The interview was published in Estonian magazine Vegan (no. 6) in February 2018.
Our consumption patterns are slowly changing. Sustainability, ethics and transparency is becoming more and more valuable in business practices. Consumers want better products and production processes. We expect a holistic approach of the fashion industry from a brand. Also, we expect the products to do good.
Graphical messages by Jacky Wasserman help to give more voice to vegan- and health-minded communities. Jacky invites us to mediate on entrepreneurship, need of positive vegan messages, connectedness of social issues and high importance of our everyday decisions.
Jacky, how do you define yourself?
I see myself as someone who is very passionate about their lifestyle and is dedicated to animal rights. Having a business that also aligns with my lifestyle is really rewarding and I’m grateful for that. It has taken a lot of hard work to get to where I am today. Being a DJ, entrepreneur and designer to me means flexibility, fun and creativity. I guess I would consider myself all of the above types of activist. I think activism can take on many forms depending on what types of situations you are involved in and your personality so it’s ever changing. I’m comfortable doing activism in any form mostly. Whether it’s being involved in a demonstration, march, leafleting, bearing witness or designing graphics to be worn on clothes to spread an important message. The only type of activism I would say I don’t participate in is anything that could be too “in your face” as I think that only deters people from actually listening to what you’re saying and become defensive possibly painting a bad picture of what a vegan is in their mind. I think it’s important to represent our community and movement in a positive light so it’s more inviting. People already have so many bad stereotypes associated even with the word “vegan”, we don’t need to add to that.
You have said that “I want to spread awareness about all things healthy! Especially showing the world a view of what being Vegan really is all about. Before I became vegan I had this huge stigma attached to what I thought being vegan meant or looked like. What a bunch of animal loving, tree huggin’ hippies! I don’t get it. How could you not eat meat? That is so weird. I could never do that.” What is veganism for you now?
Being vegan is the most important and best thing that has ever happened to me. It’s my life 24/7and I’m very proud of it. It’s given me confidence and has given me a higher purpose or calling to help others, not only humans but of course animals. Activists that are part of non-profit organizations who are on the front lines fighting to expose animal cruelty and undercover investigators are what inspires me.
If you look at social justice causes they are all viewed as different. Meaning, they are not fully accepted by society or the norm so I feel like veganism and social justice issues can be closely tied. If anything it has made me more compassionate towards different causes than maybe I was before. Or even made me pay attention to them more so.
Selection of BEETxBEET’s products. Model: Jona Weinhofen. Photo: Dylan Sido
As much as design can be a tool for oppression, it can also be an effective agent for social change. What are the main ways designers can contribute to social impact?
Art is such a powerful tool and a way to invoke feelings. I think it’s important to include art and creativity as much as possible because it helps people to stop and THINK about what is happening around them and how they are contributing to it.
I think street art is the most influential type of social impact. Look at what Shepard Fairey does with his huge murals and Banksy with his controversial stencils spray painted all over the world. These artists have always inspired me and have drawn me in to question things and say “wait a minute, what is really going on?”Also, what is the message here and how are my actions contributing to whatever the cause is? Clothing can be a walking billboard for something and just by passing someone on the street can plant a seed in their mind that might make them google something or research things on their own. There’s plenty of ways designers can contribute, I think that will be dictated by what the individual is into or their personality. Taking that and aligning it with ways to affect change. It will be different for everyone because art is different for everyone.
What does BEETxBEET do? What were your reasons being establishing the brand and driving vegan culture in the USA?
BEETxBEET is an apparel and awareness lifestyle brand committed to spreading awareness and raising consciousness around the choices we make everyday. By providing you with fashionable apparel to feel empowered our goal is to inspire you to help spread the word about important causes that need a voice.
I moved to Los Angeles from the East coast over 4 years ago. One day I was looking for a vegan T-shirt online but didn’t see one that fit my style. I decided with all my design and industry experience I could take that and my new-found passion for veganism and turn it into a business.What we are selling is not just a piece of clothing it’s more than that. It’s a message, a purpose, a tool for activism, self-expression, and art. I’m inspired by this generation of forward thinkers and determined strong women, by street art, by nature, by people who speak out for important causes, by people who are trying to make the world a better place. And that’s what we are doing at BEETxBEET. Our motto is “Saving The Planet One Vegan At A Time”.
