Fabulous food, a cuddly canine and fantastic fashion -- who could ask for anything more? All three are at the core of the lovely life that Sarma Melngailis has built for herself. The owner and founder of acclaimed eatery Pure Food and Wine (a mecca of raw-food goodness) and shop One Lucky Duck and author of two cookbooks, definitely has that vegan glow we all hear about, not to mention a covetable sneaker collection and a penchant for perfecting the casual look in expertly chosen summer dresses, jeans, and T-shirts.
Sarma, whose dog Leon appears daily on her twitter feed, is also a passionate animal advocate, but she takes a refreshingly nonjudgmental approach to all things cruelty-free. "It's just the way I feel comfortable living," she said. "I’m not strict about it, so if I’m traveling or at a restaurant and I realize there’s a little butter on my broccoli, I’m not going to freak out. I also always tell people to keep reading, keep watching documentaries -- keep watching every new Mercy For Animals undercover video that comes out. It’s all good inspiration. And as sad as it is, I like to re-watch Earthlings every year or two."
Solid advice. Sarma took a few minutes out of her crazy-busy schedule to give us a few more tips on creating an ethical wardrobe, and she also told us about her favorite natural beauty product and the band shirt she can't let go of. Keep reading for all this and more.
It was serendipitous. I was reluctantly brought to a raw vegan cafe by someone who was, fortunately, really knowledgeable about it and while we ate food that was far more delicious than I expected, I got a life changing lecture on the benefits of raw-vegan. I tried it as an experiment after that and the experiment never ended.
I’m almost 42, and most of the time I still dress like I’m 14. I feel best in summer dresses and sneakers, jeans and T-shirts. I have a gigantic collection of sneakers, mostly Pumas. I don’t really feel like myself when I wear high-heeled shoes. …That being said, I love fashion and design.
Favorite clothing item:
Hard to say… Right now I'm wearing a dress I bought more than 20 years ago. It’s nice to have clothes with history. And I guess it’s good I still fit into it! I also have an old Metallica shirt that one of my chefs gave me. It’s a "Ride the Lightning" shirt. It’s so old, it’s really thin, and I treat it like delicate lace when I wash it.
Best beauty product:
Coconut oil -- it’s good for everything: Face, body, makeup remover, for shaving your legs, for your hair, and adding spoonfuls to fruit shakes. Even Leon loves coconut butter… pretty sure it helps him have a healthy shiny coat. It has to be really good quality though.
Tips for creating a conscious closet:
Keep everything you have and take good care of it. I have some non-vegan clothes (an old men’s Theory leather jacket I bought 15 years ago, some boots, lots of sneakers) and keeping them in good condition lets me get more wear out of them. I wouldn't want to buy most of the sneakers I still wear because a lot of them are suede, but I bought them years ago, so will make them last as long as I can. And luckily Puma now makes sneakers from recycled suede, and I read that they’re moving to eliminate suede and leather entirely in the future. In the meantime, there are more and more good options out there. If you’re a guy, Brave Gentleman shoes are beautiful. I always want to buy them but then I remember, I’m not a guy. For accessories, I love Matt & Nat. I'm obsessed with my wallet from them. Finally, buying second-hand is also a good way to go. I bought an Armani black label beautiful suit (that happened to fit me perfectly) from eBay. When I wear it all I want to do is brag that I got it from eBay.
Every summer I find something at Free People. Their stuff is mostly too bohemian for me, but every summer, without fail, I find one or two dresses that I get, and they become my favorite for that season. They also make really cool vegan leather stuff in the winter, jackets and boots and such. Moo Shoes is a great place for good vegan shoes, and of the designers [they carry], I love OlsenHaus. She makes beautiful flats.
I’m working on a book, but less about recipes and raw food, more about life and business. I may do another recipe book as well… I’ve also been spending time in L.A. finally, and may do something there… I just need to sort out how to bring Leon over there with me when I go.