Bright Zine: Meet the three creators behind London’s first vegan zine

Veganism is on the rise! As more and more of us are switching to a greener lifestyle, we talked to Laura, Tamsin and Roxanne, the creators of Bright Zine, tackling and promoting vegan issues across beauty and fashion, food and wider culture.

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Notion: Tell us a little about each of you and how you came to working together. What is your role within the zine?
Laura: Myself and Tamsin are sisters, and Tamsin and Roxane have known each other since school. I write a lot of content, layout and edit the magazine, Tamsin works on the creative, ideas and media side of things and Roxane does our illustrations. Our roles are very flexible though, and we all collaborate on developing funny ideas into things we can actually put into the zine.

When did you decide to be vegan and why?
Laura: I’ve been vegan for almost ten years now. I’d been vegetarian since I was 11 and started reading up more on animal rights. I read Peter Singer’s ‘Animal Liberation’ and had my eyes opened to what really happens to animals in these industries, and that was it. I really didn’t find it as hard as people expect it to be, I had some mishaps like thinking I couldn’t eat bread (facepalm) but I just googled everything I needed to know food-wise and got on with it. And now it’s super easy to be vegan, especially in London, I love it.

Tamsin: I’ve been vegan for almost two years and vegetarian for twelve. I’d tried veganism when I was younger and never stuck to it – typical teenage me. I was travelling in China, and a restaurant in Shanghai put some kind of minced meat in my food. I freaked out; they served bullfrog and pigeons so I literally had no idea what I’d just eaten. It just suddenly clicked in my head, and it felt like the easiest decision ever. The most difficult part is definitely dealing with other people’s preconceptions of what vegans are like. But once you’ve dealt with the first 100 “What do you even eat?” questions you’ve won the gold medal, you can conquer anything.

Why did you begin Bright Zine?
Laura: I felt like there was this sudden huge growth in veganism. I was discovering more vegans around London and it was just popping up everywhere. I trained as a journalist, so I wanted to write about it but wanted to do more than just online articles or blogging. I wanted to help give a voice to this new community and bring the community together, giving others a platform to collaborate and write and express themselves. I thought I’d start up a little DIY zine that I could print and photocopy myself, but I’m so obsessed with making things beautiful that it just got more and more about the presentation. Tamsin and Roxane were part of the process from very early on. We planned out the articles, comic strips and funny recurring features over the summer of 2016. We were inspired by zine culture as a whole, particularly feminist zines like OOMK. Tamsin has always been a big fan of Markus Almond’s Brooklyn To Mars series of zines too; she reads it all the time.

Roxane: I was mainly inspired by Laura’s vision of bringing the London vegan culture together into a simple zine, not focusing on food or recipes or the many commercial ‘things’ you need to be a vegan. I wanted to concentrate on the ethics and the everyday activism involved in this lifestyle choice. As an illustrator, I jumped at the opportunity to communicate these issues visually, as there is a lack of visual expression of veganism in the mainstream media. At a time when visual imagery grabs more attention than the written word, it’s so important to communicate these issues in a graphic sense.

Tamsin: The lightbulb moment for me was a discussion I had with Laura about Vivienne Westwood and her hypocrisy. We were huge fans of hers, sang her praises for Climate Revolution and obsessed over her jewellery and bags. Then she brought out the “Get a Life” bag range, with that slogan printed on bags made with cow skin. The actual life was taken from an animal, to make a bag that said: “Get a Life”. We just couldn’t understand it. So Laura wrote an open letter calling her out on it. From there it grew to this platform we wanted to create to start conversations.

What topics and information do you cover in Bright Zine?
Laura: We have interviews with people doing interesting and innovative things in veganism. We’ve spoken to King who runs the hugely popular restaurant CookDaily in Boxpark, Tim Shieff who runs clothing brand Ethcs and we have planned exciting interviews for the next issue too. We write articles and essays about issues that affect people in the vegan community, but not every article is about veganism itself. There’s plenty of silly stuff in it too; we try not to take ourselves too seriously; hopefully, people find it as funny as we do.

Tell us about what makes this content different than other zines out there?
Laura: As far as we know, there aren’t any other UK-based zines run by vegans and talking about vegan issues. Someone described Bright as being effortless at the same time as having no chill, which was the best feedback ever. We want to be openly honest about stuff and call out bullshit where we see it, but we also want to have fun and show the amazing and positive things about life and veganism.

How was the process of actually launching the zine? Where did you look to for guidance?
Laura: We spent last summer working on it, building contacts, finding printers and manufacturers ourselves. It was a lot of heavy research and hours spent sat on my living room floor and in Paradise Unbakery on our laptops. It was just us, but the work paid off in the end.

