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September 2000
The Origin of Vegan Street

By Marla Rose



When the name ‘Vegan Street’ appeared in my head—like a bolt of lightning—it seemed like some sort of divine moment, but actually it had been incubating for years, waiting for the right set of circumstances in which to reveal itself.

Although there were signposts along the way that pointed us to the form our business would take, I didn’t know what they were. Still, the feeling was unshakable at the time that Vegan Street was our future, and that its actual direction would reveal itself when the time was right. My husband John and I were very conscious of not projecting any personal aspirations or preconceived notions onto it other than what we already knew that our life’s work would be to promote a positive, compassionate and creative message of veganism and to spread that message to as many people as possible.

Vegan Street, as we discovered, was a deceptively simple name that conveyed a sense of community, a utopian but nevertheless attainable vision of the world we would actively create. Also, it’s not Vegan World or Vegan Stratosphere because we wanted to communicate the need to implement change house by house, street by street, town by town, country by country. Vegan Street was a good place for our dreams of social justice and expansive compassion to take root; from there, within our communities of work and home and school and cyberspace, they deepen and expand, growing in concentric circles to encompass the world.

Now, how do we create vegan streets? We knew that the best we could offer would spring from a synthesis of our mutual skills. John and I both come from a creative background; we are visually and verbally oriented. We are both classic "creative types," clueless and bored with most practical, pay-the-rent-type of minutia, but highly stimulated by crafting ideas and projects. We knew that whatever we did with Vegan Street, our work would be idea-driven and would primarily manifest as a form of creative expression.

That we would create a company that sells clothing and other items with a vegan message was a natural progression. We use organic cotton and hemp whenever possible, and our designs spring from our own ideas of what could provoke thought or interest in veganism. We sell everything from organic cotton dresses to hemp frisbees, all with an empowering vegan message. It may be easy to reduce us down to simply being a "T-shirt company," but we are actually trying something much more ambitious than that.

Vegan Street, the name and the company, is both matter-of-fact and non-defensive. We simply are, and because we are not taking a defensive stance, we are empowering ourselves and, I believe, our movement. Vegan Street is guided by a philosophy that angry and reactionary designs and concepts are disempowering at their very core, necessarily turning us into victims who are forever locked in combat with an oppressor, and oppressors always have the upper hand.

We turn that dynamic of inequity around. Our ideas and designs spring from a source of strength, independence and compassion. Veganism simply is, no need to explain it, and we rejoice in our lifestyle and the choices we’ve made. While we are approaching veganism as a natural, non-controversial evolution, our company was founded on the need to put these ideas and words into the common space, thoughtfully and attractively, to demystify veganism. Just a simple design with the word ‘vegan’ speaks volumes, and, påaradoxically, stands on its own. We are putting words, images and ideas into the mass consciousness, and, with that, we are creating a space for our culture by proclaiming it in an open, direct, warmhearted way. We are, at the root, creating the kind of world we want to live in.

I’m not myopic enough to think that a clothing company will change age-old prejudices and systems of belief, but what we are doing is a necessary part of the puzzle. Through our designs and our website, we are offering people a chance to see things in a different light, perhaps sneak an idea in at an unguarded moment, maybe demystify a word or concept through exposure. We are also giving those who are already vegan an opportunity to celebrate and promote the lifestyle we’ve discovered and continue to cultivate.

We create images and ideas that harness the positivism, compassion and dynamism we find within our movement, and we reflect it out into the world, hoping to inspire others in the same way that we’ve been, and continue to be, deeply inspired.

Marla Rose and her husband John Beske are the co-founders of Vegan Street, a web-based clothing company and vegan information and lifestyle site at


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