INTERVIEW: SHRUTI JAIN


Today we are very excited to share with you; our lovely readers our latest interview with the gorgeous Shruti Jain; founder and blogger at Style Destino. Shruti talks us through her background and what made her first start her blog in 2008; making vegan fashion super cool and easy to her thousands of readers.


Hi there! Tell us a bit about your childhood and background and how you feel that has influenced you today?

I grew up in Indore, India and I have lived in Mumbai, Leicester and Nottingham (England) and now Dubai. I come from a very spiritual family; we are strong believers of Jainism, the most non-violent clan in the world. We don’t eat root vegetables, shun meals after sunset and believe in detachment from all material things.

 

I never intended to get into the fashion industry. After all, coming from a family of Chartered Accountants it was natural for me to choose Finance for my studies and career. I did a post-graduate degree in Finance from UK, and I live and breathe finance. However, I have always had a passion for fashion even when I was young. I could easily tell difference between silk and polyester, leather and non-leather and recognise quality at one look. For me, it is always about quality over quantity, and this has helped me in my career in finance as a wealth manager and now also as a fashion influencer.


When did you decide to go Vegan and why?

Being a Jain, I always believed in living a non-violent life. So I have never had any animal as food, including eggs or even honey in my life. I don’t eat root vegetables {it kills the whole plant} or consume alcohol. Until a few years ago, I was oblivious to cruelty in the dairy industry. Back home, we always consumed milk from known farms where cows are treated very well. In India, Hindus consider the cow holy and many people, even to date, respect and take care of cows. So not only are the cow’s grass fed, the milkman takes milk from cow only after feeding the calf. No machines are used to milk the cows, nor are they injected with hormones.

 

A few years ago, my brother who lived in the US for a long time told me about the horrors of the dairy industry. That was when I started doing my research and watching videos of the treatment of cows for milk. When I moved to Dubai in 2014, that was my vegan calling. I couldn’t follow a Jain lifestyle yet have milk or milk products that come from harm and inhumane treatment on any animal. That’s when I made the vegan switch.



When did you decide to start up Style Destino and what was your motivation behind it?

I was part of the first wave when blogging just started. Back in college, when nobody knew who bloggers were, I came across a few websites on fashion while researching something. The one blog I particularly remember was The Style Bubble. That was my first introduction to blogging (almost a decade ago). I was fascinated by the whole concept of blogging – it was quite intriguing and exciting at the same time.

 

Being a lifelong vegetarian, I never used leather and was always conscious about my lifestyle choices down to the beauty products I was using. However, as a connoisseur of all things fashion it was hard for me to find quality vegan shoes, bags or makeup without animal ingredients. Style and cruelty-free were an almost oxymoron and so I was always on the lookout for brands that could meet my standards. Back then there were fewer online stores and most brands didn’t ship internationally. So I always had to find someone from my family or friends who were travelling to US or UK to get my stuff. Moreover, I didn’t find any platforms that shared cruelty-free fashion and beauty. That is when I decided to start my own blog to show people that style and ethics can coexist and that fashion does not have to come at the cost of an animal’s life. Hence Style Destino was born (first it was Beautify for 2.5 years and then renamed Style Destino in 2011).

 

Through Style Destino I want to create a platform where people can get access to information about their fashion choices so they can make an informed purchase, to showcase stylish vegan looks and introduce them to vegan brands.


What did your friends and family think of you shopping cruelty-free?

They know I am a crazy person who ransacks the world for vegan shoes, bags, makeup and is always on the lookout for someone travelling to or coming from the US, UK or Australia. They are mostly kind of used to it. In fact, after constant hammering, a few of my friends have also given up leather!


What sets apart Style Destino?

