Alternatives To Leather: ‘Vegan’ Footwear by Bourgeois Boheme

You eat your greens and frequent local vegan cafes, you practise yoga, you religiously study the heaps and heaps of gifted slow living books lying on your kitchen counter as if aligned in a military order, but as a crucial part of ethical living, have you ever thought of giving up wearing leather entirely? That is no news leather is a by-product of the food industry, and treated with toxic chemicals to pass it on to the fashion industry, which can carry several health risks to the producer, the wearer and the environment. If that's not a fair enough reason to reconsider your next haul to the leather goods hall, we do not know what is. 

Luckily, brands, such as London-based Bourgeois Boheme, have made boycotting the widespread use of unethical leather goods a degree easier, by offering trendy footwear in various vegan, non-leather alternatives, such as plant-based polymers and Piñatex, the latest invention made of pineapple leaf fibre. We promise, when going entirely 'vegan' in footwear choices, you really do not have to compromise the looks, whereas reasoning ethical choices to your peers has become a tad self-explanatory. I had a chat with Sophie Yiannouris from Bourgeois Boheme to find out why the ‘vegan’ shoe trend is still celebrating its peak success, constantly looking to evolve and adapt to new ways of improving its own cherished DNA. 

Words: Hanna-Amanda Pant

Bourgeois Boheme AW16: Shaun Black & Petra Black.

Bourgeois Boheme AW16: Shaun Black & Petra Black.

What are the 'vegan' alternatives to leather you offer at Bourgeois Boheme? Where do the materials come from?

Style, quality, durability and eco-friendliness are equally important factors in the making of a BB shoe. Therefore, we continuously seek out for new material innovations to ensure we stay on top of the environmental game. Whereas the leather-imitation shoes you find on the high street are often made with PVC (a plastic which contains chloride and isn’t biodegradable), we use a high-quality, Italian-made cotton-backed microfibre PU (polyurethane) called Mycro©. The Mycro© is a state-of-the-art microfiber with a structure very similar to that of natural leather and suede. Its softness, lightness, breathability, water and stain resistance provide high performance, comfort and very credible leather-looking shoes! We use this for our uppers.

Another ground-breaking material we started using for our AW16 collection and will continue is Bio-polyoils. These are plant-based polymers derived from natural renewable sources — grains and seeds derived from food-free cereal crops rather than petrochemical origin. At manufacturing stage, these cutting-edge fibres keep CO2 emissions at zero level. This material is breathable and absorbable and perfect to use for the linings of all our shoes.

Bourgeois Boheme SS17: Keith Black Pinatex & Noel Black Pinatex.

Bourgeois Boheme SS17: Keith Black Pinatex & Noel Black Pinatex.

For SS17 launching in May, we are thrilled to introduce a range of styles made with the exciting new vegan leather alternative Piñatex™ - a natural and sustainable non-woven textile made from pineapple leaves fibres. These fibres are the by-product of the pineapple harvest and therefore no extra land, water, fertilisers or pesticides are required to produce the material. Piñatex™ resembles a textured leather and is soft but strong, light and breathable. 

Bourgeois Boheme SS17: Kim Cork.

Bourgeois Boheme SS17: Kim Cork.

Being introduced in our SS17 Collection as well, will be the Cork material. Sourced locally from cork trees in Portugal, our new cork material is a plant based renewable, breathable and natural resource, which is perfect for dressing our new unisex sneakers and the insoles of our shoes. 

Why should we consider giving up leather goods and look for alternatives to take over our shoe and accessories collections?

Bourgeois Boheme: Making of.

Bourgeois Boheme: Making of.

"Piñatex™ resembles a textured leather and is soft but strong, light and breathable." 

