Driven By Purpose: Dubai-Based Veganologie Creates Bags From Recycled Plastic Bottles
Designed for fashionable conscious consumers, Veganologie's first collection consisted of crossbody bags, wallets, and card holders, made using vegan and sustainable materials.
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While the COVID-19 pandemic has had several negative repercussions, it cannot be denied that the crisis did provide many of us with the much-needed time we needed for reflection, rethinking priorities, and pursuing passions. In the case of 27-year-old Angana Maheshwari, the crisis provided her with the time she needed to follow through on her entrepreneurial ambitions, ignited by her curiosity on sustainable practices in the fashion industry.
In particular, she saw a lack of sustainable handbags in the market, and she decided to fill this gap by setting up her own venture. "Nothing [that was available] really resonated with me, and I was unable to find anything that was sustainable yet fashionable, well-made, and well-priced," says Maheshwari. "It seemed to me that there was a gap in the market that I could fill, and that would appeal to others, who also wanted to make decisions that didn't harm the planet."
It is with this vision for purpose-led fashion that Maheshwari set out to launch Veganologie, along with Sara Basar, the brand's 28-year-old Executive Director and Designer. Prior to Veganologie, she had co-founded nonprofit organization U2Adoption.com, (which features stories of adoptees from around the world), while Basar has previously worked at design houses in Italy, Turkey, and the UAE. Using 100% vegan, recycled materials to craft Veganologie's products, the duo started selling them through the brand's direct-to-consumer website in November 2021. Veganologie has since gone on to receive certifications from the Global Recycled Standards (GRS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), affirming its vision to becoming completely cruelty-free as well as an authentic sustainable brand.
Designed for fashionable conscious consumers, Veganologie's first collection consisted of crossbody bags, wallets, and card holders, made using vegan and sustainable materials. The bags are fabricated from fully recycled material, be it the vegan leather, or the faux suede linings. In fact, the company points out that its crossbody bags are made from 11 plastic bottles, wallets are made from four plastic bottles, while cardholders are made from two plastic bottles. Even its dust bags are sustainable, with each made from 10 recycled plastic bottles. Plus, the brand's entire packaging is 100% recycled, and it's also fully recyclable.
Starting a business during the pandemic was no easy feat, Maheshwari says. "Funnily, the collection wound up being even more sustainable, because it was impossible to fly to our production facilities and suppliers to have one-onone meetings with them, which reduced our carbon footprint even more significantly," she notes. But Maheshwari counts herself lucky to having Basar on board, as the latter developed the sketches, designs, and products that the former had in mind. "Together, we faced the struggles and challenges, especially when it came to communicating with our suppliers- all done via Zoom," she says. "The main challenge was that we were unable to travel and meet them, but, even so, we managed to create fantastic, high-quality products, despite never having visited them once."
However, given the number of sustainable eco-friendly brands in the MENA region, how does Maheshwari ensure that the brand stands out in this domain? To this, the young entrepreneur replies, "While there are many eco-friendly brands in the MENA region, there are not many brands that focus on handbags and accessories," she says. "Sustainability is a complex issue. One of the most important aspects of sustainability is transparency, something which is hard to achieve for a small business/startup."
"At Veganologie, we made this our priority! While we never compromised on the designs and quality, we made sure that we are transparent with the materials we used, and the factories we worked with. Every aspect of our products, from packaging, all the way down to the hardware, has either been recycled or are recyclable. That's why we have achieved GRS certifications in our materials, and we are also PETA certified. Our factories are audited by the Business Social Compliance Initiative, thereby ensuring that we are following ethical production of our bags. These certifications validate our authenticity, which allows us to stand out compared to other brands."
But while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge, launching the business in Dubai has its perks, notes Maheshwari. "As Dubai was one of the most vaccinated cities in the world, we were lucky to have movement, which helped us propel the business forward," she says. "One aspect that has been really helpful is the openness to discussing sustainability, and even showcasing the issue so positively at Expo 2020 Dubai." Going forward, though Maheshwari is grateful for the support and backing of her family in kickstarting the brand, she is now looking for new allies to join her journey and boost the brand. "I am hoping that we can start fundraising soon and get investors and partners on board for Veganologie to grow and reach where it needs to be," she concludes.
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"TREP TALK: Q&A with Angana Maheshwari, founder and CEO, Veganologie
What's your advice for entrepreneurs who may be hesitant to follow through on their entrepreneurial dreams, given the current circumstances of the world?
"It's during times like these when the most successful ideas and businesses are born! We have seen businesses like Uber and Airbnb be born during the 2007-2009 financial crisis. If the opportunity to start a business presents itself, you should take the plunge. After all, one of the key characteristics of an entrepreneur is to take risks and overcome obstacles. Some of the learnings that I have picked up along the way is first and foremost, remember "why' you began your business. I once heard, "iff your why doesn't make you cry, your brand will not survive,' and that's something I take with me to work every day. Furthermore, always believe in yourself and your idea. If you don't believe in your idea, no one else will. Finally, make every decision with confidence knowing that you will be okay regardless of the outcome. Never stop dreaming."
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