‘Simple Animal’ is a young fashion label that specialises in trendy, organic and fair, vegan fashion for animal lovers. Created by Miriam Agat, Simple Animal loves otherness and embraces all things different. They love vegans, the LGBT scene and everyone who’s a little quirky and open-minded.
Tell us about family background – geography, culture, language, and religion.
I was born in a small town in Germany, Bad Nauheim, near Frankfurt and lived in Friedberg for six years until my family decided to re-locate to Israel. My father is Israeli and his dad lived there, but when the first Gulf War broke out and my mum lost her best friend in a lorry crash, we all went back to Germany. Another picturesque, but very dull area in the Rheinland Palatinate. There was not much space for creative minds. It was all very close-minded and depressing. I also had a hard time, because I was confronted with racism and had to learn to read and write German. At 17, I decided to move to the next bigger town (Mainz), where I took vocal lessons and did a gap year at the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union.
What is your personal story – education, prior work, and so on?
I then began to train as an admin, was kicked out after three months and started working in a call-centre for a mail ordering business, where I stayed for two and a half years, before they went bankrupt. I found a leaflet that advertised adult college and so decided to get my German baccalaureate and found myself studying full time for it for the next three years.
I was now qualified to study and so I applied for a union-funded scholarship, which amazingly fully paid for my degree of British studies and sent me to London to study abroad for a year. I never returned! I was immersed in the world of music in London and fell in love with the cultural melting pot that this city is. Six years later I am still in London. I am not sure how Brexit will affect things, but I can’t be certain that I will spend the next six years in London.
I graduated from uni in 2013 and since have been working in events as a freelancer, which I had already started during my uni time in Germany. After graduating, I decided it was time to create my own business.
How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?
I am vegan and wandered about at a vegan fair one day, when it struck me that most of the t-shirts that were sold had oil-based ink on them and were not fairly traded. I thought: this is not right. If we’re vegan, we must surely also think about the consequences for the environment and the people involved in the process of producing the clothing, too. This was the moment Simple Animal was born. On my way back home, I got all excited and drafted the idea of the brand in my head.
How did your educational/professional experience inform fashion work?
I am not sure my education informed a lot of my fashion work. It was more helpful in terms of organising things and actually believing in what I do and executing it. Drafting an idea in my mind and pulling through with it.
What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?
I believe ethical and sustainable fashion designers are part of the future. It is sad that capitalism rules the world and everything that seems to count is profit.
In times of Donald Trump, it is hard to believe that us sustainable designers will have much of a say, but I believe that we have to be a countermovement to all the horrible stuff that’s out there. If we don’t believe in it, who will? There needs to be an intelligence that stands up for the important things and keeps up hope in times where stupidity seems to rule.
What is the importance of fair trade?
Fair trade should really be the standard, but it is difficult to monitor. Everyone should be paid fairly for their work and it is sad that there are factories out there who have children slave away for the production of chip clothes and that people are slaving away under inhumane conditions for very little money.
Fair-trade is important and it should be advertised and communicated how important it is. People go and buy the cheapest coffee, clothes, etc. without thinking that step ahead. They need to be reminded of the process that stands behind producing their everyday goods. They don’t just appear on the shelves, someone puts a lot of labour in for those goods to be enjoyed/consumed
What is Simple Animal?
Simple Animal is an ethical fashion label that screen prints original designs of happy animals onto ethically sourced and fairly traded t-shirts and totes. The designs feature real life, happy animals from different parts of the world. Apart from the ant design I have personally met and photographed all of those animals and some of them were my much loved pets.
What inspired the title of the organization?
Now, the title Simple Animal was actually inspired by a Foo Fighters song. There’s a line in a song that goes: ‘Such a simple animal, sterilised with alcohol, I could hardly feel me anymore’ (Come Alive).
I don’t actually drink, but I liked the line and I think it boils down to the following: we are all simple animals in a way. We are all more or less the same and in extreme situations we will all just follow our instincts.
Non-human animals and human animals are not that different at all and I wish people would see that, when they tuck into their chicken, or their ham sandwiches. It pains me a lot that animals have to suffer for the pleasure of peoples’ taste buds or for stupid pom poms on hats that are made of real fur.
I get so upset in the winter, when I walk around and see how many people just don’t care at all. They don’t waste a single thought on what they’re wearing.
What are some of its feature products?
The most popular products at the moment are indeed the ants who come in a wraparound design and the cat frontin’ design. I transformed the image of one ant into a line of ants that crawls up the t-shirt and then walks down the back. People are either freaked out, or in love! It’s great to see their reactions. The cat frontin’ is a little feline I met in my granny’s village in Germany. She was super friendly and very cute. Most people are drawn to her and she reminds them of their own cat, so she’s definitely a best seller.
What are the main fibres and fabrics used in the products?
I work with organic cotton, lyocell and bamboo.
Who grows, harvests, designs, and manufactures the products of Simple Animal?
I buy the t-shirts and totes from a supplier called Continental and Earth Positive. They are certified organic and fair trade.
What is your customer base – the demographics?
Most of my customers are from the UK, but Simple Animal also has a large fan-base in Italy. But there are also people in Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, the US, Canada and South Africa wearing Simple Animal.
What topics most interest you?
Veganism is a topic very close to my heart. I’ve been an ethical vegan for the last 6 years and that has also opened my eyes to other environmental issues and fair labour conditions for people.
What personal fulfillment comes from this work for you?
It is good to know that Simple Animal doesn’t contribute to mass production. We have a zero waste policy. No t-shirt goes to waste. The flawed ones get sold for less money in the ‘Imperfectionist’ section on the website or at vegan fairs. It also makes me happy to see that people like the designs and materials and that they get excited about the concept. Simple Animal is very inclusive. We invite all genders to pick whatever t-shirt style they want to pick. Whether you’re straight, gay, lesbian, a-sexual, gender-fluid, green, white, black, yellow, or rainbow coloured, thin, big, wobbly or lean, you are welcome to wear our t-shirts. I hope this comes across and just hope that people like it.
Any recommended means of contacting, even becoming involved with, Simple Animal?
By all means. We’re on social media (Twitter: SimpleAnimalTS, Insta: SimpleAnimal, and Facebook: SimpleAnimal) and you can reach us via email on firstname.lastname@example.org. Simple Animal is a small business, so there are no funds to pay for a role within the company, hence: there are no roles. I wouldn’t feel comfortable not paying people for their work.
Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion based on the conversation today?
Thank you for the interview; it was good to reflect on the brand that Simple Animal has become and to remind myself and others that every contribution, no matter how small, can actually matter. Instead of shifting responsibility, each and every one of us should aim to improve a little something within their power. I think that if we aim to help each other and give a little of our time and thought to others and not just think about our own day-to-day struggles, we can make this world a nicer place to live in for humans and animals alike. I am a big fan of effective altruism, google it!
Thank you for your time, Miriam.