We believe in order to give up leather you need to know the environmental and cruel impact it has. People often ask us why leather, as a natural material, is not a better choice than the synthetic vegan alternatives we use. We say that the leather used for fashion, unfortunately, is not very natural at all (and far from always a by-product from the food industry). Toxic chemicals such as zinc, lead, dyes, cyanide and formaldehyde are used to treat it, which makes it decompose very slowly, producing a greater quantity of refuse which has an obvious negative environmental impact. In addition, tanneries consume a lot of energy and are very polluting; and the carcinogenic chemicals used negatively affect the health of workers, too. We believe that alternative, innovative and environmentally friendly materials are the future and better than the toxic leathers and PVC’s frequently used to date. All the alternative materials are strong, breathable, durable and water-proof, which is another reason we think these could be a better choice to leather.

What are the nuances that matter in the production of an ethical shoe?

As much as we believe that animals should not be exploited for our fashion needs, we also believe that a good vegan and ethical shoe should be ethically produced for the general wellbeing of the planet, and to ensure the wellbeing of our talented shoemakers that handmake our shoes. 

"At manufacturing stage, these cutting-edge fibres keep CO2 emissions at zero level."

Our skilled Portuguese artisans craft each pair by hand using traditional techniques. First, the upper sections of the shoe are cut and stitched together and any linings and other design details added. The upper is then moulded into the shape of the shoe using a specially made last, creating a distinctive shoe shape for the first time. Next, the insole goes on and the upper is stitched and/or glued to the sole using non animal-based glue. The finished shoe is polished, checked and placed in our beautiful branded box, ready for the journey to London and beyond. 

Visiting our factories personally is important to us and founder Alicia has handpicked the three ethical factories we work with herself. We meet the teams of artisan craftsmen and women who are responsible for making our shoes to ensure high standard production and working conditions.

You mentioned Pinatex as a part of your new footwear collection. What are the benefits of this new material and why should we consider wearing it?

Bourgeois Boheme SS17: Victoria White Pinatex.

Bourgeois Boheme SS17: Victoria White Pinatex.

The Pinatex material is a new innovative material discovered by the company Ananas Anam. With the help of skilled Philipino workers, they extract the fibres from the pineapple leaf plantations. This process supports Phillipino communities to grow their businesses. These fibres are the by-product of the pineapple harvest and therefore no extra land, water, fertilisers or pesticides are required to produce the material.

 

Bourgeois Boheme SS17: Victoria Natural Pinatex.

Bourgeois Boheme SS17: Victoria Natural Pinatex.

Then they are transported to a factory in Spain to transform into the strong, breathable and water-resistant material that we are using for our limited-edition collection launching in May 2017. It a unique and great alternative material to leather, which has not been used a lot so far. During the launch of our Pinatex collection we will be hosting a week-long pop-up shop in London to promote this amazing alternative material and also promote sustainable fashion for men and women in all its glory.

Shop now:

http://www.bboheme.com

Sleep In Bliss: Responsbily Made Sleeping Masks by ÖÖLOOM

It’s very easy for sleep to become an insignificant, routine activity. Yet we all know that good sleep is essential for our physical well-being and sanity. I am a resident sleepyhead. So when I spotted Estonian brand Ööloom’s (literally ‘night animal’) range at the store, I was immediately in awe. A company dedicated solely to provide people with a great sleeping experience with their soft animal-shaped sleeping masks – what more could you want? To top it all off, their products are responsibly made and locally-sourced. I felt like I needed to introduce Ööloom to all the professional nappers out there. Mihkel Virkus, resident visionary and a rigorous sleeper at Ööloom, answered our most haunting questions. 

Words: Johanna Raudsepp

'Fox Girl' by Ööloom, 2016. 

'Fox Girl' by Ööloom, 2016. 

It’s not every day that we see a new brand dedicated to great and sustainable sleeping gear. What inspired you to launch a sleeping mask line? 

Quite true. You don’t see many distinct sleeping brands. I guess people tend to take sleep for granted much of the time. 

This kind of ties in with the origin story of Ööloom. The thing is, many people view sleeping as a passive act. You just close your eyes, and don’t worry about the rest of it. But the reality is that you actually go on breath-taking adventures inside your own mind. Just because you grow stronger and become rested doing it, doesn’t mean you’re doing nothing.

