"Dear Diary, One day, I am going to be vegetarian. Yours truly, Bianca"
By vegetarian, I meant vegan. It was an idea I had toyed with even before I learned there was a word for it. I was seven and inexplicably drawn to a lifestyle I had no exposure to. As a sensitive, introspective child, I often sought refuge in nature, dreaming up my own versions of Utopia. I would build fortresses and tree houses in the woods. I attribute my early vegan inclinations to the connection I had with the outdoors.
Throughout my youth, I oscillated between plant-based and omnivorous diets, but it wasn’t until I studied abroad at fourteen that I became aware of the detrimental effects of factory farming. My animal-derived diet was poisoning and depleting potable water, arable land, and clean air. The numbers made it very clear: factory farming contributed to one of the most serious threats to the planet, global warming. The final switch to veganism was instantaneous.
As I familiarized myself with the lifestyle, I grew more cognizant of the delicate balance of our planet, and realized that the suffering of animals, of the planet, of my own health was unnecessary and cruel. One could live a perfectly healthy, satisfying life without having to partake in such inhumane practices.
Embracing veganism was fulfilling but did not come without its own challenges. Peers constantly pointed out inconsistencies and would spark arguments about the hypocrisies of my vegan lifestyle. To be fair, at the time, vegan restaurants were few and far between, trips to the grocery often turned into scavenger hunts, and cruelty-free fashion was close to non-existent, making it that much harder to find and support vegan companies I could stand behind.
Something had to be done. What started out as a personal endeavor quickly turned into my life’s work. I found an opportunity to inspire and support others to make more conscious decisions. In 2015, I opened the first vegan restaurant in the Philippines, one of the most meat-centric food cultures in the world. It was a hit and a boost to the ego, but it didn’t grow at the rate I hoped it would. I was confronted with a new issue: How do I make the vegan lifestyle more appealing and accessible to people throughout the globe?
One of the greatest opportunities to measure up to our values lies in our sartorial decisions, from head to toe. Fashion has always been a huge part of my life; as I was growing up, my mother was a children’s fashion designer. She would put on a little musical show to help me get dressed in the morning. As a result, I loved expressing myself through my wardrobe and always strongly believed one should never feel the need to compromise their personal style to uphold their values.
Enter SUSI Studio, a Los Angeles-based lifestyle company on a mission to provide sustainable, cruelty-free footwear that's both functional and stylish. My goal for SUSI is to create a platform to inspire creativity and compassion.
No matter what your diet, be it vegan, vegetarian, or omnivorous, I would love for you to join me in this movement by taking that first step to conscious living. Start today.