You know that song lyric by Paul Simon? “She Got… Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes”. Well, that’s what got this whole post started. I was humming along and it dawned on me that eco-friendly shoes is one topic I haven’t delved into yet. So off I went and here we are. But I’ll come clean – these shoes don’t actually have diamonds on the soles. If they did they would be conflict-free diamonds of course. And they might as well have to be honest because these beautiful designs are vegan-friendly and ethically-made gold dust for conscious shoe addicts. Let’s explore.
RAFA is our first stop on this trail and their website and intentions are concise. RAFA Creative Director Taghrid Chaaban Zorob states that their aim is to use the local craftsmanship of just 20 shoe-makers in Los Angeles, combined with high-quality eco-friendly fabrics and sustainable processes, “to create a collection of accessible, luxury footwear”.
RAFA Shoes are:
- Crafted from vegan fabrics, such as faux-suede and velvet
- Handmade in small batches
- Slow fashion advocates
- Transparent about delivery: their shoes have a much longer lead time compared to other fast fashion shoe sites because of the care that goes into them
- Intent on making “special items that are good for people and good for the earth”
Also available in:
Bourgeois Boheme has quite a unique founding story. Their name and brand, which both means ‘bourgeois’ and ‘bohemian’, was created by Alicia, an ex-podiatrist and long-term vegan, and born to remain independent, reliant on eco-friendly materials and techniques, and crafted by their Portuguese artisanal shoe-makers.
They champion slow fashion over fast, throwaway culture and are working on becoming even more transparent and eco-friendly in their business practices whilst remaining true to their vegan core.
To read more about their story please click here.
These guys made my What If Meghan Wore? The Sustainable Fashion Edit shopping list as “flats fit for a princess”. Their aim is to create a luxury yet sustainable shoe start-up, which has them sourcing naturally-occurring or recycled materials local to them in Spain in order to cut out air miles.
Outer-sole made of regenerated leather
- Spanish designer shoe start-up with materials sourced from Spain
- Packaging made from recycled cardboard
- On a mission to make sustainable ‘chic’
- Uses naturally-occurring and recycled materials to make their shoes, such as cork and natural rubber
- Shoe bags made from 100% organic cotton
- Insoles made from recycled leather
- Offer a Vegan Sandal collection
- A ‘Positive Luxury – Brands To Trust’ Butterfly Award holder.
You can watch their video for an insider glance at their production practices and environment here:
It feels as though Veja has been on my ethical shoe-shopping lust list for as long as I can remember – they have been crafting their eco-friendly trainers ever since 2005 when I was still in school! Since then, they have sold over 2 million sneakers and have integrated suppliers, producers, manufacturers and logistics teams with strong environmental and social ethics and one key word at their core: transparency.
These trainers are made from a combination of wild rubber from the Amazon Rainforest, organic cotton from north-east Brazil, vegetable tanned leather (although they do some without leather too), and B-mesh – the fabric Veja created for themselves out of recycled plastic bottles.
Emma Watson wears V-10 BMESH NATURAL MARSALA -110,00 €
You can listen to the full incredible story of their journey here.
Po-Zu are my go-to for ethically-made, insanely comfortable exercise trainers.
- All materials come from naturally renewable sources and are responsibly harvested
- They contain no pesticides, bleaches or toxic dyes materials and are locally sourced wherever possible
- Organic cotton and all leather is chromium-free
- Have a full Vegan range
- 10% of their net profits go to charity, and this is shared between several environmental charities they support
- They do not use any solvent-based substances and glues, because they are harmful and pose hazardous health risks to factory workers
- Certified by the Ethical Company Organisation, a member of the Fair Rubber Association, and Positive Luxury Butterfly Award Holder.
Will’s Vegan Shoes are carbon neutral, ethically made in Portugal, vegan and cruelty-free. They use high-quality vegan leathers and suedes, with those crafted from Italian leather alternatives derived from bio-oil and plants.
Vivobarefoot encourage ‘Minimalist Everyday Running and Barefoot Shoes’. These supremely flexible exercise trainers mould to your feet and their main aim is to revive the ancient practice of our ancestors’ barefoot running – before the time of shoes – without actually going barefoot. They offer a Vegan range and a Winterproof range, which includes a water-resistent outer layer with built-in fleece lining for extra warmth or a removable thermal sock. The Primus Swimrun Hi above is made from approx. 17 recycled plastic bottles to create a breathable mesh and each product comes with a no-quibble refund guarantee up to 100 days after purchase.
They also do Barefoot everyday shoes, which are super cute:
Natalie Heel – Black
Nicora are one of the most fascinating ethical shoe designers on the market. It is a company run and founded entirely by women with backgrounds in the creative arts, law, environmentalism and sustainability.
In order to hold themselves and their shoes to the highest environmental and ethical standards, the team created their own material that met these standards, Kind Leather™.
Kind Leather™ is:
- Made from recycled materials and organic waste
- Uses no PVC, plasticizers or plastic grade PU
- Made in fair labor verified facilities and never in factories not eligible for Fair Trade Certification
One of the most unique aspects of Nicora is that they name some of their shoes after strong women achieving great things in the sustainability, environmental or conservation sectors, such as the Leela Ballet Flat.