Selection of BEETxBEET’s products. Model: Michelle Weinhofen. Photo: Dylan Sido
Sustainable may not be ethical, vegan or similar. How would you comment on that?
It’s like marketing where words can be thrown around just to make you think you are buying into something that is better than something else. For example, “humane raised”, “grass-fed”, “free-range”, etc. Those are terms that might sound good but the truth is they are just there to make you feel better about consuming these products. They are no better than the counter-parts.
It’s important for us to be transparent and also strive to do better in all things. Right now we are working towards making the line more eco-friendly using more fabrics that are organic or recycled. We started with a message first and now we want to make sure our products are aligning with that. It takes time to get to these milestones. We love that our products are made in Los Angeles and are sweatshop free.
How does one become a successful entrepreneur in the field of vegan business? What has the life of an entrepreneur been like for you?
Everyone has a different definition of what success means to them. I think if you are dedicated, work hard, and love what you do that can make you successful. It’s not about how many likes you get on an Instagram photo or how many followers you have. I’m still learning everyday how to be an entrepreneur and successful myself. I didn’t go to business school or take classes for starting my own business. I asked questions and did lots and lots of research. I talked to my entrepreneur friends. If you surround yourself with like-minded people that will be a source of support and positivity for you it will make a world of difference. Find your tribe and with time you will get there. Entrepreneur life has been really fun and rewarding but it’s not easy. You definitely sacrifice a lot of things when you leave the comforts of health insurance, steady paychecks, vacation time and free lunch Fridays. But ultimately, if you aren’t happy with what you are doing in life then you should change that because life is too short and I want to be doing something that I look back on and am proud of. People often hold themselves back because of fear. All it takes is just making the first step towards your entrepreneur career. It could be as easy as talking about your idea with a friend but then you need to take the next step to act on it and buy a domain name then start researching your competition, etc and so on. Believe in yourself and you can make anything happen! Commit to your happiness.
I am at a point where I can finally hire someone to help me out so that’s a victory! In 2017 we did 16 vegan events and I hope to do more and travel more in 2018 all around the globe!
Selection of BEETxBEET’s products. Models: Jona Weinhofen and Michelle Weinhofen. Photo: Dylan Sido
There is an understanding that ethical design is mainly for a privileged audience as they can afford to pay for that type of design. How would you comment on that?
This is a really tough one, not only for the consumer but for the business owner as well. We all want to do the right thing and work towards that but unfortunately society has taught us that we need to shop for deals and sales and cheap-cheap-cheap. But we are doing this with a deep disconnection to where our clothes come from. It’s just like food. People don’t think about where it comes from, they just consume. If we all stopped to think – Wait a minute, where is this coming from? How is this made? –then we can start to shift our ideas and perspectives in a better more positive direction. It’s hard to educate the consumer at the same time when they are used to doing something one way and teach them why this way is better. It’s not only an expensive price for them but it’s expensive to produce. What it comes down to is ultimately properly paying workers and quality of fabrics. The cheaper you buy something the more likely it came from a place that was made unethically. There’s a great documentary on this called True Cost (2015).
What vegans and activists would you say have influenced you the most?
I love Colleen-Patrick Goudreau. I discovered her when I first went vegan and really relate to her perspective and opinions on veganism. She has a YouTube channel answering pretty much every single question you could have about being vegan. She also has many awesome cookbooks.
Ruby Roth, children book author and illustrator. She is another incredible and talented speaker when it comes to defending and speaking about animal rights and veganism.
Moby has always been a big influence. He is an amazing speaker and has a great sense of humor.
Genesis Butler aka @aveganchildsjourney, an 11-year-old activist who is very passionate about animal rights and is a wonderful speaker.
Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn the creators of top documentaries, What The Health (2017) and Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret(2014). They have changed so many people’s lives.
Taryn Rasgon aka @vegetaryn, we are good friends and she has been an inspiration to me being so young and running a great business Vegetaryn. We help and support each other all the time. It’s a blessing to have such a cool friend and fellow entrepreneur to share this journey with!
I also love Mercy For Animals and Animal Equality for all of their efforts in helping factory farmed animals!