Author, animal activist, and businesswoman, Cornelia Guest is committed to protecting animals, the planet, and people.  With a cruelty-free handbag line, faux leather jacket collaboration, vegan cookie business, catering company, and book Simple Pleasures, Cornelia shows consumers how they can speak with their wallet and live cruelty-free.  Never ceasing to spread awareness, Cornelia is a board member for the Humane Society of New York, Face of PETA’s I’d Rather Go Naked Campaign, and was host for the New Yorker’s for Marriage Equality benefit with Mayor Bloomberg.  Learn the steps you can take to eat, shop, and buy cruelty-free food and accessories, how to entertain with ease and elegance on a budget, and Cornelia's lessons learned building a brand with impact.

Shop Cornelia Guest handbags, leather jackets, cookies and book here!

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I try to live in the most humane way possible.

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Cause for Compassion

What does cruelty-free and compassionate living mean to you?

Cruelty-free and compassionate living means that nothing is hurt or tortured.  While it’s impossible to live completely cruelty-free in our society, there are intelligent choices we can make.  There are accessory lines (like mine) that are cruelty-free and there are food options that are cruelty-free.  Eating a plant-based diet is cruelty-free.  I try to eat vegan as much as possible, but I completely understand people who can’t.  Not everyone can follow that lifestyle, but it’s important to know where the food on your plate comes from.  Compassion is important and I try to live in the most humane way possible.

How can we cook, entertain, and eat cruelty-free food?

I try to let people experience it in the best way possible.  That’s what my book Simple Pleasures is about.  All of the dishes in my book are cruelty-free.  If you want to have a Meatless Monday, you can use the recipes for your entrée.  Or you can use the recipes as a side dish such as my quinoa or wheat berry salad, followed by some Brussels sprouts.  Introduce these foods slowly, but surely, to eat cruelty-free.  All of the recipes are delicious and cheap to make.

I created Cornelia Guest Cookies because I couldn’t live without a chocolate chip cookie, so I figured I had to make my own that was vegan.  Part of the proceeds goes to the Humane Society of New York.  My catering company is not vegan (which is a big misconception).  I won’t serve veal, but we do serve meat (we have to in order to stay in business), but all of our meat is sourced from places with humane practices.

If you want to buy food that has been humanely treated, you have to demand it.  We, as the consumer, speak with our wallet.  When you say, ‘I want to know where my meat comes from and I don’t want antibiotics in my food,’ you’re going to see huge poultry farms make that shift.  We’re already starting to see this happen when McDonald’s said they wouldn’t serve anything with antibiotics in it.  I commend them for it, but there’s more work to do especially with demanding organic fruit that hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides. 

Farmers’ markets are a great place for you to find cruelty-free and organic food.  You can even shop for them online because a lot of farmers ship their products, including meat.  Some farmers might be in your area, some might not, but they all ship.  You can also ask your local markets for cruelty-free and organic food.  I always ask wherever I shop because that starts awareness and creates demand from consumers.

If you want to buy food that has been humanely treated, you have to demand it.

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How can we purchase fashionable and affordable cruelty-free products?

The first place you should go to is CorneliaGuest.com.  I love things that are simple, elegant, and useable which is what I’ve created with my bags.  Whatever age you are, everyone is ‘on the go.’  If you’re like me, you leave the house in the morning and don’t get back until the end of the day.  We carry around a lot of stuff, so everything has to work for us.  You have to have a bag that’s big enough to carry an umbrella or sweater, but can also transition into the evening.  I design my bags with that in mind.

I’ve always wanted a faux leather jacket and I designed them with Project Gravitas because it’s important to have one that’s reasonably affordable.  The jackets are between $250 and $350 (I would have loved to have them at a lower price point, but that’s difficult).  I wanted to bring them to market because I love a leather jacket.  Who doesn’t?  I also have a faux fur line coming out next year that’s cruelty-free.

The most important thing to remember is to not be didactic.  No one wants to get screamed at.  No one wants to be told what to do in a nasty or harsh way.  It’s much better if you tell a story and show people.  I understand the PETA website can be difficult to see.  But, if you want to wear fur, see what happens to that animal.  Understand how these animals are tortured and be aware of what you’re promoting when you shop.

Who have been your design influences for your cruelty-free products?

When I was younger, Halston was a great friend of mine and he always dressed me in Ultrasuede.  When I first started my line, Ultrasuede was one of the fabrics I looked into.  I had no idea how much he inspired me.  Mother nature inspires me.  The rainbow of colors: yellow, orange, brown, and green.  Even the blue and grey in the sky inspires me.  I’m inspired everywhere. 

There are also many people who inspire me.  Beverley Joubert’s work with relocating the rhinos to safety, Alice Waters for cooking with organic, and locally grown food, and The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for rescuing elephants.  Poaching is a huge problem right now.  The world is in an uproar with what we’re doing to creatures and it’s not a good thing.

We, as the consumer, speak with our wallet.

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What is the secret to entertaining with ease and relaxed elegance?

