Love Sofie from Sweden reflects a kinder way of crafting shoes — the animal-free and durable shoes are ready to lift you into great heights, without compromising comfort and multifunctional craftsmanship.
By Hanna-Amanda PantRead More
One of my favourite things about ethical fashion is how it urges creators to think outside of the box and be innovative in their entire design process. LUCKYNELLY’s animal-friendly ethos focuses on bold, elevated everyday luxury accessories. Made in Berlin, yet produced in Milan, LUCKYNELLY is challenging the norm of sustainability. From bags to jewellery to silk scarves - yes, even including touches of ethical silk! - their everyday goodies are true show-stoppers. Christine Rochlitz, founder of LUCKYNELLY, shared her take on slow design accessories.
Words: Johanna Raudsepp
Your entire brand focuses deeply on ethical creation. What do you value most about sustainable design?
For me, sustainable design means a slower approach [to creating] where no mass consumption principles are implemented. I remember when I was a teenager, there was a denim store near my hometown. I loved to wear super skinny denim from Levi’s and, at this time, they were already quite expensive. I had one pair in blue and one in black. I wore them for a few years and was always so proud of my jeans.
Today, with all those big fast fashion chains, you don’t have the opportunity to ‘love’ your clothes because fashion and new trends change too fast, and it leaves you forever with an unsatisfactory feeling. Quality should really be more important than quantity. As Vivienne Westwood put it: 'Buy less, choose well, make it last.'
What's your take on slow living?
Slow living to me means that you focus more on things that are really important in life, like being happy, spending time with family and friends or pets, being outside, and spending time cooking. People are living at a fast pace every day, so they are always overwhelmed and their lives are non-stop, chaotic. I think it is time to enjoy life more and to flee of all this pressure.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Nature inspires me the most. There are so many beautiful creatures and plants in absolutely fantastic colors and structures - for example, the Rose Chafer. For the Peace Silk Scarves [collection] I was inspired by images I took of flowers with my Canon Cam, and changed the colours and layers. But also my materials inspire me - working with things such as the genuine wood material, which is easy to work with, and the slate stone.
What is LUCKYNELLY's vision towards a sustainable future?
The vision of LUCKYNELLY is that people buy more carefully, thinking of where the clothes come from and if an animal or human had to die or suffer to create it, and truly act upon it. LUCKYNELLY also aims to demonstrate that vegan alternatives to animal leather are luxurious, fashionable, and fair-trade.
You can buy LUCKYNELLY accessories here.
Words: Johanna Raudsepp
Established back in 2012, Italian fashion-forward accessories brand OOD proves that 'slow' in fashion is not all about dedication to radical ethical principles and conscious consumption, but also about innovation and thinking outside of the box.
Father-daughter-duo, Marcello and Marta Antonelli, were looking for an alternative, yet trendy solution to replace leather in accessories design. Drawing their inspiration from python skin, they found that wood was the way of future in crafting memorable pompous luxury items important in every woman's wardrobe. Thus, Ligneah was created — a versatile hand-made soft wood material used to make innovative textiles.
OOD specialises in using their own natural tissue, Ligneah, to create stunning bags and colourful accessories. Their latest collection is inspired by Greek mythology — a beautiful way to honour the material that has been a source of livelihood for mankind throughout the ages. Why wood, you ask? It is a resource that combines all elements a sustainable designer desires. Wood is eco-friendly, natural, biodegradable, cruelty free, and has a high-end look. It doesn’t matter which type of tree you use (selected by Greenpeace standards, naturally), the results are always living up to the moment.
Marcello and Marta follow every possible ethical principle du jour, when creating and designing for OOD, and paving way to the future of exciting, innovative materials. With a traceable and sustainable production process, they make sure every item is made with love and care. Although they can create 200 bags and 150 shoes from a single tree, the brand is dedicated to proving that ‘sustainability is not just a fashion word’. OOD is partnered with Tree-Nation and supports its reforestation projects by planting a tree for every item purchased. So you do not only make a unique, stylish choice when wearing OOD, but you naturally help to make a good deed, too.
Standing for MAT(T)ERIAL and NATURE and the synergy between the two, Matt & Nat from Montreal offers vegan alternatives to everyday leather essentials, assembled in the form of chic everyday handbags and true city dweller shoes. With their motto being 'live beautifully', Matt & Nat encourages to appreciate integrity, authenticity and inclusiveness among other core values coining the brand's DNA. Matt & Nat advocates the use of alternatives to animal-based materials, such as PVC, and have incorporated using recycled plastic bottles from 2007. Geared forward by ideologies of innovation and renewal, Matt & Nat proves you can even be socially responsible whilst wearing your favourite leather finery...
