The Best New Bags for Fall are Vegan. Meet the Designer Behind the Vegan Line Melie Bianco.
If you're like us and this time of year you can't help but want a new handbag, or two or three, now you can choose from sustainable, eco-friendly and even vegan leather options that are just as chic as the leather ones on the market. One designer creating such amazing products -- from vegan leather that isn't really leather at all-- is Melissa Song, designer of Melie Bianco, who creates vegan options as chic as any bags we have ever seen.
We decided to check in with Song, the designer of a PETA-award winning luxury vegan brand that is known for their "leather" handbags. Find out if the designer behind the brand is a vegan herself and the exact material she uses to help the environment and save the animals.
Q. What did you eat for breakfast today?
MS: Oatmeal with almond milk and berries and an almond latte.
Q. When did you become vegan?
In 2001 after I read the book "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser.
Q. What was your “why” or what’s your current motivation?
MS: My "why" was to provide an alternative choice for women that wanted stylish, well-crafted bags made with other options than leather. Turning skin into leather takes a lot of energy and produces tons of chemicals like formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives and some cyanide-based chemicals. Tannery waste contains so many pollutants that are dangerous to the person handling the production and to the surrounding environment. Vegan bags are also a lot lighter to carry, economical, and easy to take care of because you wipe them off with a clean wet cloth. In my mind, it was a "win-win" choice.
Q. What did you find to be most challenging when you went vegan?
MS: My cravings, the limited choices at restaurants at that time, and telling people that I was going vegetarian.
Q. What is your diet like?
MS: I live in the Los Angeles area so there are plenty of restaurants and grocery stores that have a wide selection. I tend to like hot meals so it's nice to walk into a restaurant and find other vegetarian selections besides a cold salad. I was born in Taiwan and grew up in Argentina, so I have a diverse diet. Luckily, I am able to walk into an Asian grocery store and buy many of the soy-based protein ingredients like tofu (made in multiple ways) and other veggies that are not found in a traditional grocery.
Across our office we have a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern grocery store, I love to buy their Shirazi, Tabouleh, and Hummus. I can also go into a Hispanic grocery store and pick up on the many fresh legumes and other types of veggies.
Q. Where do you find your style inspiration? Do you try to wear vegan fashion?
MS: Yes, I try to wear Vegan fashion as much as possible and support Vegan brands. Stella McCartney if I want to splurge, and Aritzia. Aritzia's focuses on eco-conscious brands that incorporate vegan and recycled materials. I like to check out the latest styles from the runways, but oftentimes, those styles are not practical for the everyday girl. I like to dissect runway looks and turn them into styles that are timeless, yet current and practical for everyday wear. Streetstyle is also very important to me, so I like to check out how influencers interpret fashion in their own ways.
Q. Do you have a mantra or words that you live by?
MS: Practice makes you perfect. I even say this to my son all the time; when he is ready to give up and I tell him to keep on going because there is no way you'll get it right the first few times. I have made multiple mistakes and the most important is to learn from your mistakes. I call mistakes the "University of Life". You pay for your mistakes but you learn from them.
Q: What are two things you can't live without? (Food or fashion, or both!)
MS: Food. I love food. My parents used to have a grocery store when I grew up in Buenos Aries, and I used to help them stock the shelves when I was little. I grew up around food and this is something that my family is serious about. When we have a family get together we talk about food all the time. Even if we haven't finished breakfast we will talk about what we will have for lunch and dinner!
Q: What is your go-to snack?
MS: I love Toum, a Lebanese garlic spread and I put it on everything. I always get hungry in the afternoons, so I am a big snacker. I take my almond latte coffee with whole wheat pita chips and I dip it with Toum. It's made of garlic, oil, water. and lemon. It's similar to mayonnaise but without any eggs. The consistency is light and fluffy. Trader Joe's has it now too.
Q: What was the last thing you cooked for yourself?
MS: Cauliflower rice with onions and cilantro, and grilled tofu with tomatoes, scallions and eggplant.
Q. What would you want to see more of in the world of vegan fashion?
MS: Better made vegan fashion products. I feel that sometimes vegan products tend to be made cheaply and oftentimes, brands slap "vegan" to any non-animal-derived product. It would be lovely to see brands that made better quality products and not have the association that vegan means cheaply made.
Q: Do you have a favorite vegan restaurant? What is your go-to thing to order there?
MS: Real Food Daily in Pasadena. I dig their Nachos. It's made of corn chips, cashew cheese, black beans, pico de gallo, cashew sour cream, and guacamole. Nearby we also have Veggie Grill, a fast-casual restaurant. I love their Rustic Farm Bowl with Apple Sage Sausage.
Q: If you had one message to people who are trying to add more plants to their diet what would it be?
MS: If you have ethnic grocery stores near you, try to explore them. You can find many other varieties of veggies and ingredients that will help you expand your plant-c based meals. I know that sometimes it can be challenging to think about what to buy and be inspired to cook but changing the way you shop is great for creativity and can open up your appetite and curiosity to try different plant-based dishes.