What has been the response since launching the zine?
Laura: It has honestly been amazing. That’s the great thing about the community, people are so supportive and want to build up other vegan businesses. We’ve had great feedback on our content and Roxane’s illustration work, and we’ve made great friends with other people working to spread the vegan message and positivity through this whole process.

Tamsin: I think I’m still really blown away by the support and love we’ve received since we launched, watching everyone unapologetically embracing their inner #veganqueen, it’s been a dream.

Roxane: The response we’ve had is amazing. It’s so reassuring to see so many people coming together from all ages and all walks of life. It just emphasises that the vegan community isn’t this stereotype of angry people with extremist views. How can it be when it’s based on the loving, caring and respect for life?

Tell us about the collaborations you have had with the zine?
Laura: Vevolution brought us on board to do a zine workshop at their day festival last November which was awesome. We also collaborated with LUSH to hold a ‘Christmas Without Cruelty’ workshop at their flagship Oxford Circus store. We held a creative workshop where people made cute animal Christmas decorations while learning about more ethical choices they could make in their lives, not just at Christmas. We held a Vegusto vegan cheese tasting and Vida Bakery gave out beautiful mini cupcakes and cookies.

Have you seen any progress in industries that are particularly cruel or exploitative in the time that you have been vegan, or since launching the zine?
Laura: Everything seems to be improving and opening up to veganism. You can get vegan options almost everywhere and I feel like people are more concerned about where their products come from. We’re really happy that The Body Shop has been sold to a non-animal testing company, though we’ll be happier when they stop using honey, shellac and lanolin in their products and go full vegan. They’re making good steps on their way though.

Which industries are progressing (ie retail, cosmetics) and which are not?
Laura: I think all industries are progressing in a good direction except for animal agriculture industries. But even dairy companies now are seeing a drop in demand for dairy and trying to expand and offer non-dairy milks, which is amazing. If we as consumers change the demand, they have to change to keep up with us. And this is happening now, the demand is changing the industry.

Something that has sadly stunted the ethical growth in cosmetics recently is China changing their laws and forcing all cosmetics to be tested on animals. If a company wants to sell in China, their products have to be tested on animals, which is outrageous. Unfortunately, companies like Mac and NARS have decided to give up their ethical standing and test their products on animals so that they can sell in China. And that sucks for the animals. Not for us as consumers, but for the animals being tested on.

We have plenty of cruelty-free cosmetics to choose from including LUSH, The Body Shop (now they’re not owned by L’Oreal), Elf Cosmetics, Superdrug’s own range, online store Makeup Without Malice and the Birchbox alternative Cruelty Free Beauty Box.

Vegans often get bad press for being preachy about their lifestyle choices. Do you ever feel intimated by that stereotype? Does Bright Zine try to counteract this negative image in any way?
Laura: Vegans do have this outdated OTT stereotype, but that’s what stereotypes are right? We’re trying to show that the vegan community is huge, growing and extremely diverse. People are vegan for different reasons and live very different lives.

I wouldn’t say we’re preachy vegans because anyone that’s reading our content has come to us, but we don’t shy away from anything, we’re upfront and honest. Ultimately Bright Zine is about lifestyle, and making choices that align with yourself, your beliefs and your ethics. We want to show that there’s so much more to veganism than the stereotype, and spread a positive and optimistic message.

Tamsin: Personally, if someone asks me about being vegan, I’ll tell them because they’ve asked, and I’ll be honest about what happens, it does nobody any good to lie, hide or sugar coat anything.

For those who are on the opposite end of the scale in terms of having a vegan lifestyle, what are the small steps they can take to getting there?
Laura: I think the first step is awareness and education. Find out what you’re paying for, watch videos, read articles. I’m not saying you have to watch a ton of gory, sad and violent videos, but do what you can to find out what your money is going towards. Money is power and your buying choices matter. Find out about health (What The Health is on Netflix now and is great) and the better choices you can make to support yourself and your vitality. Then you can start to make small steps.

Tamsin: You can start with your comfort meals, your favourite foods. Find ways to make them vegan, there is always a way. Plus, Mint Oreos are vegan, what else do you need?

Lastly, what do you hope for the future of Bright Zine?
Laura: We want to keep growing, keep collaborating and pulling the community together. We also want to help, we want to open up discussions and talk about issues within the community and society more generally. We want to give a platform and a voice to the many people in this amazing, diverse community.

Tamsin: We’ve just launched Issue Three, but I’m excited for Issue Ten and what we’ll be up to then!
For more info on Bright Zine, follow the Instagram page.
Issue Three of Bright Zine is out now and available to purchase here.
Follow Phie McKenzie on Twitter.

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