A couple of months ago, I discovered a Copenhagen-based Vegan Apparel line. At first I was intrigued with the name of the brand, and then I especially liked the philosophy behind the collection and began to be even more curious to discover the inspiration behind it all. Paganae was founded in 2007 by Graeme Cochrane, whose focus is on promoting and spreading a positive message with his cool, eco-friendly T-shirts and peaceful lifestyle. He invites us to live consciously, in harmony with our environment and all life, both plant and animal. Graeme encourages people to be more eco-conscious with his soft, comfortable T-shirts which make you happy to wear because of the way they feel as well as how they look and what they express. He graciously granted me an exclusive interview amid his busy schedule — enjoy learning about the man behind the brand “Paganae”.
RO: “Paganae” is the name of your brand, and what does that mean?
GC: Paganus is Latin and means a villager or someone ‘of the country’ as opposed to the civilized people living in the city. In western culture the word has often been used as heathen or heretical, especially in the term ‘pagan religion’. In a broader sense it has come to mean someone or something that is not mainstream, that does not follow the main religion or ethos of a given culture – in other words an outsider. The ‘ae’ ending is just to make the word plural.
I guess we thought that the word contained or captured an essential part of the vegan values. For many people meat eating is somewhat of a religion, and for vegans not to contribute to the practice of using animals for all kinds of things is like going against the stream. In line with our name is the name of the American internet radio show – Vegan Freak Radio.
RO: Tell me about your work space, and what first inspired you to design your vegan
T-shirts on your own?
GC: Our designs we make ourselves. We have a friend who is a graphic designer and who is the main graphic designer in the project. Developing the ideas and going from idea to design is a process we all participate in though, so it is really a collaboration of joined forces. We are around 5 people in the project.
As to the ideas of our designs we draw inspiration from various fields. A lot of us have written lyrics and rapped in the underground environment, where hooks are an important factor in the making of a track. I guess you could say that a sensation, a statement or a meaning is boiled down into few words or a metaphor – like that of art in general. We coin hooks thinking ‘out of the box’ and often combine something well-known with a new entry – like the ‘Chick Strike’ hook – or turn something upside down.
Graphically, we are inspired by clothing brands like Obey, Organika and Planet Earth, artists like Banksy and Iso50 along with a variety of other urban artists.
RO: How is your printing process? And where?
GC: Our ‘first edition’ T-shirts are made in 100% organic cotton in Nicaragua by the Fair Trade Zone. The Fair Trade Zone is a small, worker-owned cooperative that has been funded by the Center for Development in Central America (CDCA), a non-profit organization seeking to address human needs.
Being a brand whose ideals have moral character, we are happy to deliver our clothes to people in organic cotton from an independent sewing cooperative. They have been produced in a factory where the workers receive fair wages and benefits, have good working conditions and are not exploited. Better for your skin as well as for our planet’s, organic cotton is part of the organic wave that testifies to increased awareness and responsible action. It is important to us that sustainability remains where animals are not in the limelight.
RO: Eco-friendly fashion seems to grow more popular everyday. What are some of the
characteristics of your line that make it stand out from the pack?
GC: Some years ago we came across an Indian myth that can be summarized as follows: Back in the Genesis of the world, all animals were each allowed to give one illness to man for the misdeeds he would inflict on them. This myth sparked an idea — a design that drew inspiration from the movie poster for “Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back”. Our first hook had hatched and Paganae saw the light of day.
When this first idea came up – ‘Salmonella – The Chicken Strikes Back’ we had some 20 T-shirts made with the design screen printed on them at the local screen printing shop. We got some very positive feedback wearing this T-shirt, like people commenting on how great a hook/message the ‘Chick Strike’ was. Friends and relatives asked for a T-shirt and the 20 T-shirts we had made were very quickly sold or given away. From this point on we came up with more hooks and ideas, eventually decided to turn our designs into a more serious project and came up with a brand name. I guess we had come across many T-shirts with hooks like ‘Meat is Murder’, and regardless of the taste and temper of the individual vegan or vegetarian, this is a more direct approach which can be a turn off to some people. We wanted to give something to vegetarians and vegans that had more depth to it and had a more appetizing appeal to people, often people who are not into the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. The fact that not that many vegan clothing brands are around yet, we also see ourselves as a pioneer with this particular clothing brand.
At a more basic level, having been part of the vegan community for some years we wanted to contribute to the vegan cause besides following a vegan lifestyle in our daily lives.
