A Conversation with Veshin Factory
Fashion Revolution Week, starting on 24th April, is dedicated to bringing together the campaign for a fairer, more equal and ethical fashion industry. A movement that spans several countries, Fashion Revolution Week calls for an overhaul of the industry that “conserves and restores the environment and values people over growth and profit”, as their manifesto states.
By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist, and vegan fashion expert.
While fashion brands are often taken to task when it comes to the practices of the fashion industry, there is one step of the production process that plays a major role: the manufacturers. As we go into this week of campaigning for a better world of fashion, we at Immaculate Vegan wish to highlight a company that is making a lasting change in the industry: Veshin, a conscious, sustainability-led manufacturer in China, focusing on working with new-generation materials such as plant-based leathers, including the pioneering plastic-free Mirum.
Born and raised in Hertfordshire, England, Veshin founder Joey Pringle has a degree in industrial design and has worked in Australia and Canada prior to relocating to China and subsequently Costa Rica. He recalls a meeting that sparked the vision behind Veshin: “I was working in Vancouver as accessories designer – a job that brought me to meet with our factory in China, for a new vegan range. I met the owner of the factory, who were keen to work with sustainable brands. We noted that as they were a leather-goods factory, this didn’t mesh well with the vegan ethos of the collection. As the owner was a practicing Buddhist, we pointed out that animals are sacred in Buddhism. He responded that working with leather was indeed a challenge for him.”
The factory owner, Hongliang Yu, revealed to Joey that he was planning to start a business that didn’t work with materials that exploited animals. Joey came on board by becoming a consultant for this new company, offering him solutions to move away from leather. Later, after being offered a promotion at his job in Vancouver, Joey hesitated. He went back to China and Hongliang, and made a case for becoming a full-time consultant. Instead, Hongliang offered him the position as co-owner. This is how Veshin was born in 2020. “I quit my job as a designer,” says Joey. “Veshin is a combination of V for vegan and Shin, which in Chinese means heart.”
Over the course of the years, Joey and Hongliang scaled the business and have worked with a variety of brands. They choose them according to five core values: sustainability, transparency, use of new-generation materials, giving back, and wellness. “Ultimately, we only want to be working with brands who align with these values,” says Joey. “We realise that not everyone will, but we would like to see them meet at least three out of the five.” Some of Veshin’s most memorable collaborations to date center around these values: “It’s always rewarding to work with value-aligned businesses, with some of the smaller brands really speaking to our values. Companies like AC, Ahimsa Collective and Eslla – with one of the Backstreet Boys on the team! – have been really great collaborations.”
Veshin also uses the United Nations sustainability goals in their framework, as well as always being mindful of how they can protect animals and be more sustainable. “This is why we work with new-generation materials, as well as creating a workplace for our workforce where they are paid a good salary so that they can sustain their lives,” says Joey.
How do Veshin see their role in the Fashion Revolution campaign? “We’d like to think that we are leading the way when it comes to radical transparency. We want to celebrate transparency and show that factories can take the initiative and be loud and proud about what they are doing to empower other factories. Our role is setting the tone, for others to replicate our model. We want people to copy us – hopefully we can inspire more to do that.”
Joey believes that change, in terms of manufacturers’ impact, will come when others become more aware of the bigger issues. “Fashion Revolution is more consumer-facing, and I think manufacturers need to learn more. It’s the consumers’ and brands’ responsibility to make sure that the manufacturers are aware and are doing enough – and once they know, they can do more to support transparency and share the stories of the workers, which is what Veshin is setting out to do.”
As head of Fashion Revolution China, Joey’s aim is to “empower and share not just Veshin’s story but lots of different stories in China, to show that it is a good place to manufacture, and the stigma is wrong”. With the good work Veshin is doing, we have no doubt he will succeed.
By Sascha Camilli
Sascha Camilli is a vegan fashion writer, speaker and activist. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, you can read our interview with her or listen to her podcast Catwalk Rebel. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.