Delikate Rayne's online boutique is full of photos of silky tanks, lace-trimmed shorts, and faux leather mini skirts in colors like blue satin and deep emerald. But for Komie and Meg Vora, the sister duo behind the label, it wasn't enough that their clothes were luxurious. They also had to be vegan.
"All the vegan clothing we saw had less to do with style and was more based on the principle of veganism," Meg Vora told NBC News. "The options were vanilla — granola, even. You wouldn't look at the clothes and think, 'Hey, that's cool, I'm going to save up to buy that.'"
The sisters sought to fill the void in the cruelty-free fashion industry themselves, and with as many fringes and ribbons as possible. Launched in December 2013, Delikate Rayne has since garnered the attention of vegan representatives and fashionistas alike, appearing on sites like fashion designer Rachel Zoe's "The Zoe Report" and winning the 2015 Vegan of the Year Award for Outstanding Vegan Creative. Their edgier pieces have been worn both on the street and red carpet by personalities like Kendall Jenner, JoJo, and Jessica Szohr, and they're currently nominated in the 2016 VegNews Awards for Favorite Fashion Label.
While they've been lauded for sourcing animal-friendly fabrics and ensuring safe and fair working conditions for their factory workers, ethical living is an essential part of the sisters' upbringing. The sisters were born in Orange County, California, to East Indian immigrant parents and raised vegetarian according to their family's religious beliefs. Their mother is Hindu and their father is Jain, and both religions are rooted in the practice of nonviolence.
"Our dad taught us not to harm any living thing, and he'd tell us stories of going to temple in India and having to wear a face mask, to avoid endangering living organisms that might fly into his mouth," Komie Vora told NBC News. "To this day, we don't know what meat tastes like."
Their parents also wished to ingrain their daughters with a knowledge of their heritage cultures, making frequent family trips to India starting when the girls were young. It was there that Komie and Meg Vora developed a passion for customizing their clothes. The girls would hunt for fabric in downtown LA, sketch their own sari designs, and bring everything over to India to collaborate with local seamstresses.
"We were so excited about it, to the point where we'd ask our parents if we could bring over the seamstresses to learn more about sewing and they'd be like, 'what are you talking about? We're going to the Taj Mahal right now. Why do you want to do clothes?'" Meg Vora said, laughing.
Despite their initial inclination toward fashion design, the Delikate Rayne designers lack a traditional fashion education. The sisters attended college for business, and Meg Vora worked with her father in computer software. The sisters spent a lot of time talking at their kitchen table after work, tired of 9-to-5 routines and longing for a more meaningful way to give back to the world they lived in, they said. Their conversations began to revolve around fashion, and in their free time they researched local pattern makers, learned about the histories of their favorite brands, and signed up for sewing classes at their local college.
Months flew by. What was already a grueling process in forming a fashion label with little to no connections became a complicated treasure hunt, the sisters said, with their resolve to make high-quality products: They couldn't hire just any seamstress; they had to find people who could sew a certain type of stitch that only higher-end brands were producing. They couldn't go along with the more popular fabrics being sold; they had to personally select textiles they could confirm were eco-friendly and cruelty-free. And even after they successfully launched Delikate Rayne (named for the English meanings of their Hindu names), there was the matter of proving to their parents that what they were doing wasn't just a garage hobby.
"Our parents gave up so much to come here, and they gave us such a beautiful opportunity by being first-born that we wanted to do something to speak to that," Meg Vora said.
And they did. Today the sisters work full-time on Delikate Rayne, dividing their time between designing and talking strategy at their West Hollywood studio and checking in with their factories downtown. They've finally achieved what they said was the perfect faux leather jacket, which they plan on releasing soon, and are bringing in a new faux fur textile that "looks just like the real thing" — an important part of the Delikate Rayne brand.
"We didn't set out to be like, a 'made by vegans for other vegans' company," Komie Vora said. "We want fashion-lovers to fall in love with a leather skirt first, and then learn that it's faux, and it's a bonus because it's both cute and no animals were harmed in the making."
"We've never been ones to preach," Meg Vora added. "Forcing people into things never works. It's more about showing people the possibilities. Half the battle is getting them to listen."