September 25, 2015

Any vegan will know the struggle of trying to find good quality and aesthetically pleasing but cruelty-free products. Enter Matt & Nat. Built on the principles of veganism, Matt & Nat specialises in creating beautifully minimal and 100% recyclable vegan leather goods. We spoke to the president of the brand, Manny Kohli, to unravel the history of Matt & Nat, the rewards of living a cruelty-free vegan life and what the future holds for the unique enterprise.

UO: Can you tell us a bit about your story? How did Matt & Nat come about?

The founder, Inder Bendi, was living and studying in Montreal at the time of the company’s conception. He tried to be vegan for a month, when, at this time, being vegan wasn’t a very popular concept. He realized how limiting the lifestyle was and saw an opportunity for vegan products. Inder began Matt & Nat straight out of university in 1995. Matt & Nat was built on of the principles of veganism, which are respecting life and nature. This meant that there was a lot of attention paid to the material and quality. The company slowly grew, and in 2001, we partnered and I am now president and owner of Matt & Nat.

UO: What made you want to start a vegan, cruelty-free brand?

Both Inder and I are from India, and in our culture, cows are considered a sacred animal and it felt very natural to create a brand that respected this. I have never touched beef. I was a vegetarian for the first year when I joined Matt & Nat, and then became a vegan in 2001, and have been ever since.

When the company was started in 1995, being vegan wasn’t a trend. There was an opportunity to provide fashionable items to people who want to be vegan or vegetarian as well to spread this message of love and respect. We want to show that cruelty free fashion can be chic and stylish. Matt & Nat aims to prove that accessories don’t need to be made of leather to be considered fashionable.

UO: Can you tell us about the process of sourcing ethical materials at Matt & Nat?

We have devoted design and production teams and great relationships with all of our factories in China and they help us to discover new, more sustainable materials, to test and prototype. Our most recent material that we launched this season, the Loom collection, is our most sustainable material as it is 100% recyclable. Sourcing innovative material is something that we are constantly challenging ourselves with. We are always prototyping new materials and testing durability. This is what is most important for us because we want people to associate our brand with quality and product longevity.

UO: Which materials do you most frequently use in your products and why?

Since 2007, we have been committed to using linings made solely of 100% recycled plastic bottles. We’ve recycled over two million plastic bottles in the manufacturing of our bags!

Various vegan leathers are also used in the production process, the scientific terms being PU (polyurethane) and PVC (polyvinylchloride).

PU is biodegradable, making it less harmful for the environment we prefer to use this. Over the years, we have been experimenting with different recycled materials like nylons, cardboard, rubber, cork and rubber tires.

UO: Can you walk us through a day in your life?

I always start off the day by checking my emails. I want to ensure that all enquiries and requests are answered and responded to. I then have meetings with my team to ensure that everything is running smoothly!

UO: What’s been your biggest achievement to date?

In terms of MATT & NAT, my biggest achievement to date is definitely the overwhelming amount of success we have achieved so far. We are constantly seeing growing numbers of sales from our loyal customers.

UO: Which piece in the collection are you most excited about?

It is definitely very difficult to choose my favorite piece, since I love all of our designs! However, I must say that my favorite collection is the Canvas collection. The idea and story behind the collection, which is made of 100% recycled bottles, really highlights what we represent and believe.

UO: What inspires you?

In terms of style and design, I am really inspired by Modern Architecture.

UO: What’s the best thing about living a cruelty-free, vegan life?

I believe that living a vegan, cruelty-free life is a kind hearted and beautiful thing for the world. The best thing about this life choice is definitely its health benefits.

UO: What’s next for Matt & Nat in 2015?

We have many great things planned for 2015. We are excited to announce the launch of our first-ever footwear collection, made with 100% vegan leather.

And finally…

If I wasn’t running Matt & Nat, I would be… Still working in the fashion industry, in the fields of Public Relations and Marketing.
My ideal breakfast is… Chopped Avocado with Coriander, Green Chili with a touch of lemon – mashed together on a hot toast.
My favourite season is… Fall.
The best thing about my job is… Creating cruelty free products.
Right now I’m listening to… Deep House.
My biggest release is… Yoga.
If I could be anywhere in the world right now, I would be… Kashmir, India – it is heaven on earth!