In 2008, Joshua Katcher launched The Discerning Brute, an online publication for “intelligent men who want to make ethical, informed decisions concerning their lifestyles.” Three years later, he transitioned from food to fashion with Brave GentleMan, a brother-website and fashion label that featured “principled attire” and “smart supplies” for the modern vegan man. This year, he debuted his Spring/Summer 2014 suit collection at Fall Fashion Week.
Katcher says the food to fashion shift was easy for him because he believes the two industries are closely related: “The fashion industry is a powerful global industry with enormous impacts on billions of animals, millions of people, and ecosystems throughout the globe. In many ways, the livestock industries supply both food and fashion. Wool, leather, feathers, and fur seem to dominate fashion discourse and define luxury.”
Brave GentleMan has redefined luxury with its vegan boot collection, which stands out from most other vegan or accidentally vegan boots.
Katcher collaborates with Novacas to make his shoes and explains the decisions that went into the manufacturing process, “I took the time to research and utilize the strongest, hi-tech and non-toxic microfiber ‘future-leather’ from Italy.”
Because most faux leather is a coated canvas (a liquid leather-like plastic smeared across a canvas and then dried), everyday wear and tear puts stress put on the canvas fibers — forcing them to crack and fray over time. Brave GentleMan’s boots, however, are made of a microfiber, which Katcher says “pretty much does exactly what skin does: it ages nicely, has a suppleness, it breathes, breaks in. I still wear my first generation boots that made it through two NYC winters, and they still look great.”
He adds, “It’s funny to me that the leather industry seems to own the language of quality. Words like genuine, real, full grain, buttery, supple… they all have a very robust resonance. This is simply a result of good marketing. There are materials, however, that are superior to leather, and I use those.”
Visionary Boot $304.00
Katcher notes that the durability of Brave GentleMan’s boots isn’t just a result of the materials, but their design. “The boots are not meant to be trendy. These are classic styles that should last,” he says. “These should be boots that break in beautifully and that can be fixed by a cobbler and worn for years…That was the whole reason I wanted to start making shoes and boots – because so many vegan shoes were notorious for falling apart, cracking, and fraying on the edges.”
This is also the reason why Katcher debuted a new suit collection this Fashion Week, but not a new Spring/Summer 2014 shoe collection. “My shoe collection is not designed to change every season. I am building up a core collection of classic shoes and boots that will mostly remain the same over time…” he affirms. “I am very against the idea of fast-fashion and change for the sake of change. Boots should last for years. You should be able to see them evolve into something distinctly yours, and pass them down. ”
Not only are Brave GentleMan’s boots durable, but they’re also socially and environmentally responsible. Katcher says, “These [boots] are made fairly in Europe with materials made sustainably in Italy. Factory workers are paid a living wage, unlike many of the cheap boots you’ll find in the big box stores. I have trouble calling anything made in a sweatshop vegan or cruelty-free.”
Katcher attributes the inspiration of his shoe collection to his belief that design and aesthetics and production processes should be equally important. He says, “I name my shoes after archetypes like Defender, Visionary, Worker, Lover, Advocate, Scholar, and Expert. I hope these are positive and aspirational, symbolically speaking.” Although his collection wasn’t designed along a main theme, Katcher says that in all of his products he always tries “to curate the collection to meet a variety of customers’ desires from Wall Street to a dirt road.”
Worker Tan $250.00
Katcher isn’t afraid to admits his newbie status in the fashion world, though he’s already proven himself a veritable success. “Just lasting a few seasons and growing the brand has been a big accomplishment. This is a tough industry, and it’s easy to see how people can fail,” he says. “Pushing through the tough periods takes a lot of courage and willpower, and this was a big personal accomplishment for me.”
To Katcher, the most rewarding part of his job doesn’t take place on the runway, but in the homes of his customers. He loves getting customer feedback. “People love their boots! They post them on Instagram, [or] I see people wearing them around NYC. I even was contacted by a foot and ankle surgeon who swears by Brave GentleMan shoes and boots,” he says.
“People are often shocked when I tell them my shoes and boots are vegan because they’ve been conditioned to think of vegan shoes as clunky, bulbous, and of poor quality,” Katcher says. “It’s rewarding to prove that vegan shoes can be superior to mainstream shoes and boots. My main goal is to make boots that can compete with any other well-made boot on the market. Being a vegan boot should be the icing on the cake.”
If Brave Gentleman’s newest collection is any indication, Katcher’s well on his way to change the luxury boot industry, one step at a time.