for The Gazette on Dec. 16, 2010
Inder Bedi has often told the story of how he built a handbag empire on compassion. The 37-year-old founder of Matt & Nat vegan accessories was asked at age 18 by a Hare Krishna priest to go vegetarian for 30 days:
"And it changed my whole life," he says.
Almost 20 years later, Bedi's Via Vegan company is thriving, although he won't provide numbers. His faux leather bags, belts and wallets under the Matt & Nat label are sold in Canada, the U.S., U.K., Italy, Germany, France and elsewhere -in perhaps thousands of shops, Bedi allowed.
"It's not about the numbers. It's about the people that we touch. I meet someone who says, 'I love what you guys stand for,' '' Bedi said at a Holt Renfrew event, where five bloggers took up the challenge to style a mannequin using a Matt & Nat bag exclusive to the department store.
Naturally, there was no shrimp or chicken at the event, but tofu in cucumber, lentil salad in bamboo boats and avocado on chips. And the bloggers were not allowed to use real leather or fur in their stylings, with items gleaned from the third floor of the store.
The store staged the event to put the spotlight on bloggers and as part of a plan to promote local design.
Bedi was in the news recently when a former employee complained that the company violated her rights as a non-vegetarian by banning meat and fish on company premises.
"I think she's entitled to her opinion,'' he said. "When people are hired, they are made aware of the meatless policy on the premises."
Most employees are not vegetarian, he said, noting many companies around the world are adopting meatless Monday policies.
"The United Nations a couple of years ago came out with a report saying the best thing you can do for the environment is adopt a vegetarian lifestyle,'' he said.
He said he is vegan for "compassion, for love, for everything that's living, breathing.''
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Vegan+compassion/3973168/story.html#ixzz18GoE3GN5