The Vegan Fashion Brand Helping You Wear Your Values

Emily Uebergang

Brought to you by Humankind

Unless you live on a deserted island without WiFi connection, you’ve probably heard of the word ‘vegan’ or know a vegan.

Maybe you even are a vegan. In this case, you’re probably catching on that a vegan is someone who is anything but a fussy vegetarian.

It’s a lifestyle philosophy that embraces this idea of compassion in forgoing the use or consumption of any animal product or by-product across all areas of one’s life.

The vegan movement is thriving with vegan communities popping up both online and offline. What makes it even more accessible is the growing range of vegan alternatives for almost every product imaginable.

But this wasn’t the case 10 years ago when Debbie Kertesz, creator of the online, cruelty-free boutique, Humankind, made the decision to stop wearing leather as part of her evolving vegan lifestyle.

In her search for vegan friendly shoes that weren’t just Havaiana thongs or Converse sneakers, Debbie found it extremely challenging to find products available for purchase in Australia.

From here the idea of Humankind was born; an online collection of high quality vegan bags, wallets and shoes with not a strip of leather in sight.

Vegan handbags

“My goal with Humankind is to provide my customers with the best of these gorgeous, high-quality vegan alternatives and to show what's possible without harming animals.”

On Personal Revelations

While Debbie hasn’t eaten meat since she was a teenager, it wasn’t until years later she began to gather the missing pieces.

”Ever since I was young I’ve loved animals and I’ve always dreamed of doing something to help prevent animal cruelty. It was only quite a bit later that I fully woke up to the fact that if I was really serious about preventing animal cruelty, I would have to forgo animal products altogether.”

For Debbie, part of this meant forgoing leather goods.

“My goal with Humankind is to provide my customers with the best of these gorgeous, high-quality vegan alternatives and to show what’s possible without harming animals.”

Debbie has sourced her products from around the globe and made them available all in one place for purchase here in Australia. This makes it even more accessible for consumers looking to make the cruelty-free switch.

Vegan shoes
Vegan handbags

Leather-free, Cruelty-free

A common misconception about leather is that it’s simply a by-product from the meat industry. While it’s not entirely untrue in some circumstances, it would be ignorant to assume this is the case for all leather.

“Most people don’t realise that the leather industry is cruel and causes immense suffering. They think that leather is just a by-product of the meat industry and that the animals would have been killed anyway but that’s not the case. Leather is extremely valuable and should be considered more of a co-product of the meat industry, which contributes to an increased demand for more animals to be raised and killed.”

Our taste for exotic leather goods has even created sub-industries of animal rearing that previously would not have thrived to the scale they do today. This is where the value of the leather product outstrips the value of the meat such as with various reptile, ostrich and alligator leathers. These industries are notorious for cruel factory farming practices and illegal poaching.


Vegan handbags
Vegan handbags

To make matters worse, chrome tanning is common practice in the leather industry as it’s fast and produces a more flexible leather. This leads to carcinogenic chromium being pumped into the water table. While non-toxic tanning alternatives do exist, it’s by far less common.

“With so many amazing leather alternatives now available you don’t have to sacrifice anything by forgoing leather. You can have gorgeous, high-quality products without the animal cruelty.”

Not only are all products sold by Humankind 100% cruelty-free, 10% of profits are donated to animal charities.

Vegan handbags
Vegan handbags

Transitions and Transformations

New to the world of retail and e-commerce, Debbie has had her fair share of down days, doubting and steep learning curves. But it’s her unwavering belief in why she’s doing what she’s doing that has seen her through.

“Starting up a small business there are certainly some tough, slow days when you question what you’re doing but I know that success is about perseverance. When you truly believe in what you’re doing it’s easy to stay motivated through the challenging times.”

She adds, “Thankfully some lovely people have been very generous with their time, skills and knowledge along the way which has been fantastic. Also, as a 40-something Gen Xer, getting my head around the whole social media has been quite a challenge. I didn’t use Facebook or Instagram before Humankind but they’re a necessity in business these days. Now I’m a self-confessed social media junkie!”

“I’m excited to meet my current and potential customers face-to-face and show my products to a wider audience. I’m also looking forward to exploring and sampling new vegan products to add to our offering!”

If you’re interested in exploring more of her incredible range of vegan goods, you’ll find Debbie flying the Humankind banner at the Sydney Cruelty Free Festival in October.

Emily Uebergang

Emily Uebergang is a writer, farmer and ecoprenuer who transitioned from the urban jungle to a working farmstead in the beautiful mountains of the Manning Valley in New South Wales, Australia. She writes like she's out to try and save the world... or at least make a difference for the better.