Matt & Nat vegan, eco-friendly handbags and wallets merge style, quality, function, innovation, sustainability, fashion and compassion. We’ve come a long way from hemp.
In this Big City Vegan Podcast with Matt & Nat founder Inder Bedi, we talk about how Matt & Nat came into being, everything from style and fashion to inspiration and the process of how innovative ideas and materials come together like a match made in vegan heaven. From plastic bottles to the soft inner lining of these cruelty-free, eco-fabulous handbags, wallets and travel bags, where there’s a will there’s a way and Inder and his company have found a way to do it.
It’s all about the animals, the environment, health, people and the planet, then the fashion and of course, the food! We had a chance to chat about his favorite vegan restaurants in Montreal and New York City and other places around the globe.
Just click the play button or download link (above) to listen to our full podcast interview with Inder Bedi, founder of Matt & Nat.
Matt & Nat handbag giveaway coming up!
Great news for all Matt & Nat fans, we are sponsoring a giveaway of one of the beautiful bags from this season’s collection coming up in a matter of days. You can sign up for our free no non-sense newsletter (see below) to get updates so you don’t miss out.
Listen to the full podcast or read some of the interview here.
Tell me a little bit about your background. How did you get started? What was your inspiration to create vegan cruelty-free eco-friendly vegan handbags and accessories?
I’ve been vegetarian since I was a teenager and when I was in university we had to write a business plan and actually go out and get funding for it. It was my last semester so I was actually studying to apply for law school. It was a course that I didn’t want to take but I needed to take it to complete my credits so I actually based the business plan on what would be the basis for Matt and Nat. It basically combined the worlds of fashion and sustainability as I felt frustrated as a consumer that it was tough to find products that were interesting but vegan, so that was in 1995. I scrapped my plans for law school and gave it a shot.
Why was your interest in accessories over clothes or other kinds of things?
I always found there was a certain freedom in accessories, just in the sense that you can play with different shapes. Especially with bags, as long as you have a way of carrying it you have a lot of freedom in terms of the silhouette of the products, so I guess that’s where the attraction was.
One of our biggest influences is architecture, especially minimalistic Japanese architecture that I find with handbags there’s something there that kind of ties the two together, maybe more so than clothing. It’s not that we are opposed to doing other items to get this to be even more of a lifestyle brand but that’s where it started, with bags and wallets.
Why that aesthetic? What appealed to you about the architecture and that influence?
I think it’s in terms of the business and the way you run things and that follows through all the way to the aesthetic of the brand. There’s this certain low key minimalist approach that we take to pretty much everything we do as well as the fashion aspect. We want our pieces to be timeless. We don’t want them to be overly trendy or pieces that you could wear this season and a year or two years from now you wouldn’t want to pull it out of your closet. We want the pieces designed in a way that whether it’s two years or five years that they’re still pertinent to everything that’s going on.
It must have been challenging to find materials that are not only vegan, not made with animal products like leather and fur, but that are also environmentally friendly as well.
We work closely with labs and where we’re constantly looking at developing new innovative and sustainable materials. As long as the efforts are there you know what they say, where there’s a will there’s a way. When you want to create something bad enough the universe kind of just lends you a helping hand and we’ve been blessed to be able to find these great materials that just tie in with our ethos when it comes to design.
So one of the materials is plastic bottles. It’s crazy to think of what you come up with using that material. How do plastic bottles turn into the soft lining that is the fabric for your bags?
It’s broken down into a fiber called PET which can then be worked with in so many different ways, so we use it for the linings of our bags. We have done previous collections where we’ve actually made the shells of bags out of recycled bottles. Every couple of years we try to push the envelope in terms of launching a new and sustainable material, so cork is one of the materials we’ve been playing with a lot lately. We’re working on a material that’s made from recycled bicycle tires that I’m really excited about just because I think myself, people in our company and a lot of our customer’s are really into bikes, whether they’re fixed gear or whatever they are, so just being able to take tires that are usually discarded and recycle them, I think that’s going to be really interesting.
So you’ve been vegetarian 20 years, since you were a teenager, did you go vegan at some point?
I don’t wear leather and obviously no meat, no fish. I try to avoid dairy when I’m traveling wherever I can. I’d say I’m vegan most of the time and I try to be raw as much as I can as well.
Was is difficult to make the switch, to go veg?
No. It felt very natural. It felt like part of our evolution I guess as humans on this planet that it’s our next step I think. … Knowledge is power. … When you read books like Eat To Live or so many others out there that you just start realizing that it just doesn’t make sense the way a lot of us are living.
Seems there’s lots of momentum these days.
Yeah it’s exciting to see. Especially, a lot of us are such big foodies so when you go to a new city when you’re traveling a lot I always try to check out the vegan scene at any city I go to and more and more even in smaller towns and cities you’re seeing vegan restaurants that are popping up everywhere and they’re doing such innovative things. It’s exciting.
You mentioned traveling, are there any favorites for you in terms of places to go as a vegan or favorite restaurants.
