Contributing Monkie V Ol Blak
Published on June 24, 2010
It’s pretty rare here on the west coast to see an out spoken style driven “G” guy. I would say most of the guys on the west coast who lean green, tend to take their style cues from actor Charlton Heston, in the Planet of The Ape movies and not so much so from Brad Pitt. I don’t know what it is about living in L.A. compared to New York City, but style just doesn’t seem to be important. This is why when I came across Joshua Katcher and his site The Discerning Brute, I secretly thought to myself, there maybe hope yet for the vegan / G man. Come on, how in the world, are we ever going to have a “G” James Bond, if we don’t have any out spoken men pointing the way to green fashion alternatives.
The women in the green movement have it made, relatively that is, compared to us guys, the start-up green fashion brands, such as Stewart+Brown, exclusively focus on women. Now I completely understand why, (green guys are cheap) but it just makes the transition from toxic to organic incredibly hard for potential newbie green guys. For example, try buying a suit or some dress shoes which don’t include leather, wool or some other non vegan, organic, cruelty free materials and actually looks good. You will find out quickly you have about 2 options and non of them are in a store near you. Your only real option is to basically gamble by going online and buying from the three or four site that actually exist. But to make it even harder and more expensive, it turns out most of the cooler stuff you might find comes from England, which means higher prices and major shipping issues. Or your second option is to give up and buy some organic T-Shirts and jeans.
This is where Joshua steps in. On his blog Discerning Brute, he does the hard part for us guys. He finds what is cool out there, who are the hot new designers and even breaks down how green this stuff really is. On top of that, he sits down with designers, fashion leaders and even does the occasional street interview in an effort to bring home a little fashion reality to his fellow New Yorkers.
An exclusive interview with Joshua Katcher
G Monkie: My first exposure to you was in a video posted on YouTube. I believe it was Fashion Week in New York and you where doing street interviews with people in and around the event. The funny or I guess unexpected part was, you asked them real questions about what they had on. Not just the look or cut, but what they actually had on. Dead things, lots of dead things wrapped over their shoulders. The women didn’t see it coming and seemed a bit shocked. What are you going for, some kind of fashion honesty? Would you like to inspire the fashion consumer and industry to think beyond the fade of the moment?
Joshua Katcher: Yes, doing that video was fun, but it was also nerve-racking. I was surprised that people didn’t react to me with more hostility. I think because I was dressed well and I had a microphone, they believed the role I was playing – some tactless and naive fashion TV host. The entire fashion industry is built on illusions. Sex and wealth are two of the most prominent illusions designers and magazines want us to buy into. Isn’t it funny that people are taken aback when you point out the obvious, though? Especially when it shatters those illusions. Most people wearing fur think they’re wearing “wealth” or “class” or “luxury”, so when I say to them “That’s 40 dead mink” it really sucks the sexy illusion right out of it. No one wants to hear (nevermind, see) that their gorgeous, expensive coat was ripped from the struggling bloody bodies of bunnies or foxes, or even dogs and cats in some cases. So yeah, I guess I am going for a bit of fashion honesty. All I want from any industry is total accountability. You shouldn’t be able to put something out into the world and avoid being held accountable for it’s consequences – from a toothpick to a blouse to a nuclear warhead. Unfortunately, that’s our current industrial and economic model – that’s the essence of a corporation, no personal accountability.
Photographer: Ryan Pfluger
G Monkie: Are you in the fashion business? What is your day job?
Joshua Katcher: My day job is working in video production. Aside from the blog, I am not in the fashion world although I do have plans to do an accessories line soon.
G Monkie: On your blog thediscerningbrute.com it says you lived in Brooklyn. Have you always live in Brooklyn and how easy is it to be a Vegan on the East Coast?
Joshua Katcher: I grew up in New York state, went to school up in Syracuse, and then moved to Brooklyn. I’ve been a New Yorker my whole life. Being vegan in New York is a dream – I am so spoiled. For example, two exclusively vegan ice cream parlors opened this spring in Manhattan, Lulas Sweet Apothecay and STOGO. I can have any flavor, and choose from nut, coconut milk, or soy milk-based ice creams (coconut milk-based ice cream is to DIE for!), and even soft serve. There is a vegan artisan marshmallow manufacturer in queens called Sweet and Sara who makes peanut butter smores that will make you wet yourself, and an artisan, aged cashew-cheese factory in Brooklyn called Dr. Cow that I am addicted to like crack. Vinnies makes real-deal Brooklyn Pizza, vegan style – Foodswings is open til 2am on weekends to soak up the vegan Brooklyn Brewery beer in your stomach with vegan chicken parm heros and disco fries, and there are just literally hundreds of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in all the boroughs. From the upscale Candle 79 to the downtown Red Bamboo – from the rae Pure Food & Wine to the macro Angeika Kitchen, I am so spoiled as an east coast vegan. There is so much innovation and foodie culture here that even the non-vegans rejoice in our communities’ creations. Who wouldn’t? It’s just good food, plain and simple.
G Monkie: Do you like to travel? Where is your favorite place on the planet?
Joshua Katcher: I don’t travel nearly as much as I’d like to. Truth-be-told, I’m a bit terrified of flying. I am going on my first real European expedition this July. Honestly though, my favorite places to travel are right in upstate New York. The Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen and the Woodtock Farm Animal Sanctuary are two amazing places. Spending quality time with animals in a bucolic setting is amazing for me. Add in a waterfall, creek, and campfire and I am in heaven.
G Monkie: What was your diet like growing up? Have you always been a Vegan? Do you also enjoy raw recipes?
