Photography_ Simon Way
From a job that ate her soul to a fulfilling project that’s changing things for the better, one watch at a time: Laura Stageman, the driving force behind vegan timepiece brand Votch, is an inspiring entrepreneur on the still very broad and open field of vegan accessories. Her work has been an inspiration for us for quite some time and so we met Laura in London to sit and talk shop – so here’s a piece on life choices, entrepreneurial spirit and also, right on topic, the timing of things.
It’s about 10pm when we meet Laura in her favorite restaurant in London, “Fed by Water”, offering a plantbased menu with a haute cuisine approach. “The pasta here is incredible, I order it every time I’m here”, Laura tells us, laughing. “Maybe I should try something different today, shouldn’t I?” She then orders the pasta anyhow, still laughing. We came to London to learn more about Votch, Laura Stageman’s very own vegan watch brand and after we devoured the (really very good) pasta, Laura takes us on a trip down memory lane.
“Prior to launching Votch, I used to work in advertising for ten years. I came to London when I was 21, with about £30 in my back pocket and did what anyone needs to do to survive in an expensive city like London: Find a job, pronto!” Laura fell into “one of the biggest advertising agencies in London” and she “instantly hated the job role itself” – but felt “lured in by the culture, the partying, the travel and buzz of it all. I was young.”
In spring 2014, a skin disease that seemed incurable at the time turned Laura’s life upside down. All of a sudden, she has a lot of time on her hands, bound to her bathtub to ease the pain and spending a lot of time watching documentaries. “I was learning more and more about animals are farmed for meat, how dairy is produced and most of the time I felt physically sick learning what I learnt. I would work at these big agencies and we would be given large budgets to create adverts that were continually concealing the truth about how animal based products were being created.”
“I was being a woman in my thirties and I wanted to take control of my life, doing a job that I’d love.”
Laura decided that she no longer could work on “clients that did not align with my morals”, that she “could not be part of the problem”. Instead, after 10 years in the industry, she chose to “take all the experience I gathered and use it to try and create a brand that does something good.”
Designing timeless Timepieces
That brand is Votch, a premium vegan watch brand that won a PETA Fashion Award in 2016, just a couple months after the launch. Nowadays, Laura feels very much in line with her job. “I’ve always had a very clear vision of what I wanted to do and what I wanted the brand to look like, what it should represent.”
This approach shows in the clean, minimalistic designs of her slim watches. Laura creates favorite pieces, not interchangeable fast fashion accessories. “I prefer owning only very few, high quality items myself – whether it is in terms of clothes, jewelry or interior pieces – rather than many medium or lower quality ones.” That’s why Laura wants every item she offers to be “a timepiece that never goes out of style and matches every outfit.”
“People have to realize that less really is more and that it truly adds more value to your life when something is higher in quality and therefore lasts you way longer.”
When asked how she goes about finding inspiration, she offers a both simple and beautiful answer. “I like looking at beauty in general and at old watches in particular… Classic and simplistic beauty that comes from old watch designs and then combining those designs with modern and contemporary colors is what I do.”
Experimenting with new and exciting Materials
Beauty, to people like Laura, is directly linked to the way it is produced and to the materials used to create it. So instead of using animal skin, the Votch-founder goes for environmental-friendly leather made out of TPE, polyester, cotton and Piñatex, so straps made from pineapple fibers – one of the most eco-friendly materials out there.
“I think there is a lot of stigma out there that faux leather does not last in the same way ‘real’ leather does, but technology is always advancing and the quality of faux leather these days is excellent – and we’re ready to show the world!”
Far East Production Sites and Non-Profit Partnerships
You can tell just by listening to Laura talking about her project how important “doing things right” is to her. Now with her timepieces being made in China, she’s used to questions arising, obviously aware of the negative connotation still attached to production in a far-east country. That’s why she went to China before going into production, meeting factory owners, looking at working conditions, hours and wages and she only settled when she found a factory that met her criteria.
Also, from the very beginning, with every Votch purchase, a part of the profits goes to charity, a new project every three months – so for Laura, giving back is part of the DNA of her brand.
We’re back at “Fed by Water”, it’s gotten late. When we ask her how she would sum up what working on Votch means to her, Laura takes us back to her “old agency life” once again: “It was great to be creative but the things that I created had no deeper meaning. They didn’t change anything.”
Now they do.