RO: Why do you think people are shifting to organic products, clothing, food, home
GC: In an ideal world products from food to clothing would have a warning label if they had been produced via child labour or in poor working conditions, with the help of pesticides, growth hormones etc. and not the other way around. But I guess this is a political discussion that has to do with the major scale consumption by especially people in western culture often under unrestricted industrial power.
I think people are beginning to realize the massive impact 6 billion human beings have on planet earth. Really, it’s not more than 60 years ago we began using all kinds of chemicals in our industries and agriculture and we’re just starting to learn how this affects nature and invariably ourselves. Fortunately, we do have experienced an organic and fair trade boom in the western world in the past couple of decades that testifies to increased awareness and responsible action. I definitely think this change in trend is noticeable and portends hope for the future. Slowly, I think organic and fair trade products will replace conventional production. At all events, we are proud to be part of that transition.
RO: Do you think veganism should be seen as a lifestyle? Are you a vegetarian? If
yes, since when?
GC: I have been vegan for just about 7 years now and couldn’t be happier with that choice. Before that I was a vegetarian for just about 2 years. The shift away from meat and animal products really has been inevitable for me because I became aware of the many problems related to consuming animals. Of course, it didn’t happen overnight but as I had been experiencing a radical change in the way I looked at non-human animals there was only one way for me – veganism.
Yes, I definitely think veganism should be seen as a lifestyle. The number of people following a vegan lifestyle has grown rapidly the past decade or so. Whether people get into veganism because of environmental concerns, for health benefits or due to an ethical elevation they experience, I think most vegans are quite informed about the many problems related to how humans treat non-human animals. Because vegans go ‘all the way’ as opposed to people buying ‘cruelty- or cage-free’ and ‘animal-friendly’ products, we mark a change of kind and not one of degree. This is the important difference between the philosophy of animal rights, which is quite controversial, and decent animal welfare, which most people can agree upon though the majority of these people does not act accordingly when shopping. In this connection we think of vegetarians as aspiring vegans or people who cannot live vegan due to practical reasons. Being vegan in a world of so many animal exploiting products, rituals and entertainment sometimes surely can be a hassle – it is easy to feel alienated, and this is why veganism is so much of a lifestyle. “No matter how many products in the supermarket, how many today’s specials are of animal origin and no matter how many of you enjoy a day at the zoo, none of that will have me by the balls”, said the vegan.
RO: Are your clothes only for vegans, or do you also want non-vegan people to buy
GC: Sure we want non-vegan people to buy our clothes. Anyone who likes or loves our designs and the messages they bring is more than welcome to wear Paganae – the message is delivered just as well by a meat eater, a vegetarian or a vegan. Of course, our primary target is vegans seeing that you won’t ever buy a design from us that favors egg or dairy consumption, or circus animals for that matter. This being said, a fan is a fan and an important keyword in developing our brand has been including rather than excluding. Our hope is that the subtle and humorous approach that our designs are characteristic of contribute to the vegan cause in a different way and stand a better chance of turning non-vegans on than the more direct approach. So whoever you are, please join in!
RO: What direction do you see for “Paganae” in the future?
GC: The styles of our first edition T-shirts are quite classic T-shirt styles from street/urban fashion. For future editions we hope to be able to expand our clothing line to dresses, skirts, jeans etc. for women and shirts, hoodies, polo’s, pullovers etc. for men along with caps, belts and other accessories. At some point maybe also vegan shoes.
RO: Are there any thoughts or anything else you’d like to add?
GC: Our aim is to be a place where anyone who is into future life can breathe with effortless ease. Grounded in the vegan movement, we have on our journey through uncharted territory seen our share of things that simply just don’t add up. Along the way we have become still more aware of the importance of taking sides against the violence and covetousness with which humans so often meet other creatures of our world.
The traditional and still prevailing view of animals is that they were put here for our sake, that they are a resource to suit our wants and desires. The practical facets of this stronghold inevitably involve rough and relentless treatment, and struggling against their will tightens our hold in return. Being equipped to carry out these actions against animals is the main purpose of our emotional detachment from them. We inherit this hardening through our culture, segregating us from them.
Since we are opposed to this view of animals, abstaining from the use of animal derived materials or labor is fundamental to us. Following the path from the dark part of the woods to the glades, we have our eyes fixed on an overriding goal: to bring us to a state where animals fill our hearts rather than our hands and bellies – to bring us closer to their homecoming beyond the hills.
Please check out Paganae’s official website.
[UPDATE] – unfortunately I discovered that this business does not exist anymore 🙁 but we’ll keep the article 🙂
PS: All images here are used with permission. Please do not distribute without first contacting the designer.