Joshua Katcher: Growing up I ate like most other people. Chicken was often the dinner entree. Turkey or tuna sandwiches for lunch, scrambled egss for breakfast. Cheese on everything. Brisket or corned beef once a month. One of my favorite things to do was to take a slice of American Cheese and put it on a plate in the microwave by itself, and cook it unitl it turned into a puffy cracker. Little did I know that I was eaiting somw animal’s tit-milk filled with glue (casien), opiates (casomorphins), pus, blood, feces, and rennet (calf stomach lining). Gross! I went veg when I was 15 after learning about Amazonian deforesation and cattle grazing. Then I read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation and went vegan soon after.
G Monkie: What does the Discerning Brute title mean to you?
Joshua Katcher: The Discerning Brute is an oxymoron. It has a lot to do with reclaiming manliness in the sense that the popular gender definition of ‘male’ is very along the ‘Brute’ lines, and being ‘Discerning’ from both an aesthetic and ethical persective is often viewed as feminine and weak. With my blog, I am trying to showcase that you can be a man and still care about stuff.
G Monkie: It seems like you keep good company in New York. When you make your videos, first how do you decide what to make them about and second, how do you get access to people like Tim Gunn and Todd Oldham?
Joshua Katcher: I have an exceptional possee in NYC! I am surrounded by truly inspirational people who are all doing amazing things – and the best part is that they are out for more than just themselves. It’s too easy to be selfish in this town! The egomaniacs are catered to here, so anyone working for environmental, animal, or social justice issues (and looking great while they do it) are bound to bump into eachother here. As far as Tim and Todd, I met them through being involved in activism! I keep telling people – if you want to hang with the best crowd, you better start giving a shit about some cows and trees!
G Monkie: What do you think of the green trend that has been developing over the last 4 years here in the United States?
Joshua Katcher: This could be a really long answer, but I’ll give you the quick version. The Green movement has splintered into many, many fragments. There is old school environmentalism, lite green, bright green, deep ecology, ecofeminism, green capitalism, green anachism, primitivism, and the list goes on. The most media-friendly is the lite-green movement. That’s the one we see on all the commercials and all the product lines. It’s also the least stringent and potentially the most dangerous. It allows us to believe we can solve the ecological crises we face simply by purchasing eco-friendly products and recycling. One thing is for sure, though: people are finally talking about environmental issues on a large scale.In the lst 4 years we’ve seen an explosion in the numer of blogs, books, diets, trends, news coverage, and general awareness covering ecological issues. The momentum is amazing and it will only accelerate.
G Monkie: Do you think its easy to be a well dressed “G” minded guy? I mean for me personally, it seems the choices are a bit limited. Designers seem to focus all their organic clothing lines towards women. I feel luck to find some organic jeans and maybe a recycled fiber shirt.
Joshua Katcher: The choices are out there. It’s easier than you think! For the ladies, they have great resources like my friend Chloe Jo’s GirlieGirlArmy.com, but for us dudes, it’s a bit harder. It’s easy to be stylish, but ‘well-dressed’ is so subjective. Especially now that we are focusing more on how things are made in addition to how they look. For example, I don’t think anyone in leather or fur or a sweatshop garment looks well-dressed simply based on the heinous processes of how those garments are made. Finding a cruelty-free suit that doesn’t look like a hippy-costume is difficult, but with research, you can find it. I’ve done a lot of that research for you on my blog, so please use it as a resouce when looking for those hard-to-find items like silk-free ties, organic tailored shirts, leather-free shoes, and accessories. I don’t just showcase anything. It has to be handsome.
Another myth is that wealth equates style. I can find 50 amazing outfits in any thrift store, yet some moron with a black card just buys the most expensive garments and lookies tacky as hell. Here’s my rules for the “G” minded fashionito or fashionista. 1. The greenest way to shop is to shop thrift. 2. If you can’t find it thrift, go organic. Big stores like Target are finally selling organics affordably. Loomstate just did a line for them! 3. If you still can’t get the style you crave (and your skills must be lacking to get to this point) at least make sure it’s not made from animal torture (fur, leather, wool, feathers, silk) or in a sweatshop.
Photographer: Ryan Pfluger
G Monkie: In the video with Tod Oldman, you made a cake to decorate with him. Did you actually make those cakes, do you like baking?
Joshua Katcher: I did make the cake! I am a self-taught chef, and my stuffed shells will fool your Italian grandma! Check out the recipes on my blog! I also have big potlucks. If you don’t do potlucks, you should start – it is a hedonistic indulgence of vegan food. Danielle, the owner of Vegan Treats made vegan Twix bars at my last one. They were ridonkulous.
G Monkie: Have you noticed the population of Vegans growing in the past few years? Do you think the general population is opening up to the idea of cutting animal products out of their lives?
Joshua Katcher: Yes, I have noticed it. It’s growing rapidly. I think that as the truth is exposed, and the media covers animal issues more and more, people learn that animal agrculture is the leading cause of global warming and other ecological devestation, the leading cause of preventable diet-related diseases like heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, and more, the leading cause of animal suffering – unless you’re a sociopath, it’s almost impossible to not want to go vegan. It just makes sense. Eventually we can all get beyond infantile self-gratification. And when we get there we realize it looks and tastes better, anyway!
G Monkie: What is coming up next for you? What are you working on?
Joshua Katcher: I am continuing to expand the Discerning Brute, working on a top-secret feature documentary, working on a reality TV series about troubled youth, doing lots of non-profit work, trying to keep up with my rescued chihuahua Enzo, and cooking and baking a lot! Look out for my cafe, my cookbook, my accessories line, and new videos!