Manny Kohli, CEO of Matt & Nat, answers all our curious questions.
What alternatives to leather does your brand offer? How long is their lifespan?
All of our vegan leather bags are made out of PVC and PU. We’re constantly trying to source the best materials on the market to ensure a long lifespan. As with any other products, the lifespan of our bags depends on the consumer’s habits. It’s quite hard to put an exact number of this. It will vary greatly between a person who throws their bag on the floor versus another who keeps it in perfect condition. We also offer handbags in canvas material and cork material.
What are the latest advances you have incorporated into production of Matt and Nat vegan leather accessories?
We’re constantly exploring ways to be more sustainable and eco-friendly. We try to incorporate environmentally responsible materials whenever we get the chance. We have committed to using linings solely composed of recycled water bottles since 2007 and we’ve recycled over three billion water bottles producing our bags.
What are the benefits of vegan leather products and why should they be considered to replace leather entirely?
We’re a vegan company and are very proud that no animals were hurt in the production of our bags. We chose to produce vegan bags with recycled materials to show the world that you don’t have to kill animals to produce beautiful accessories. I think consumers are becoming more socially responsible and aware of how harmful the production of leather is and we’re seeing a huge shift and demand in the vegan market.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
NYC-based Starch Slides is a unique footwear brand that has mastered crafting the perfect slide-on shoe, whereas proudly pairing the sustainability element of up-cycling men’s shirts with vegan leather. At Starch Slides, individuality is the key — no other pair for ‘the girl on the go’ looks the same, ever. Savant talks shoes and sustainability with its founder Shannon Crowley.
Particularly considering the environmental impact, what informed the creation of Starch Slides?
As I come from a retail buying background, I wanted to bring a brand to life that was eco-friendly without looking entirely “granola”. I woke up in the middle of the night with the idea of up-cycling men’s shirts as shoes, and I sketched [my vision] and took it from there.
What's your personal relationship with sustainability? How much does it reflect in your brand?
Starch Slides is very much my personal style — they are cool, effortless, comfortable and original. I have always been aware of green living, watching my waste and hoping others do the same. I think even doing little things make a huge difference over time, and not being sustainable is irresponsible at this point. Little things, like skipping the plastic produce bag when buying oranges, using a refillable water bottle, and washing and reusing plastic Tupperwares when ordering take-out can make a big difference.
Your design philosophy is to create a unique, one-of-a-kind pair of shoes that no one else has. Describe the woman who starts her morning routine wearing Starch Slides…
The Starch Slides girl is a girl of any age — our audience ranges from 17 to 60. The prints of a men’s button-up shirt resonates with all ages, as the shirts are so classic. A big trend has been for mothers and daughters to each get a pair (different styles, of course), the style of slides is so simple that the shoe really changes personality based on the shirt we used to make it. They are for the girl on the go — simply slip them on and run out. Also, they come in a reusable backpack and take up little room in a suitcase, so they are a perfect travel shoe. I bring at least 4 pairs to every vacation I take.
Could you elaborate on the concept of 'vegan' leather?
Vegan leather is made of polyurethane — it is durable, playable and breathable. We use vegan leather because we want to have as small of a carbon footprint as we can possibly get. We bind the fabric from the shirt to vegan leather so your foot stays secure and the slide is very durable. Trust me, I am bashing through the streets of NYC and I have yet to wear through a pair, and I am not easy on shoes.
What's your opinion on the fashion and footwear industry exposing itself to a greater degree of transparency? Is there still a long way to go to acting completely green?
I think that consumers are doing a great job of asking questions, this is leading brands to expose the truth behind the process of their factories. I do think many brands are taking strides where they can to become green, which is a wonderful thing to see. We have a long way to go, but I think we will get there in time.
What do you hate the most about the mass production of shoes? What makes creating a sustainable shoe difficult?
I hate the cheap prices of mass produced shoes. It’s hard to work so hard to make sure your shoes all have their own, unique personality, then walk in a store and see shoes on sale for less than lunch. People need to continue to remind themselves, “who is getting paid?”, when they see prices that are too cheap to believe.
What's the type of shoe you hate to see or wear? What makes a shoe beautiful?
I have thought I dislike many styles of shoes, then I see a woman rocking them and looking totally cool. This has taught me not to judge. I definitely have my own style, it is rocker/boho. When I am not in slides I am in sneakers or motorcycle boots. I live in New York City and always need to be in outfits that transition from day to night, [that are] easy and understated. So Starch Slides are the perfect shoe choice for this girl on the go.