While advising fashion brands for tech companies and pursuing an MFA in fashion design, Melanie was troubled by the consistent exploitation of animals within the fashion industry.
She launched animal behavior with her co-founder in late 2014, convinced that there is a latent demand among consumers for an ethical alternative, giving back and protecting these beautiful yet endangered animals and their habitats.
Melanie has worked in various growth roles at over 9 start-ups, 2 of which were successfully acquired. She is currently focused on animal behavior’s ethical stand against traditional fashion industry practices and helping other like-minded businesses as a “hired gun.”
Hi Melanie, ‘Animal Behavior is inspired by nature to protect nature’, what drove you to start a socially responsible business?
I knew I wanted to have a positive, not negative impact on the environment, so the cruelty-free component was certainly paramount to the brand given my knowledge of the devastating impact the industry has on our natural world.
You chose to structure your brand around endangered animals, why did you choose to focus on animals?
We were founded with the mission of counteracting the effect the rest of the fashion industry has on the environment and animals’ natural habitats. By focusing on protecting species predominantly endangered due to their natural beauty, we can empower conscious consumers to positively impact these beautiful creatures for the better by becoming part of our animal behavior community.
The Amur Leopard was the inspiration behind your first collection. Why and how is the leopard reflected in the designs?
For years, I had seen a pattern in the fashion industry touting leopard as a neutral, yet it seemed no one was taking into account that this beautiful creature is critically endangered, with less than 40 — not 400, 40! — in the natural world. It seemed self-evident to me that anyone who truly admires their beauty would also be interested in their preservation.
Who is the Animal Behavior woman?
We envision her to be an eco-socialite. A woman with a true sense of herself and what she stands for; she believes we all can make a difference while still having a feminine, sophisticated style.
“A woman with a true sense of herself and what she stands for; she believes we all can make a difference while still having a feminine, sophisticated style.”
You are ethical from concept through to production. What have the challenges been in achieving this?
Keeping a lean production cycle and line, we wanted our first collection – seasonless staples – to be a foundation and start of a more sustainable, conscious closet.
Ethical living, in all respects, seems to be a growing trend. How do you feel this trend is developing in the fashion industry?
I am happy to see more industries and people setting higher standards for their business practices and purchases. The fashion industry as a whole has a long way to go, but the fact that more mainstream designers and consumers alike are turning their attention to ‘ethics first fashion’ and asking the right questions is a true milestone for the movement. It’s easier said than done, so I encourage people to really dig in and ask how ethical and sustainable the products that are being marketed as such truly are.
“It seemed self-evident to me that anyone who truly admires their beauty would also be interested in their preservation.”
With all the production locally based, do you feel that you have more control over the clothes that you’re producing?
Absolutely – we can be more hands on with quality control, as well as know that we are providing fair wages and a safe and clean working environment – something that would be impossible to know with certainty if production was overseas. This is just as important to us as being sustainable in our efforts.
Now that you have launched your first collection, where do you see the brand going?
We hope to help create awareness among consumers of the power of their purchases, and with change the way brands large and small think about their impact on the natural world around them. We are working on launching a few new colors of our most popular piece, the Panthera jumpsuit, as well as concepting new items while we find new ways to help and collaborate with our non-profit partner, Panthera.org.