I Am Animal, an ‘organic athleisure label’ by activist-entrepreneur Kunal Avanti launches today, on World Animal Day. The PETA-approved cruelty-free brand has thought for the environment at its heart and sets “a reminder of who we are meant to be, rather than who we have become”. t2 spoke to Kunal and Sunny Leone, who is an investor in the venture, along with her husband Daniel Weber, ahead of the launch of their first line, Collection Zero and the website iamanimal.com.
Congratulations for I Am Animal. Tell us how long has it been on your mind?
Thank you very much. The idea was conceived in its most nascent form over three years ago.
Tell us about the logo and the name.
The logo is a depiction of an open eye. This symbolises being aware and awake. Creating awareness about ethical, environmental and social issues is at the core of our existence. The name stemmed from the fact that at our most basic level, we are all animals that belong to the earth. Somewhere along the way, we became disconnected and forgot how to live in harmony with our fellow earthlings and the planet. The truth is that we’ve been programmed to live a certain way without questioning if it’s right or wrong. I Am Animal is a reminder of who we are meant to be, rather than who we have become. ‘I am strong, I am wise, I am love, I am awake, I am animal’.
Collection Zero is an interesting name too. What can we expect?
We wanted to begin with a basic collection that if successful, will remain within the portfolio for the life of the brand. A founding block or stone of what we stand for and are trying to build, before we venture into various directions within the fashion realm.
Was the growing popularity of athleisure and that we are mostly stuck at home, in athleisure, one of the main reasons for starting with athleisure?
Absolutely. I think athleisure clothing in India is at the brink of a massive boom. The pandemic certainly helped people realise this but I think that even post-Covid, people will definitely want to feel comfortable while they work or socialise. The great thing about athleisure is that if it’s the right quality and well designed, it can be worn to the gym, movies, malls, restaurants, flight travel or pretty much anywhere.
How did Sunny Leone come on board?
I met Sunny and Daniel (Weber) a few years ago for an animal welfare music project that they humbly agreed to lend their voice to. Since then, Daniel and I stayed in touch and when I was looking for the right investors and partners for the brand, they came to mind very naturally. I presented the idea, first-cut plans, designs and organic prototypes to them and they immediately resonated with what I was trying to build. Since then, there has been no looking back.
What does it mean for a new brand to have a voice like Leone’s lending it support?
The I Am Animal tag line is ‘Find Your Own Way’. It embodies the notion that there is no wrong or right way to succeed at life. Life for me boils down to ethics, compassion and spreading a positive message. I don’t think any other personality resonated with our philosophy quite like she did. Sunny is an extremely intelligent, compassionate and humble person. She is a strong voice for animals and the planet and uses her platform constantly to spread their message. She is loved by millions and has won their respect along with mine.
Let’s talk about your love for animals a bit. Do you have pets?
It’s a love story that made me question my beliefs and change my lifestyle a long time ago. I grew up with an affinity towards animals but my journey began with my two rescue dogs, Chloe and Bella. They made me ask myself about this imaginary line that we have created... a programme that tells us that it’s okay to love and respect some animals like dogs and cats but somehow to go the other direction with the rest.
Are you mostly in athleisure yourself?
I’m mostly in anything that makes me feel comfortable. I can’t be productive or creative if I’m not comfortable. These days I’m living in Collection Zero.
Tell us about your favourite designers.
I’m a huge fan of Japanese design and aesthetic so with regards to international designers, I would say Yohji Yamamoto would be my favourite. When it comes to Indian artists I think Shantanu & Nikhil are cool.
What kind of response are you expecting?
We believe that the millennial generation and subsequent target audiences are ready for change. They have a fair understanding of the consequences of their daily choices and actions. I think if given an option of consciously crafted products to choose from, they would embrace them wholeheartedly. We’re hopeful of a positive response.
What bowled you over about I Am Animal?
I loved the fact that I Am Animal is a vegan line and they are doing something that is giving back instead of taking things away from innocent lives and animals and hurting the environment.
What are your favourites from Collection Zero?
My favourite thing from the entire collection would be the cropped T-shirts with the sweatpants. They are extremely comfortable. I love those in all the colours they are available in.
What do you love about athleisure?
The reason I love this line is that it is very comfortable and yet at the same time, very hip and cool. Attention has been paid to every single detail regarding the fit, the buttons and how it falls on the body. I believe that it will look good on any body type.
What else is eco-friendly in your life?
I try to have as many eco-friendly things in my life as possible. I am someone that has stopped buying a lot of different things that come from animal skin, let that be by-products or anything (else). I also think that having products that are vegan and organic is something that we should be turning to instead of supporting brands that don’t really care about the environment.
What else would you love lending your voice to?
There are issues that I lend my voice to and those are the ones that I believe in. These are things that help women, children, animals... and tell us, basically what it means to be a good human being. I think that comes first and I don’t necessarily believe that we need to use animals to live a happy and fulfilled life. So, I am very happy to be a part of something that is bigger and better in teaching people how to be better human beings and not use any animals for clothing.
The festive season is upon us. What do you love picking up in these months?
India has so much variety in diversity that if you really think about it, there’s a festival every week. Generally speaking, the coming months are my favourite and classic ethnic lehngas and suits work for me.
And the most stylish actor you have seen?