I think the most important thing is that it is much more than just Fashion. Style Destino is about telling people you can look great without inflicting cruelty on anyone – animals, planet or humans. Luxury does not always have to come at the price of someone’s life. Calling ‘leather’ a luxury is a passe because you can find leather even in a dingy street stall. True luxury can never come from a backdrop of exploitation of animals, humans or planet. In addition to the cruelty aspect, one must also consider the environmental impact. A vast amount of resources is used to raise an animal in order to become an accessory, which could have been used to feed thousands of people.

 

If you are spending your bucks on a quality product, it must come from a quality place using the most high-tech materials without harming a soul. That’s what Style Destino is about – balancing authentic quality and ethics – reinstating luxury and style ethically.

 

Besides I am part of the original blogging generation, I started my first blog back in 2007. Style Destino is not just another fashion blog – it has a soul, it has a voice and it brings ethics and style on one platform. I’m a writer, I’m a finance person and I’m a conscious fashionista (I don’t like the sounds of this word but it makes the point!) – so I write a lot and make sure it is not random but has a point.



What is your favourite thing about Style Destino and what is the most exciting opportunity to have come out of having started it?

Apart from fashion, I am very particular about what I put in my body. Although I hate cooking (I could never prepare a complete meal!), but I love smoothies and often make them myself. Over the last few years, I started sharing my vegan and healthy meals and smoothies on my social channels and blog, and lots of people have emailed me how my blog inspired them to adopt a healthier lifestyle. There are many people in the transition stage to veganism who reach out to me; seeking support and advice on how to make this new lifestyle work for them. I am always happy to share my experience and speak my heart out to them about this compassionate choice and I feel so glad when this advice could make a difference in their life.

 

I have even had few men asking me about where can they find good vegan shoes and what can they gift their “brand conscious” girl sans leather. Helping them out in whatever way I can, and helping save few animals is the best thing about Style Destino. That gives me the kick to go on and share this amazing vegan journey with the whole world.


What are your tips for someone wanting to get started with going vegan cruelty-free through their shopping choices?

The key things to look out for and avoid when shopping for vegan fashion is:

  • Fur
  • Feather
  • Wool
  • Silk
  • Leather

 

Most premium and luxury brands, or the high-price point collections of high street brands like Zara, Mango or H&M either use silk or wool. So, make sure to read the label before purchasing.

 

While I always ask the shop assistant about whether a certain item has leather, silk or wool, I always make sure to read the material description myself. If its not attached to the item, I ask them to verify it on their system. Often, the shop assistants do not know about the material and if they know you don’t want leather, their wild guess will always be what you want to hear “no it is not leather”. To cut it short, don’t trust the words, do the research and verify from the source.

 

Whether or not you want to ditch all non-vegan items from your current wardrobe is a personal choice, I would recommend at least donate leather items to some charity store. Once you have made the vegan choice, why do you want to be seen wearing a dead animal’s skin. There are so many quality vegan options available. For example, Angle Roi, Matt and Nat and Stella McCartney make amazing bags, for shoes my favourite picks are Olsen Haus, Susi Studio, Charles and Keith, Opificio V and Bourgeois Boheme. Dauntless makes amazing vegan leather jackets and all these brands are also eco-friendly and sustainable. After all, you don’t want to wear vegan clothing that is made using child labour or comes from factories where the labor can’t afford even proper meals.

 

Earlier on I wasn’t very conscious about other ethical aspects of fashion; as long as my items didn’t harm animals I was happy. But when I read about and saw the videos on the treatment of labor in factories and how the fast fashion industry is damaging the planet, it changed things for me. The Rana Plaza story was especially an eye-opener that I felt at heart. Being a vegan is about making a compassionate choice, and that means compassion for everyone. So I would recommend that, as much possible, buy from brands that are 100% ethical. Trust me there are plenty of them!



What are your must have vegan fashion items you can’t live without?

