Updated: Apr 14
Greetings and Happy New Year! As we head into 2022, our focus will continue to be on Ethical and Sustainable fashion- follow along as we learn about brands and designers working in this space, striving to improve our personal health, the fashion industry and make better decisions for our planet. Our first article of the year is all about shoes!
Need new shoes? Your next purchase needn’t be wracked with guilt. Despite its reputation, the shoe industry is changing for the better in terms of sustainability and ethics. Vegan leather has gone from niche to popular, and with innovations like the fungal-fantastic Mycelium Leather entering the industry, the trend is set to continue. Some brands are paying more attention to ethics and ecology than others, though. Here are five notable examples.
This is one brand that already does more than most, but isn’t ready to stop there. The shoes and flip flops from TOMS’ recent Earthwise collection use materials like recycled plastic bottles, plant-based foam, and natural dye. As part of its medium term plans, the LA-based brand aims further to shift to only sustainable cotton by 2025, as well as use several other means to reduce their carbon footprint every year.
A favorite of actor-activist Emma Watson, Veja focuses on ethical practices throughout their whole supply chain. They source organic cotton from a Brazilian cooperative, pay decently for wild Amazonian rubber to reduce land clearance, and use a chrome-free vegetable tanning process. With high factory unionisation and socially responsible logistics, they’ve cemented their spot as a sustainable shoe brand. Veja’s popularity also continues to boom thanks to collaborations and great design. The Rick Owens x Veja sustainable runner line proves that sustainability is an option even for running shoes. These elegant, breathable sneakers even use laces entirely made from recycled bottles.
BANGS Named after the Mandarin word for ‘help,’ founder Hannah Davis partnered with a family-owned factory to produce simple work boots from ethically sourced and 100% vegan material. The workers receive fair wages and have lunch breaks long enough for a nap! Not that anyone is jealous. An interesting part of the BANGS business model is that they invest a fifth of net profits in hand-selected businesses — through the non-profit microfinancier Kiva — to help them get started. Once repaid, the same investment is made in another business.
If you love the naturally antibacterial and moisture-wicking properties of wool, Giesswein has you covered. They ensure all their high-quality merino wool is cruelty-free by avoiding the grisly practice of mulesing. The brand’s sheep logo shows its commitment to the animal, and is quite fetching to boot. Giesswein has a range of shoes that it makes with zero waste principles, from warm snow shoes and slippers to sneakers and flats.
The gorgeous line work of Nisolo shoes are proof that style needn’t be sacrificed for sustainability. Run out of Nashville, the brand works with Peruvian artisans who receive a living wage to hand-make a stunning range of climate-neutral certified products. Like Veja, Nisolo uses vegetable tanning in its production of boots, heels and much more. They even have an Ethical Marketplace with products from other ethical brands.
Sustainable Kicks There’s no doubt about it: for anyone who wants to break in a new pair of shoes without breaking the planet or the backs of workers, the choices are expanding. And not only does buying ethical fashion support workers and the environment, but it can also slowly encourage the entire industry to move in that direction— which is what we’re all about at Inside Fashion Design.