Here at NAK, we are well aware that subscribing to an entirely vegan lifestyle is a challenge to undertake. We admire the men and women who do, and we are always eager to get to know them—to learn from them and to pick up pointers that we can apply to our own lives. Recently, we had the pleasure of meeting Stefi Depeppe, a Milan-based stylist who blogs at Ethical Code. We appreciate her philosophy and wanted to find out about her life as a vegan, so we decided to sit down and have a chat with her. Read on for our interview with Stefi!
NAK: What motivated you to start Ethical Code?
Stefi: I’ve been an animal lover since I was a child, and this is why I decided to stop eating animals at age 16. Many years ago, being vegan was really harsh because it was impossible to find ethical shoes or bags made with different material from real leather. And eating abroad was also hard. There has been an incomprehensible discrepancy between ‘elegant, stylish, classy, and of quality’ and ‘ethical, non-violent, respectful’. But now, in 2015, everything is easier. The world is changing and being vegan can be a choice to improve ourselves and our lifestyles, and to preserve the planet and respect animals without any sacrifice. With this project, I’d like to share my point of view with everybody: vegans or vegetarians who look for classy and fashionable items in line with their philosophy; animals lovers who want to find different and high quality animal-free items; or the curious who constantly look for fashion trends. I deeply believe this is the right way to change people’s minds regarding ethical fashion, without making them feel guilty or showing them grim images of animals.
NAK: What does sustainable fashion mean to you?
Stefi: As I said, the fashion world should respect animals, the planet, and human beings. In my opinion, sustainable fashion should mean high quality items made with natural or recycled materials, while respecting workers’ rights and possibly giving a little part of earnings in support of charity organisations.
NAK: How would you describe your personal style? Do you strictly wear vegan clothing? If no, what things have been difficult to give up or find replacements for?
Stefi: My personal style changes with my state of mind. Today, I feel classy or girly, so I feel comfortable wearing a dress or a suit and heels. Tomorrow, I’ll feel sporty, so I’ll wear jeans and sneakers. I’m a mom as well as an actress, a dubber, a blogger, and a businesswoman; and my style constantly changes. And in any case, being comfy and being just myself is the best way to feel fine. Since I became vegan, I decided to strictly wear ethical materials, excluding leather, down, and fur (I’ve never worn real fur, even when I was a model), but I’ve always tried to be coherent with my philosophy. This is why I spent many winters just wearing Superga shoes (and I guarantee it was so arduous and cold!), till I found the first company that made nice shoes in breathable vegetal materials. So I went to Verona twice a year by train or by car to buy some shoes, because at the time, the Internet didn’t exist and everything was more difficult.
NAK: What are your dreams for the future of vegan fashion?
Stefi: I hope the world of fashion will stop using animals and poisonous materials, and people will understand there are many other valid materials and ethical ways to be trendy and stylish.
NAK: What, in your experience, has been the most challenging thing about being vegan?
Stefi: Years ago, it was really difficult finding vegan food out of home, or comfortable shoes made without leather. Now, being vegan is simpler. You can find soy milk in every café or you can buy vegan food in every supermarket. In my opinion, it’s really, really important to read a lot of books about vegan diets. You can also change personal habits step by step, listening to the body the entire time. Each to his own. The change will be enduring, and you’ll never feel bad. Remember: choose by yourself! Don’t let yourself be influenced by someone else.
NAK: Milan, and Italy in general, is known for their food. Which places in your city are perfect for vegans wanting to eat well and deliciously?
Stefi: We are very lucky, because the Mediterranean diet is really close to the vegetarian diet. You can find many traditional Italian dishes completely vegan or vegetarian. And it’s the healthiest diet of them all. There are a lot of good restaurants in Milan. We’re spoilt for choice! My favorites overall are Joia by Pietro Leemann, the only vegan and vegetarian starred restaurant; and Osteria al 55 by Michele Maino, another beautiful place where you can taste delightful and colourful vegan or vegetarian traditional dishes!
NAK: What little things do you do in order to help save the environment?
Stefi: We can do many little but important things to save the environment, starting from educating our children, to keeping clean and not throwing litter on the ground. I think it’s important to choose organic and biodegradable detergents. Do not waste water; do not turn on too many lights in the house; choose, as often as you can, fresh and in-season food to reduce pollution caused by the transport of fruit and vegetables from distant countries.