Natalie Dean founded Beyond Skin in 2001, in a quest to produce fashionable cruelty-free footwear that she knew women like her would want to wear, when nothing like that existed at the time. She and her company have had quite a journey along the way: from the lows (struggling to find a factory in the UK that could manufacture for them, and then having to deal with their first two factories closing down on them, in succession); to the highs (Chrissie Hynde being an early advocate, and Natalie Portman wearing their shoes to the Oscars and Golden Globes, earning them instant exposure). For more about Beyond Skin – and my favourite styles from their new collection – read my Best of Vegan British Brands. They now have a plethora of fans, including the likes of Miley Cyrus and Evanna Lynch, and are expanding their already sizable collection every season, to incorporate new styles as well as firm favourites, new colours and new materials.
What three words would you use to describe your style?
Understated, relaxed, ephemeral.
What are your favourite brands?
What is your most treasured fashion item?
A beautiful belted double-breasted red vintage coat.
What’s been your biggest fashion mistake?
Who is your style icon and why?
Madonna, she has always been innovative and adaptable.
When did you become vegan and why?
I became vegan in 2000 when I watched a BBC documentary on the dairy industry. It gave me the final thrust out of vegetarianism that I needed.
What did you find hardest when you went vegan?
Giving up my footwear collection and finding soy milk that didn’t curdle in my coffee.
What are your favourite foods?
Chocolate, coconut ice-cream and marinated tofu in that order.
What would you like to see more of in vegan fashion?
Any top tips for new vegans, or those who are thinking of trying it?
Oatly Barista – doesn’t matter which coffee you buy, it doesn’t curdle!
Why do you do what you do with Beyond Skin?
To demonstrate we can make a difference with our consumer choices.
If you weren’t doing running Beyond Skin – what do you think you’d be doing instead?
Creating an innovative start-up to deal with our current single-use plastic crisis.
Where do you get your inspiration from for Beyond Skin?
We gather inspiration from everything on a daily basis as it’s impossible to not get affected by the environment you surround yourself with, and Brighton is full of stimulating visuals to draw upon. Alongside this I absorb and become inspired via the connections I have with the people and animals in my day-to-day life.
How do you let your hair down?
Dancing with the kids listening to bad pop music.
Who do you think we should interview next and why?
Sarah Pascoe because it will no doubt be hilarious!
Interview with Lee Coren, Vegan Designer Extraordinaire
Interview with Chloe Tesla, French Vegan Model & Activist