speak to people inside this industry in a way that inspires and engages without losing my call for total animal liberation from fashion production.”

Author Joshua Katcher - Fashion Animals Book - Eric Mirbach Photo for Antagonist
Joshua Katcher, Brooklyn, NYC

Katcher is the driving force behind the men’s fashion blog The Discerning Brute, created men’s luxury fashion label Brave GentleMan, was awarded Most Influential Designer of 2015 by PETA and, last but not least, appeared on the cover of issue 2 of Vegan Good Life, Antagonist’s print-predeccesor. And now a book – and again, in collaboration with this fine magazine. The art direction for Fashion Animals was cooked up here at the Antagonist headquarters in Berlin.

Katcher takes us from a single bird in New Zealand  to a secret rabbit farm inside a concentration camp.

Katcher has put years of extensive research into the creation of his first book, and it shows: “Fashion Animals lays out an entirely untold history and perspective of fashion that fashion professionals, designers and creatives from the industry won’t find anywhere else. This will transform the way they look at fashion and fashion media, and that those entangled in the book’s dramatic accounts range from Louis XIV to Vogue Magazine’s founder Josephine Redding and from a single feather from a single bird in New Zealand to a secret rabbit farm inside a concentration camp.”

When it came to the design, Katcher aimed high as well: The designer was looking to put out a “very attractive and visual coffee-table style book, full of rare and gorgeous archival images, compelling stories, research and a critical text that looks at how and why animals have been exploited for fashion.” When discussing the art direction for the project, Katcher told us he was looking to create “a handsome object with an appeal to creative people.”

Fashion Animals Book by Joshua Katcher – designed by Very Good Looking Berlin - Antagonist
Fashion Animals Book by Joshua Katcher – designed by Very Good Looking Berlin - Antagonist

To help with realizing this vision, Joshua got in touch with with Berlin-based Antagonist partner-agency Very Good Looking, who took care of the graphic design for Katcher’s first. 

“Vogue plays a prominent role in promoting the use of animals in fashion, so we implemented a hint of classic fashion magazine aesthetic.”

“When we started talking about what Joshua was looking for, the first thing I did was actually read the manuscript to really get a grip of what the book was about and what the tonality was. Then Joshua showed me some of the vintage image material he secured for the project and I understood that we needed a visually pleasing but also very inclusive approach to typography. We would need room for very different visuals but also wanted to include a hint of classic fashion magazine aesthetic,” creative lead Eric Mirbach remembers the process.

Inspiration stroke at an Irving Penn exhibition in Berlin. “They had a glass case with vintage Vogue issues and I secretly took a couple snaps of the beautiful typography work they did back then. Since Joshua addresses the role Vogue plays in promoting animal use in fashion, I thought it would be a nice connection there.”, Mirbach said. “We then updated it a bit, gave it a bit of a modern twist. It worked really well and the book turned out to be a beautiful object.”

Just like Katcher wanted.

The hardcover book, published in 2019 as a joint venture of Vegan Publishers and Vegan Good Life packs a whopping 272 pages and is available in English through Amazon (because that’s the world we live in). Check it out!

Find Joshua on the Gram: @thediscerningbrute

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