There are cities where there’s a bigger selection of restaurants, New York and LA obviously. Vancouver is great. But I was in Edmonton last week, which is a smaller city in Canada, and I went to this vegan restaurant that was actually open for breakfast. They open at 9:00AM which is really rare. Most vegan restaurants only open later on, for lunch and dinner. You know we were talking about Gardein before but these guys do their own homemade breakfast sausages, like everything is made there which is so impressive. … It was just really nice to see the burgeoning vegan scene in some of these smaller cities.
What’s the name of it?
It’s Clever Rabbit.
What are your favorite restaurants in Montreal?
Aux Vivres is definitely our favorite in terms of vegan. I think it’s amazing they just do great things. There’s Crudessence which is raw. There’s Commensal which is actually a vegetarian buffet. They have vegetarian foods from all over the world. You pay by weight. It’s kind of a neat concept.
What are your favorite New York City vegan restaurants?
What do you love at Terri?
The vanilla shake and they do a “chicken” cheddar ranch sandwich which is crazy. It’s so good…I love the fact that they’re open from 6:00AM in the morning. That’s fantastic…I’d love to see more breakfast vegan places. I think maybe that’s one thing we’re missing.
What do you think about the trends in veganism in terms of fashion? Are you seeing more mainstream designers looking towards more cruelty free & eco sustainable materials?
The last couple years a lot of companies came out with a vegan offering, especially in handbags. When I started a lot of people didn’t even know what vegan was and now you see a lot of handbag brands coming out with diffusion brands that they also promote as being vegan. I think any movement in that direction is positive even if it’s a diffusion brand. It doesn’t matter. At the same time, real fur is bigger than it’s ever been.
What inspires you from season to season in terms of style?
We get inspired by everything from music to architecture to food to some underground designers that are doing interesting things…it’s whatever captures our eye at the moment, as well as our customers. Just sometimes hanging out at stores that sell our product and looking at the people coming and going and just seeing what they’re into, it’s whatever surrounds us.
Sometimes we forget that fashion is, in our opinion, very individual, it’s very personal. There’s different ways of looking at it but for us it’s a way of making a statement, your own statement, whatever that is.
Do you have any sense of your client base, in terms of being vegan or not vegan? Do you have any celebrities who are drawn to your brand?
We’ve had some great celebrity ambassadors. It’s great because they help spread the word about Matt & Nat and even more importantly about veganism and the fact that there are options out there. We’ve sent bags to Natalie Portman which she’s actually used in a couple of movies. At one point we started doing diaper bags for Gwyneth Paltrow which is kind of interesting. She wanted a vegan diaper bag. Then there’s Charlize Theron and Eva Mendes, who’ve sent us thank you notes and cards for what we’re doing, so it’s always interesting.
Was that a one-off, the maternity bag for Gwyneth or do you still make them?
We still have a diaper bag. It started out as a request from the agents that represent her and then we just kept going with it because it’s an item that actually sells really well for us every season.
And you’ve got bags now that are really tech friendly.
Yeah a couple of years ago Apple approached us in Europe to do a collection because they wanted to increase their eco offering in terms of bags that hold their products so that’s been going on for 2 years where every season we do a collaboration with Apple for Europe, Africa and the Middle East where it’s sold under the Matt & Nat label and that was very educational for us in terms of different requirements for bags in terms of protection and padding and different compartments. For the first time this fall that Apple collaboration has been extended to North America as well so that’s been kind of exciting for us.
Are there compartments that will work for the new iphone?
Everything that we do for Apple has to hold everything that they do so yes.
Is there one particular bag that screams “Apple” with lots of compartments for all kinds of Apple technology?
The Capsule Collection is going to launch with them at the end of this month. It will be available exclusively only on their website for North America and Europe.
How excited are you?
It’s great for awareness. It’s something we’ve been doing for Apple Europe for a couple of years now so it’s great that it’s extended to North America.
In terms of styles there’s one style that’s going to be launched that’s called the Creed which is a great bag. It’s probably one of our favorites here at the office. In terms of the bags we have up on our website right now the Phoenix is a great one in terms of being tech friendly. It’s probably one of my favorites.
And you have some travel bags now too.
There are some travel bags like weekender bags. We started doing a backpack which has been a great item for the fall.
What’s next for you? Are you extending beyond bags and wallets?
We’re sticking with the bags and wallets for now… we’re going to keep focusing on those products and just keep pushing the envelope and try to do things each season that people will like and relate to….We feel blessed to do what we do everyday. The people that are Matt & Nat fans are our biggest inspiration so thank you for supporting the brand and keeping us going so that we can keep doing what we enjoy everyday. It’s a blessing.
The inspiration here is a two way street and with that Inder has been so kind in working with us to sponsor a giveaway of one of their fabulous vegan bags from the Matt & Nat current fall collection. That means you might win one of their latest vegan bags! More on this within a matter of days so stay tuned, check back here or sign up for our free newsletter updates so you don’t miss anything.
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