Until recently, vegan and luxury have occupied opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to consumer goods. On one end, you have the earthy, Bohemian vibe that feels a bit rough around the edges. On the other, you have opulent textures dripping with dollar signs, throwing caution to the wind in favor of extravagance.
With veganism on the rise and an increasingly urgent eye toward climate sustainability, a new paradigm is appearing among consumers, closing the gap between the two. People are demanding compassionate choices, and at the same time they are unwilling to compromise on quality and style.
Today there are an estimated 7.9 billion who adhere to a plant-based lifestyle across the globe, with the number of vegans in the United States skyrocketing from 0.4 percent to almost 3.5 percent in the last two years or so. This is not the veganism of decades past, however. Rather than be relegated to an elite corner of the “hippy/Boho” crowd, big name celebrities and influencers are jumping on board. Many, in the name of wellness.
Wellness is HOT
Goop, Peloton, Lululemon … some of the biggest names in influence and commerce these days are wellness brands. In a recent report for Luxe Digital, Florine Eppe Beauloye pointed out that, “Wellness is the new affluence and status symbol. Wellness has become a luxury lifestyle to be enjoyed and flaunted.” Clean diets, strict yoga regimens, and toned bodies are all brag-worthy these days…and for the most part, they all take a certain amount of wealth to afford.
Many of the people embracing the wellness revolution gravitate toward veganism for health reasons. Much like me, as soon as they begin to investigate what they’re putting into or onto their bodies, vegan options become more appealing. Keli Smith, founder and CEO of minimal plant-based skincare brand Kaike, is encouraged by this and hopes more people will start researching the products they use.
“When people take a more mindful look at not only what we eat, but what we put on our skin, that shapes the industry,” she said. “The more that we take a closer look at what we consume and what we use, the more we can impact the industry at large.”
Green is trendy
Even aside from health and wellness, eco-friendly products, services, and choices are becoming increasingly popular with luxury consumers. Millennials and Generation Z consumers are driving 85 percent of global luxury sales growth, and 75 percent of those same consumers were willing to spend more on a product if it was created by a sustainable or socially conscious brand. A recent report on the luxury goods market from Bain & Company asserted that, “Social responsibility remains top of mind for luxury customers and encompasses more than just environmental impact: 80 percent of luxury customers say they prefer brands that are socially responsible.”
Big name luxury brands are listening, and consumers are willing to pay premium prices.
Gucci has developed its very own vegan leather alternative called Demetra that has drawn accolades from vegans, luxury shoppers, and luxury-loving vegans alike. High-end beauty formulators including Chantecaille and Josie Maran have begun to offer vegan and cruelty-free options. PĪFERI, a footwear line created by the former head designer at Jimmy Choo, offers exquisite heels, sandals, and boots that are completely animal-free and aimed squarely at affluent consumers.
Vegan celebs like Billie Eilish are using their influence to demand more from the biggest names in luxury fashion. She wore a stunning Oscar de la Renta dress to the 2021 Met Gala…on the condition that the iconic brand stop selling any item made of fur. They agreed. Her choice to adorn herself with dozens of Cartier diamonds, a nod to the company’s dedication to responsible sourcing and strict stand against conflict diamonds.
Across industries, luxury eco-conscious and compassion-minded options are multiplying. Even the auto industry has gotten on board, with brands like Tesla, Land Rover, BMW and Porsche offering vegan interior options.
Increasingly, the world’s top Michelin-rated chefs are making waves with ethical plant-based dishes that overshadow the formerly popular meats on the menu. Chef and owner of I Eat Grass Ayinde Howell has witnessed the high-end consumer’s hunger for earth-friendly options first hand.
“We’re in a moment where everybody wants plant-based stuff,” he told me. “When I was a private chef working for wealthy people, they were probably 99% plant-based. They wanted the good shit. They wanted the organic, the shade road, the small batch.”
When Star Simmons, founder of vegan consumer apps vKind and vWire, first launched her company in 2019 she allowed the brand to take on the more “granola” look and feel that many people associate with veganism. But now, just a few years later, she’s revamping everything to align with luxury sensibilities.
“Now we’re redoing everything, new drop downs, new colors, because I know where that market’s headed. I can see it with our company, the brands that we’re working with, the beautiful purses that are coming out,” Simmons said. “That’s what’s happening and when you get names like Kardashians, as you know, that are getting behind it, that’s the direction we’re going. Everything is vegan now.”
My own research leads me to believe that vegan products, restaurants, and wearables are gaining traction in the luxury space in part because they are being produced en masse for the first time in history. Vegans have more options, including more high quality, high-end options. And as more entrepreneurs and investors get wind of the money to be made in this segment, more and more options will crop up.
But the pioneers I spoke with warned newcomers not to enter this space JUST because it’s trendy, since vegans can sniff out a fraud in a millisecond or less.
“I would definitely say, do not enter this space just to be on trend because the customers in the space can tell when that is your reasoning,” said Dyandra Raye, founder and designer of footwear line Jo-Anne Vernay. “People love to greenwash these days and say that they’re sustainable when they’re really not.”
More luxury vegans wanted …
This is an exciting moment to be in the luxury vegan market. Hundreds of innovative cruelty-free materials are being made and thousands of animal-friendly products are being manufactured to serve the high-end vegan market.
And I have gone all in on my contribution, making it my mission to do all I can to bring others into the fold of veganism by making it as accessible and alluring as possible. Always an entrepreneur at heart, I began by building a boutique vegan grocery store and clothing company. Next, I designed my recording studio, media complex, and production facility to be eco-friendly.
Then I started to think about ways to help individual influencers embrace the vegan lifestyle. I knew that making the leap was the toughest part and that people could use help easing into the transition, so I launched the world’s first luxury vegan concierge service, a high-touch program to help people adapt their lifestyles to be centered around compassion.
My latest contribution is my new high-end, luxury fashion brand. Nikki Green combines luxury earth-friendly materials, custom hardware, and figure-enhancing cuts. Nikki Green is both opulent, sustainably sourced, and expertly combines compassionate living with high fashion.
In developing Nikki Green, I’ve worked closely with my long-term stylist, Christian Allen, to conceptualize the collection, dreaming up textures, tones and elements that feel fresh and elevated. Every step of the process, from design to production to packaging, is responsibly sourced and centered on compassion.
I, for one, am constantly recruiting and innovating: I want to spend as much of my time and energy as possible bringing big-hearted luxury consumers into the vegan family.
Sometimes I feel like a very small person … but when I think about the fate of our world, I know that by using my platform to affect change in other people, I’m doing my best work. I became a vegan because I have compassion for other beings, and I have compassion for the planet, and I have compassion for myself. My mission now through Nikki Green is to help others unlock those levels of compassion in their own lives, and embrace the wonders that the luxury vegan lifestyle has to offer them.
Meet Dominique Side
As the leading authority on the luxury vegan lifestyle, I know the ins-and-outs of elevated living . . . from founding a vegan grocery boutique to operating a vegan studio, media complex, and production facility, all while living my most compassionate life. With a background in high-end real estate, I’ve gained an intimate understanding of the deeply-held values and complex realities of highly-successful people.