We think that the dream world and the human capacity for imagination should be celebrated and to that end a regular sleeping mask just won’t do. The Ööloom sleeping mask stands as an active reminder of the silliness that your brain can muster up.

Ööloom unicorn mask with packaging, 2016.  

Ööloom unicorn mask with packaging, 2016. 

Who is Ööloom?

Ööloom is a creature of the night. The friendly kind, of course. He is mysterious, but never frightening, like a hedgehog in the fog. He acts as a sort of an ambassador for the seemingly unreasonable dream-world – delivering fresh and unconventional ideas to our rational and, dare I say, dull reality. The word itself comes from the Estonian language. It loosely translates into “night owl”, a person who tends to stay up quite late. But we ourselves prefer the literal translation – “night beast”.

"The ÖÖLOOM sleeping mask stands as an active reminder of the silliness that your brain can muster up."

I love napping on couches and when I’m travelling. Where is your favourite place to nap?

Ahh yes — couches are fantastic. I’m a big fan. But I’d say it’s not about where you fall asleep that interests me the most. It’s what kind of a world you dream yourself into. I once napped into a parallel reality situated inside the imagination of a blueberry pie. It was a pretty sweet dream.

Variety of Ööloom sleeping masks, 2016. 

Variety of Ööloom sleeping masks, 2016. 

Your products are made in Estonia, using locally sourced materials. Conscious production is something we strongly care about. What is your take on it? Do you think more companies should produce ethically made products?

We at Ööloom spend a great deal of time in the subconscious or unconscious, depending on your understanding of how sleeping works. As a matter of principle, we aim to be very conscious about our actions while we are awake. 

A lot of the raw magical power of our products come from the way we make them. The sheep that provide the wool are hand-fed, the felt is hand-made from the wool and the masks are hand-sewn by a small army of lovely ladies. The love and care that is put in, reflects in the finished product.

"Many people view sleeping as a passive act. You just close your eyes, and don’t worry about the rest of it. But the reality is that you actually go on breath-taking adventures inside your own mind."

The importance of locally sourced materials for us is very much a part of the brand. It’s the cold Nordic environment that has made us, Estonians, so creative. The first Estonians that arrived here had to figure out how to build a fire on top of frozen water before they could go to bed. That’s not easy. This has made Estonians more appreciative of sleep and we believe that local materials carry that same appreciation within them.

There is definitely a trend towards more ethical ways of manufacturing. I think it has a lot to do with the ever-growing amount of information available. About the producers as well as to the consumers. It’s easier now to know where, how and by whom, the stuff is actually made. 

For us it’s a no-brainer. As a consistent brand that values happiness, we need to know that the journey of the wool from the belly of a sheep to the face of a human is a happy one as well.

Ööloom panda sleeping mask, 2016. 

Ööloom panda sleeping mask, 2016. 

You have a few endangered species featured in your line of night animals. Where did that idea stem from and will we see more in the future? 

Yes, that’s right. The “endangered species” is a category in the e-store (ooloomstore.com) for the animal sleeping masks that are no longer in active production. The reason is that we want to keep the main collection at 10 different animals, so that the already tired and sleepy person looking for a mask wouldn’t be overwhelmed by choices. We introduce new animals fairly slowly. Maybe one or two new faces a year, the most recent one being a black fox. The older ones fall out of the ‘current collection’ and remain in the ‘endangered species’ category – available only online. We just didn’t have the heart to cancel their production altogether because in our world no animal should go extinct. Imaginary or otherwise.

"It’s not about where you fall asleep that interests me the most. It’s what kind of a world you dream yourself into."

What does Ööloom dream about? 

Ööloom dreams about many things. The most common and reoccurring dream is one of total world domination. I’m not an expert in dream interpretation. But this probably reflects the ambition of the company and our own plans for total world domination – achieved not by force, but by the creative use of happiness, whimsy, and dangerously cute sleeping gear.