  • A good pair of jeans (with no leather tags) that you feel amazing in – I love AG jeans, they are ethically made and uses eco-friendly materials and the fit is amazing. Rag & Bone also has great denim and it fits me like a glove. Plus they don’t have leather tags!
  • A good pair of heels – having petite feet has some challenges but fortunately I manage to find some good leather-free shoes. KG by Kurt Geiger, Miss KG, Opificio V and Charles and Keith are my favourites, they have a good selection of leather-free shoes. I recently bought the Stella McCartney platform shoes and they’re amazing. I practically live in them now, and they go with pretty much everything from dresses, skirts to denim.
  • A chic sling and a versatile tote – A good handbag puts together even the simplest look, and I swear by my Stella McCartney sling and Issey Miyake Bao Bao tote. They both are classic examples of vegan luxury – simple and elegant and made from absolutely cruelty-free materials.
  • A white shirt – it can work in a lot of ways.
  • Red lipstick – when I want to make a statement without much effort a red lipstick does the job. Its powerful, sexy and strong – just how I feel. Lush Decisive and Hourglass Opaque Rogue Matte are the best I’ve come across!
  • A pair of sunglasses – They bring elegance and class effortlessly. I want to get a pair of good eco-friendly ones soon, but currently I am living by Dior So Real.

What’s it like being vegan in the city you live in?

I come from Mumbai, India and despite having world’s largest vegetarian population, your choices as a vegan is very limited in India. It’s a dairy obsessed country and veganism hasn’t quite picked up yet. Finding vegan cheese, vegan chocolates or vegan butters is next to impossible in Mumbai.

 

But Dubai, where I live now, is absolutely different. Before I moved to Dubai I always presumed that being a vegan here would be really hard. In fact it’s the opposite, you can easily lead a vegan lifestyle in Dubai and get all the fancy vegan food. It was in Dubai that I made the complete vegan switch and the healthy and vegan food scene is growing by the day!


Why do you think everyone is so much more aware of eating healthier and plant based over the last few years?

There are a few reasons for this. With increased awareness through media (online and offline) about the positive impact of a plant-based diet on one’s health and overall well-being;  more and more people are starting to make the switch. People are also generally much more conscious about their health than they were, say, 5 years back. Celebrities, too, have made a huge contribution in the plant based movement. Ever since stars like Rihanna and J-Lo have attributed their perfect bodies and health to a vegan diet, suddenly the whole world is talking about it. Being vegan is the new cool thing, and it’s here to stay.

 

Instagram is another big reason. When you see so many good-looking plant based meals, often flaunted by gorgeous women with perfect bodies, it kind of inspires you to give it a shot. When you come across inspiring stories of vegans from across the world through social media and other platforms, it makes it easier for you to try this lifestyle too. Education through movies like Earthlings and Peta videos have also planted an important role in taking vegan lifestyle to masses.


What inspires you?

I am on a mission to become better than I was yesterday. This is what inspires me!



What’s your average day like? From the time you get up to how you break up your day and when you go to bed.

I am not an early riser, but I try to wake up at least 2 days a week at 7am but everyday is completely different. Some days I am hooked to my computer creating investment plans, doing back-to-back Skype calls. Other days I’ve got my fashionista hat on and I am at fashion weeks or working on ideas for my blog. The rest of the time I am posting about my healthy vegan meals and smoothies on Instagram.


What’s the best part of your job?

Whether it is planning someone’s financial future or offering style advice, the best part about my job is that it helps me make a positive difference in someone’s life.


What words do you live by?

Believe in yourself and never let your conscience down. Not money, not fame, not designer bags will make you content or go with you, but your good deeds and thoughts will!


What’s next for you?

Video is the future of the internet. So it is really something I want to explore. The problem is I am still not comfortable being the face of the camera, and I am a perfectionist, so my goal is to understand how to start with video with these two challenges!


If you enjoyed our interview with Shruti just as much as we did, check her out here. If you are vegan blogger, business or just about anyone leading an inspiring vegan lifestyle then please get in touch about being part of our interview series 🙂

All images via Style Destino.

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