Thursday, August 24, 2017

Meet the man pioneering vegan beard care

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Think vegan haircare. A few brands probably come to mind. Now think vegan beard care. Struggling for ideas? It’s not really surprising, because the options out there really are thin on the ground. Thankfully, one brand is changing that. While D+T Organic Beard and Hair Care want to stay grounded in their handmade philosophy, they’re quietly paving the way for other ethical businesses to claim barbershop domination.

The brainchild of David Rafter,  Australia-based D+T is an entirely vegan, cruelty free and handmade brand. Less than a year old, having launched in November 2014, D+T came about “by accident”. Echoing the sentiments of many vegan startups, David says D+T was the result of him being unable to find quality vegan beard care.

“When I was searching I just couldn’t find anything,” he says. “A lot of the beard balms and waxes used beeswax, and I certainly couldn’t find anything organic, not even close.”

“I had been growing my beard for a couple of years, and had been searching for ages for a product that helped my skin and made my beard feel a little more soft. At that point I had been vegan for six years and pretty much organic.”

Fed up with this fruitless search, David decided to make the products himself.

“From there it just took off, and I have been busy hand-making all the gear ever since.”

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Not coming to a store near you… D+T are sticking by their handmade philosophy.

David’s choice to hand-make all his products was borne of his desire to know exactly what was going into the products he was using.

“I was just so tired of looking around at products and them not really telling me what was in it. I would want to know who made it, whether it was ethical and fair trade. Most of the time, they wouldn’t answer me.”

“So I just said to myself, ‘Stuff it! I am pumping it all out myself!'” David laughs.

“I do love hand-making everything,” he adds. “I constantly get feedback that people can feel the love that goes into it. That puts such a big smile on my face.”

Named after David’s friendship with his best friend, Trudi the staffy, David says D + T also represents the loyalty, trust and respect customers demand.

Initially starting off with beard balm, style wax and a range of beard oils, D+T decided to add hair balm, hair wax and shampoo after the crowd’s enthusiastic response to their launch at World Vegan Day 2014.

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D+T: David Rafter with Trudi the staffy.

Despite all his success so far, with products that are 100% organic, natural, vegan, cruelty free and handmade, David is well aware of the stigma around men’s grooming products, especially those that are cruelty free and vegan.

“I would love to say yes, that the stigma is changing. So, yes,” David laughs.

To be honest it can be a little bit of grind in some places I go. Some of the boys get it, some don’t. To be honest, probably the boys that are vegan are totally more on D+T’s wavelength. Obviously they get the vegan and cruelty free aspect, but they are also more supportive of companies that are local, handmade and ethical.”

David says that even men that aren’t vegan tend to love that D+T’s products are handmade.

“Then once they try, they love it. From there this whole conversation starts about why cruelty free is important, and what actually happens in the cosmetic industry. So maybe from there D+T might be converting a few boys to being vegan!”

David himself has been an ethical vegan for almost ten years. Greatly impacted by a video his brother had sent him about the spiritual, environmental and ethical elements of veganism, David reached a tipping point.

“I remember crying that night and just said to myself, ‘That was it, I am veg.'”

A week later, David’s father asked him to work on his dairy farm.

“I stepped out onto the property, and lasted about a minute. From that moment on I was vegan.”

Coming from a family of ten, David and two of his brothers are vegan.

“I saw my parents today and my father said to me how great I was looking and how great all three of the vegan boys were looking. He said, ‘There must be something to this vegan thing.'”

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David Rafter: ethical vegan and D+T’s Lead Cultivator.

Even before he launched D+T, David had been heavily involved in the vegan movement.

“Ever since I went vegan I have done what ever I could to educate and promote the vegan lifestyle,” he says.

“Actually, it wasn’t long after I went vegan when my partner was diagnosed with cancer. We had to drop everything and move to Brisbane so she could get treatment. It was a pretty heavy time of our lives.”

Needing to be in hospital almost every day for eight months, the pair also launched into setting up Vegan Era, an online portal which educated people about the vegan lifestyle.

We would do cooking demonstrations, cook books and we also did a national tour speaking at World Vegan Day. We were able to speak about things from an environmental and health point of view, and talked about all our experiences. We also launched a 21 Day Live Vegan e-book to help people go vegan.”

David and his partner then decided to launch Vegan Card, a program which gave discounts to vegan businesses around Australia.

“We loved it, but then I grew my beard and D+T happened and consumed all my time. So we had to sort of drop Vegan Era and Vegan Card. I couldn’t blend, do seminars, and promote Vegan Card all at once,” David laughs.

“So I guess the vegan beard won out at the end.”

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Vegan, cruelty free, organic, natural and handmade, D+T’s range includes beard and hair care products.

Asked what he’d do when D+T gets too big to be a one-man job, David is sure and sincere about the brand’s philosophy.

“I would do everything in my power to outsource everything else before I outsource me making all the products,” he says.

“The process of making one beard oil is enormous. So there are a lot of ways I could manage my time better which would allow me to blend all day and night. If I am to be totally honest, I just wouldn’t allow it to get to that stage. If it got to the point where more was going out than what I could make, I would tell people there would be a wait. If it got bigger than that where the wait was months…. oh my, we would have to cross that bridge when we come to it. But honestly, that would be a long way off.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, David is equally as modest when it comes to his aspirations for D+T.

“To be honest, I am so happy with it the way it is,” he says when asked about his business ambitions.

“As long as it supports me and I get to blend and pour my heart and soul into every product, and people are enjoying it, then I am really happy. I have no aspirations of conquering the beard world, or having D+T in every barber. I just love servicing people that want the gear.”

Want a product demo? Watch the video below!

To meet “the man behind the beard”, head along to Sydney’s Cruelty Free Festival on October 25 where David will be selling D+T’s entire range of products. You can read about D+T’s stall at the CFF here.

To find out more about D+T and their products, visit them at:
dandt.com.au

facebook.com/DandTOrganic

instagram.com/d.and.t