My book, Simple Pleasures, offers many tips on taking the stress out of entertaining.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew and do as much as you can beforehand.  Don’t decide you’re going to make a soufflé while you have six people over for a huge dinner.  Do what you’re comfortable with.  Buy guacamole from the store and put it in a pretty bowl (no one’s going to know).  Just make sure you’re comfortable and relaxed.  When people arrive, sit down, and enjoy yourself.  And don’t drink too much before your friends come because otherwise, you’re going to be way ahead of the game!

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Belinda Snake Weave Satchel, $228 // Sebastian Weave, $248

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Lyle Faux Leather Jacket, $375 // Nelson Faux Leather Jacket, $350

Accomplished Activist

Can you share how you’ve been impacted by animal rescue?

Animals are such a gift.  They teach us about ourselves, they make us have compassion, and they have taught me a tremendous amount of patience.  I have eight dogs: a Newfoundland, a Great Pyrenees, two Chihuahuas, a West Highland Terrier, a Jack Russell, and a Spaniel.  I also have a donkey named Madonna and a Tortoise named Socrates.  On my new farm, I have a beaver I named buddy (so I hope it’s a boy!).

What are you most proud of accomplishing as an activist?

The New Yorkers for Marriage Equality benefit was the first real party we did for them and it was a tough sell because not a lot of people wanted to do it.  So many people turned me away.  But then Andre Balazs said we could take over the Boom Boom Room and Mayor Bloomberg was behind us.  I was really proud of that event because it put the campaign on the map and gave it a lot of awareness. 

Also, I post a lot of animals from the Humane Society on my Instagram and Facebook page and we get a lot adopted.  I’m very proud of that.  Follow me on Instragram at @CorneliaGuest and on Facebook at The World of Cornelia Guest to adopt or learn more about how you can lead a compassionate life.  When people ask me where to adopt a dog and I send them to the Humane Society of New York (or their local society) and they adopt – it makes me so happy.  You can get a purebred puppy or wonderful older dog from shelters.  Every breed has a rescue shelter, so there’s really no reason to buy from a pet store using a puppy mill.

If you want to wear fur, see what happens to that animal.

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What has been the biggest challenge building a brand and business?

Building a business is 24/7.  It’s all day, all night, and every second of every day that you think about it, which I love.  Unless you really love what you do, and you’re prepared to do it all of the time, it’s not for the faint of heart.  You have to learn the trends, learn when to stick to your guns, and when to follow your own instincts.  You can’t sell something you don’t like, even if everyone else likes it.  Although, one year a bag made it into my line that I really didn’t like and it flew out the door.  I was laughing thinking, ‘Well that’s how much I know!’  So, you can be surprised too.

How can entrepreneurs give back through their product or service?

It’s important to find a charity you like.  I love the Humane Society of New York.  I’m on the board and a percent of the proceeds from my cookies goes to them.  Work with a charity you love, help people and the planet, and do what makes you feel good on the inside - that’s what it’s about.  You have to do what makes you feel good about yourself and not what anybody else thinks you should do.  Your work has to resonate with you at some level.

And ask people for advice.  I have so many people I go to for advice.  I have one friend, who’s a brilliant businessman, and I’m bothering him all of the time.  I always say, ‘I’m so sorry to bother you.’ and he insists, ‘No, it’s wonderful to see someone go through the ups and downs of business.’  I didn’t go to business school.  I didn’t know the business language.  When I first went to Bloomingdales, I didn’t know what an SLG means (it’s a small leather good).  You can’t be embarrassed to say, ‘I don’t understand what you’re saying.’  You have to ask because people are happy to tell you. (And if they’re not, they’re not very nice people, and you should stay away from them!)

How can we be smart businesswomen and a conscious consumer like you?

Enjoy every second of everything you’re doing.  Enjoy the process, because you don’t know when circumstances are going to change.  Keep your eyes open and be open to possibilities.  Be open and have a ball along the journey.  And remember to help people, animals, and the planet when you can.  Follow your heart and follow what you love.

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Learn the trends, learn when to stick to your guns, and when to follow your own instincts.

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Keep your eyes open and be open to possibilities.

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Spotlight on Cornelia Guest

Neighborhood: Ancram NY

Women I Admire: Beverly Joubert, Alice Waters, Diane Sawyer, Dame Daphne Sheldrick, Jane Goodall, Sandra Bullock

Dream Mentor: Beverly Joubert, David Lean

Look of the Season: Faux furs by Fabulous Furs

Ultimate Accessory: A beautiful smile

Favorite Store: Tootsies

Go-to Outfit: Black jeans , sweater, great boot and a faux fur

Must-have Shoes: Anything from Paul Andrew.  They are all so beautiful and comfortable

Favorite Nail Polish: Tom Ford red

Can’t Live Without Product: Coconut oil

Salon Recommendation: Nikki at AKS in NYC and Michael Canale in LA

 

Photos of Cornelia Guest by Bruce Weber

 

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