Sascha Camilli is the Founding Editor of Vilda magazine, an international fashion journalist and European Media Coordinator for PETA with a passion for yoga and travel.
Born in Russia, raised in Sweden and married to an Italian guitarist, she has also lived in California, Milan, Florence and London before landing in her current hometown of Brighton.
Here Sascha talks to us about the work she does to promote animal rights, launching her online vegan fashion magazine and which cruelty free products she’s currently loving…
NTDF: You do some really inspiring work to promote animal rights and veganism. When did you first decide to adopt a cruelty free lifestyle?
SC: I stopped eating meat at nine years old – safe to say my family thought it was just a phase! I didn’t go vegan until much later, at 29 to be exact. I had thought about it, but was under the impression that being vegan was difficult and that I’d never be able to indulge in one of my favourite pleasures, going out to restaurants, ever again! How wrong I was. In my four and a half years of being vegan, I’ve had more delicious meals – at home and out – than ever before.
NTDF: Did you notice any significant health benefits after becoming vegan?
SC: Yes, several. While I was never an acne sufferer, I’ve never had perfect skin while I was eating dairy either – there was always a blemish or two on my face. But after I went vegan, all of those problems completely disappeared and these days, my skin is always clear. I also used to suffer from horrific stomach aches – I’d wake up at night feeling like someone was stabbing me in the stomach. I went to several doctors about it and no one advised quitting dairy, but after I did so for ethical reasons, the stomach aches vanished.
NTDF: Can you tell us a bit about the work you do at PETA and the successful changes you’ve seen as a result of your campaigns?
SC: I first came to PETA nearly two years ago in a PR role. My job was creating tailored, targeted PR projects and building relationships with the press. Some of the most successful projects I worked on was taking an InStyle writer shopping for vegan fashion on the London high street, persuading an ELLE writer to only wear vegan-friendly clothing for a week and generate press attention for our Vegan Fashion Awards as well as our Sexiest Vegan competition. I subsequently moved into my current role of European Media Coordinator, where I use my media experience and my language skills – I speak four languages fluently – to identify opportunities to spread our campaigns in the European press. It’s amazing to see change as a result of our work around the world – orders of our Vegan Starter Kits have doubled in Italy this year, meaning that more people are adopting a cruelty-free lifestyle. It’s also fantastic to see companies such as Benetton drop angora, Whistles dropping down and luxury designers like Giorgio Armani banning fur. Change is constantly happening, and it’s such an exciting time to be advocating cruelty-free living.
NTDF: You’re the Founding Editor of a really informative and stylish digital vegan magazine, Vilda Magazine. How did it all come about?
SC: When I first moved to London, I worked as a freelance journalist and magazines were my obsession. That was around the same time that I started transitioning to a fully vegan lifestyle and I noticed a gap in the market: while I was able to find ample food inspiration online, there was no space dedicated to animal-free fashion. There were “sustainable fashion” outlets but sometimes they would champion oxymorons like “ethical leather” and I missed a stylish, beautiful outlet aimed at those who didn’t want to wear animals. In 2013 I was selected for the Marie Claire Inspire & Mentor Scheme and paired with a mentor who coached me through the process of launching Vilda Magazine (the name is Swedish for “the wild one”) – the first digital magazine in the world focusing entirely on vegan fashion.
NTDF: Who is Vilda aimed at and what is the magazine’s mission?
SC: Our mission is, above all, to portray vegan fashion as luxurious, beautiful and on-trend. Vilda interacts with two target groups: the first is our readers, who are international – with a team based around the globe, we’re able to reach readers in territories as diverse as the UK, US, Brazil, Italy, Denmark, and Germany, just to name a few of our biggest markets – vegan or veg-curious, and mindful about what and where they shop. The second group we engage with are brands – fashion designers, beauty entrepreneurs, restaurant owners and other exciting, interesting change-makers in the vegan arena. One of our aims is to support them through custom editorials as our most recent one with NYC-based brand Veggani or last year’s with Raw Apparel, but also through reviews, social media campaigns, dedicated email newsletters and by featuring them on our online shop.
