By Theresa Walker
The Orange County Register
Meg and Komie Vora live together, work together, eat together.
And, always, the pair of millennial-age sisters do what they do as vegans.
That includes the outfits they wear, culled from their own women’s luxury clothing line, Delikate Rayne.
They combine their contemporary sense of design with a serious commitment to remaining cruelty-free as they strive to push Delikate Rayne to the cutting edge of clothing that looks good, feels good and is good for the environment.
“They speak to that demographic of the Southern California gal who wants to do things that are healthier for our bodies and reach a higher consciousness,” says Christina Sewell, senior fashion campaigner for PETA who has worked with the Vora sisters on several projects involving her organization.
Influential trendsetters who have worn their clothing include TV personality and model Kendall Jenner and celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe.
Purchased items arrive with a hand-written note that might say, “Look at you saving the environment and looking badass while doing it.”
The growth in the vegan fashion industry has mostly been in the past five years, according to Sewell, who is based in PETA’s Los Angeles office.
Google searches on “vegan fashion” grew 25 percent and queries about “vegan clothing” and “ethical clothing” skyrocketed 66 percent since 2012, she notes, along with a switch from the term “faux leather” to “vegan leather” by such brands as Anthropologie, Abercrombie & Fitch, and TOMS.
Plus, Sewell says of the Vora sisters’ long, dark hair, big almond eyes, and slim physiques dressed in the clothes they design: “They’ve got the look, right?”
Innate sense of fashion
As first-generation Indian Americans raised in Orange County, the young women pursue a lifestyle and business philosophy in Los Angeles County that goes beyond the vegetarian diet of their upbringing.
They like to refer to their style as having “the triple E factor”: edgy, ethical and everlasting.
Both their designs and their motivation are gaining notice. They’ve been featured on Huffpost and online by NBC News.
A unisex shirt they created will help raise charitable funds and awareness this week for World Animal Day in partnership with the Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation in Sherman Oaks and Nylon Magazine. The shirt will be available only on Nylon’s e-commerce platform beginning Wednesday, Oct. 4. The young women also expect to be featured in a KTLA news piece on World Animal Day.
Earlier this year, the Vora sisters spearheaded a project for PETA India, serving as creative directors and co-stylists on a fashion campaign in their parents’ homeland, a place they visited every year while growing up in Irvine and Yorba Linda. But those trips in their youth were family excursions that lasted a month or two — and included bringing along schoolwork.
They became vegans on their own, cutting out all animal-derived products from their consuming habits. They were still living at home when they launched Delikate Rayne in 2013 with the financial backing of their parents, who are no pushovers.
Their father, Kirti Vora, immigrated from India with a degree in electrical engineering and worked his way up to systems division manager in the aerospace industry. In retirement, he started his own software company, became a financial planner and got into doing mortgage loans. Their mother, Smutri Vora, studied interior design but focused on being a homemaker.
“They think we are harder than the “Shark Tank” people,” Kirti Vora says of the popular TV show that vets startups in front of a panel of wealthy entrepreneurs.
Both young women studied business, communications and marketing in college — Meg at Cal State Fullerton and Komie at USC. But they hadn’t thought of pursuing a career in fashion. Meg, who liked to sing in her youth and once thought about getting into the entertainment industry, went to work for her father’s software company. Her mind, he said, seemed elsewhere.
“One day I sat down with her and asked what she really wanted to do,” Kirti Vora recalls. “She said fashion design.”
And Komie, employed by an online jewelry company, felt the same. They surprised their parents but had their support.
The deep dive into the competitive fashion business included taking sewing lessons, mastering the technology of Internet commerce, visiting factories and attending textile shows, bartering with photographers and models, and managing their own public relations.
Their brand name is a translation of their Hindi names.
There were early hints back when they were high school girls that clothes would someday make the women.
They didn’t like the Indian-style clothes they wore to family parties and weddings, so they would experiment with designs and fabrics, then enlist someone else to create their vision. They had a knack for blending clothing items that seemingly wouldn’t go together.
“It literally came from a need of not liking anything and not having anything fit,” Meg, the older sister, says of their adolescent aesthetics.
Cruelty-free and sustainable
While strict about the sources of their food and fashion choices, Meg and Komie won’t limit their potential market.
They aren’t simply targeting the vegan community, they say, and they aren’t preaching at people to change their habits.
“We don’t want to make anyone feel like they are not included because they eat meat or wear leather,” Meg says. “We want to complement what they already are doing and show them how easy it can be to go this route.”
They encourage consumers to learn something about the labor practices of the companies they patronize and the source of their materials.
Among the textiles Delikate Rayne uses: vegan “leather” made from PVC-free polyurethane or natural products such as mushrooms and pineapple (available only for accessories for now) and silk woven from spiders and bananas. And, of course, there is cotton.
The design and business-end of their work is based at the home they share in the Los Angeles area. They closely guard the financial aspects of their company.
Their two workstations face opposite walls in an area off the kitchen, with samples of their latest styles on rolling racks, swatches of textiles pinned to bulletin boards, assorted fashion magazines in a rack, inspiring photographs and sayings posted here and there.
Komie likes to write Fun Facts on a whiteboard. Example: “The skirt is the second oldest garment.”
They release a new product every few months, in limited quantities, because that’s better for the environment. But the research and brainstorming are nonstop.
“We’re always on the lookout to use innovative textiles,” Komie says.
Their skills complement each other: Komie excels at marketing and logistics, Meg has the better eye for design and branding.
They don’t always agree on a fabric or a stitch. Usually, Meg wins.
Komie admits: “She proves me wrong because it will come out looking really good.”
They laugh in unison at Meg’s astonishment: “I think that’s the first time I’ve heard you say that out loud.”
All the manufacturing of their clothing line is done in the United States by a local, family-owned business. They care as much about cutting down on emissions in manufacturing as they do about protecting animals.
“Everything we do, we want to make sure nothing is harmed,” Komie says.
The fast-fashion concept that fuels the constant consumption and discarding of trendy clothes bothers them. They design with an eye toward pieces of clothing that will have longevity in someone’s closet, along with versatility.
“We want to speak to the fashion consumer,” Meg continues. “The It Girl, the trendsetter, the girl who is influencing everyone else — we want her to be attracted to the style.”
Delikate Rayne targets a higher price point, sells almost strictly through its website and has a lot of customers outside of the U.S. Clothing items cost anywhere from $50 for a classic crewneck T-shirt made from cotton to a $355 vegan leather and chiffon maxi skirt.
Sewell, a contemporary of the sisters at the age of 30, says she ran across them in 2014 at a pop-up summer shopping party. She recommended them for the PETA India campaign.
“Fashion Fauxever” was shot in Mumbai on one grueling February day at a movie studio famous for its Bollywood productions, the high-energy romantic musicals popular in India cinema. Meg and Komie created the lookbook, from clothing to accessories, and directed the male and female Bollywood stars who modeled the clothes.
“They brought a great mix of East and West to Indian consumers for the lookbook through the stylish vegan fashions they chose,” says Benazir Suraiya, associate manager of celebrity and media projects for PETA India.
The campaign has had more than 100,000 views on Facebook and Instagram, raising the awareness of shoppers in the Asian subcontinent’s growing consumer market. Suraiya says.
“These shoppers now know they can easily opt for luxurious looking synthetics and other animal-friendly materials. Meg and Komie really helped people see that compassion is always in fashion and that materials like vegan leather, faux fur, mock croc are easily available in Indian markets.”
The expansion of Delikate Rayne has taught the Vora sisters something else about fashion that never occurred to them as teenagers.