See more:

Ööloom sleeping masks exclusively featured in our Conscious Gift Guide.

https://ooloomstore.com

B·COME: Ethical Fashion Studio Revving Up Radical Transparency

We were delighted to meet with Anna and Alba from B·COME Studio, find out more about their amazing brand… 

B·COME Studio, 2016. 

B·COME Studio, 2016. 

Tell us about the team... 

Most importantly, behind B·COME there is a team formed by individuals who are eager and committed to reach the entire world. B·COME is built upon a passionate team formed by multidisciplinary individuals who complement one another.  

What was the catalyst that made you start B COME Studio?

As there couldn’t be another way, B·COME was born after the experience and the aim to become part of the change that the fashion industry is currently experimenting. 

Alba Garcia, co-founder of B·COME, worked inside the textile industry for seven years. During this time she discovered the real system and impact of the fashion circle; which is mainly composed by processes that are increasingly standardised and don’t allow to take out the potential and the resources from others, especially from the providers. As a designer, one doesn’t take the time to discover the real value of each manufacturer, and the rhythm of the work doesn’t allow to explore it in depth. 

At this moment Alba Garcia and her partner Anna Cañadell (co-founder) of B·COME, who has a significant relationship with entrepreneurship business, decided to invest on their first trip to India. As an opportunity to meet possible clients, discover their potential and understand their needs.  From this moment on, the project has been evolving and adapting to each necessity. 

"As a designer, one doesn’t take the time to discover the real value of each manufacturer, and the rhythm of the work doesn’t allow to explore it in depth."

What is your personal relationship with sustainability (Anna & Alba)?

For B·COME there is no doubt that, sustainable fashion is the future. It is not a passing fad nor a way to ‘greenwash’ clean the name of a brand. 

Sustainable fashion at the moment has become a huge trend, and there is a big challenge for the next generations to value the importance to buy ethical/conscious and to start using quality products. It is important to understand that small changes can reduce the environmental impact and the social problem of mass production. At the end, everything is up to the decisions we make for ourselves. 

Tell us about how you work with other brands to build relationships between suppliers, artisans and brands... 

As a multitasking consultancy/agency specialised in sustainable fashion, we mainly advise companies from large corporations to providers who want to incorporate sustainable fashion and processes that are completely transparent within their production system. 

We are the top of the triangle that unifies sustainable providers and European brands. 

B·COME offers brands services including design and consultancy about quality and alternative techniques. 

The main objective is to offer collections that not simply meet the normal standards required for a certain brand, instead we want to offer the most sustainable option.  Always going a step ahead and by the hand of our provider. 

B·COME Studio, 2016. 

B·COME Studio, 2016. 

Tell us about your manifesto... 

RADICAL TRANSPARENCY: 

B·COME believes in people. Together we are and we sum up. Our work consists on facilitating the communication between the retailer (brand) and the provider, throughout transparency and trust, with the final purpose of optimising their collaborations. 

GREEN AND CLEAN:

Building a sustainable fashion business is about passion and seeing beyond present. B.COME believes that green and clean fashion is the future. Product quality and design is equally important as how sustainability it has been made.  We support organisations who believe in ethical fashion and integrity, our aim is to endeavour for ALL of us to be a protagonist of change.

STAY CURIOUS:

Travel is what we do. To discover genuineness is our favourite.

"It is important to understand that small changes can reduce the environmental impact and the social problem of mass production."

B·COME Studio, 2016. 

B·COME Studio, 2016. 

Tell us about some of your recent projects and how B COME helped with the project...

At the moment we are working on several projects, we work with different kind of providers — from small artisans specialised in embroidery by hand (hand craftsmanship) with vertical providers as PRATIBHA (INDIA), who build organic cotton that produce large quantities of cotton, which allow them to work with brands, such as Patagonia, Inditex and C&A. 

We adore to travel and we try to take advantage of our trips to get to know new products and providers. At the moment we fall in love with them, we do whatever is in our hands to introduce them into the European market. 

http://www.bcomestudio.com