NTDF: Are you noticing an increasing demand for vegan and cruelty free products, especially over the last year or so?
SC: Very much so. I’ve found it to be very easy to live as a vegan in the UK since I arrived in 2012, and now there are half a million vegans in the UK! But international progress is also incredibly thrilling. When I go back to Sweden, where my family lives, or to Italy, where my in-laws live, it’s impossible not to notice vegan chains opening, new restaurants launching, and more people expressing interest in vegan living – vegans are officially 3% of the Italian population now. Fashion-wise, I believe there’s never been a more exciting time to be vegan. New brands are launching constantly – just last month we did a collaboration with Australian brand Nina Bernice, which creates handbags from cork, and we’re planning a piece on another sustainable vegan bag brand, Filbert. It’s amazing to see that new designers are increasingly choosing cruelty-free, which is a direct result of more customers demanding it.
NTDF: What are your go-to high street and online fashion labels when shopping for good quality, cruelty free clothing? What is your favourite item of vegan clothing?
SC: I love our partner brand Bead & Reel for their approach to ethical fashion – they sell beautiful items that are kind to animals, humans and the planet. A look in my closet would reveal favourites from French shoe brand By Blanch and my Brighton neighbours Beyond Skin – I love both for their sustainable, eco-friendly shoes. I own several bags by Italian label Barel Ethical Luxury – they’ve created the most amazing high-tech faux suede. Another brand I’ve loved from early on in my vegan journey is Jill Milan – their Newport tote is one of my staples and they’re amazing at blending glamour with wearability. As for the high street, I’m a big supporter of H&M’s Conscious Collection. I think we live in a time when it’s important for the big brands, the major players, to take a look at their sustainability and environmental practices and I think H&M are leading the way in doing just that. Of course, there’s still a long way to go, but I think what they’ve achieved so far really sets the standard for other brands.
NTDF: Which vegan and cruelty free beauty products are you currently loving?
SC: I adore anything LUSH, especially the I Love Juicy shampoo – nothing keeps my hair feeling clean and soft, and looking glossy, for longer. I also never leave the house without my Beauty Without Cruelty lipstick in Cerise – a red lip transforms your entire look. But my most recent discovery is the brilliant Eden Perfumes here in Brighton. It’s not easy to find vegan perfume that doesn’t come with an “earthy” telltale scent that does nothing but fuel the stereotypes about vegans, but what Eden do is they duplicate famous designer perfumes with organic, non-toxic, cruelty-free ingredients. It’s also unisex – my husband and I are both sold!
NTDF: Which vegan restaurants do you enjoy eating out in the UK?
SC: While living in London, I loved going to Vantra for a healthy lunch in a central location, or Vanilla Black – I’m a big fan of experimental vegan food with a lot of “weird” ingredients! I also love Nama in Notting Hill – everything there is so beautiful! And afternoon tea at La Suite West was a fantastic experience.
I moved to Brighton a couple of months ago and I adore the vast selection of vegan food here. So far I’ve loved the vegan breakfast at Wai Kika Moo Kau and the fine-dining experience at Terre a Terre.
NTDF: Do you have any tips for people who want to go vegan and cruelty free but are not sure where to start?
SC: Some people wouldn’t agree with me here, but I’d say to do it gradually. I didn’t cut it all out in one go – I did it step by step, that way it’s less daunting. Another tip is get better at cooking, which is also a lot of fun after you take the time to experiment with all of the versatile new ingredients you will find. Don’t rely too much on faux meats and cheeses, but try to create as many dishes as you can with beans, chickpeas and lentils and the variety of vegetables and fruit that’s available to all of us. Fashion-wise, I don’t believe there’s any need to throw out all your animal-derived clothing – you can donate it, but otherwise it’s fine to just start buying cruelty-free from now on, while finishing wearing your old leathers and wools. Take it step by step, that’s my number-one tip.