This beautifully chic flat was named after Leela Hazzah – the lion conservation biologist who working alongside Kenyan organisation The Lion Guardians to find and enact sustainable long-term solutions “for people and lions to coexist”. You can read more about The Lion Guardians here.
Indosole is one of the most pioneering and interesting ethical shoe companies to research. The seed of this brand was planted in 2004, when Kyle Parson (now CEO of Indosole) visited Indonesia and came home with a pair of sandals made from recycled tyres. This struck Kyle as an ingenious use for tyre waste and the pollution arising from it, which is a big problem in Indonesia, where tyres are burned as a cheap alternative to fuel.
Tyres are made from such strong material that it would take over a thousand years for them to break down naturally – as Kyle mentions on Indsole’s website, this means that theoretically the first tyre ever made is still out there somewhere. So Kyle decided to create Indosole – “Soles with Soul” – made from disused tyres (over one billion waste tyres end up in landfill every year) collected from all over Indonesia before they reach waste sites. Check out the supply process.
Indosole is a certified B Corporation company. B-Corporation is a strict certification standard of social and environmental production practices and laid down by the non-profit organisation B-Lab. I would like to see more shoe companies adopt this certification! To read the full story and watch and video on the supply process, please click here.
Never one to shy away from the idea of utilising both progression and tradition in shoe-making techniques, Vivienne Westwood made memorably vegan shoes – the Melissa flats for her Anglomania collection – when this was first becoming a strong topic in fashion ethics. The current range, although not vegan-friendly, is both unisex and made in England – in a factory in Cheaney, Northamptonshire, where “traditional heritage shoemakers…renowned as the home of high-quality English shoes” are housed.
A brand that has been on my lust list for a while now, Fortress of Inca footwear are:
- Handmade in Peru
- Fair Trade
- Built to last
- Striving to ‘create classic silhouettes that will stand the test of time’
The story started back in 2004 (the same year, incidentally, that the idea for Indosole was born), by Evan, the brand’s founder, who came home with a pair of Peruvian artisan boots whilst backpacking through South America and was taken in by the quality of the craftsmanship. From this experience, Fortress of Inca began in a journey to bring this craftsmanship to the market.
The company focuses its energy on working with factories that are family-owned and run, that are safe for workers, and always pay fair wages. You can read more about their story here.
A couple of my favourites:
Beyond Skin are a vegan-friendly luxury shoe brand, who get excited about the newest eco-friendly fabrics hitting the market for ethical footwear. Their factories are based in Spain and they are committed to upholding fair workers rights and wages. They are:
- PETA approved vegan
- Made of luxury Italian vegan leather
- Using recycled microfibre suede and recycled faux leather lining with a vegetable polymer coating
- Inspired by a collection of vintage fabrics and designs.
You can shop the full collection here.
Now in its fifth year, Bhava creates handmade artisan shoes from their two ateliers in Spain and Mumbai and relies on organic, recycled and cruelty-free components.
Fully committed to educating others about the importance of sustainability and cruelty-free ethics in fashion production, their founder Francisca also taught Ethical Fashion and Sustainable Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Interestingly, they also introduced a novel design concept to the market – a detachable separate knee-high boot upper, which can be purchased alongside its corresponding boot – to give you two shoes for the price of one!
nae stands for ‘No Animal Exploitation’, a vegan shoewear brand based in Portugal. They use:
- Pineapple leaf fibres – a surprisingly warm and water-resistant material created by an English company working with local farmers in the Philippines.
- PET – recycled plastic bottles
- OEKO-TEX Microfibres, which are certified as a “lighter and more ecological” version of traditional microfibres (made of nylon, cotton and polyester) and allows for much less water or energy waste in its production
- Cork – but only when extracted from protected cork oaks
Their most innovative fibre to date is that which is recycled from car airbags, “giving a new life to a material that is no longer useful and reusing the nylon present in the airbags”. As they proudly state on their website, nae are the first shoe brand in the world to design a shoe made from recycled airbags:
You can read more about their materials policy here.
The Swedish Hasbeens motto is ‘Better shoes for a better world’, and they have recently branched out into a Jeans range too. The Hasbeens story starts with a box of vintage clogs from the 1970’s, which was discovered in the basement of an old clog factory back in 2005…
These clogs once belonged to Anita, “the hottest mum in all of southern Sweden” back in the 1970’s. It inspired the eclectic and colourful collection that is on sale today and ensured that Swedish Hasbeens stayed true to their family roots…
All clogs, toffel bags and jeans are made the traditional Swedish way, in small factories that have been making shoes for decades. The leather used is natural grain leather, a way of minimally treating leather that is kinder to the environment and makes each item unique.
Shop the full collection here.
I find these guys best for walking shoes. The gentleman who founded Vegetarian Shoes taught himself how to make shoes on leaving art college and, being a veggie, didn’t want to use leather or animal by-products…
So the “Eureka!” moment came when he discovered a durable and vegetarian-friendly material used for yachting upholstery! It is this breathable leather-like fabric that means their walking boots can be worn all year round and the synthetic micro-fibre fabric is also vegan-friendly. You can read more about the process and find their shop here.
- Ethically made in Spain
- Upper material crafted from recycled PET bottles (post-consumer waste)
- Lining made from organic cotton
- Non-sweatshop friendly
Whilst this is not a shoe, I found these vegan shoe care products on Avesu Vegan Shoes. The Protect & Care vegan water-proofing spray is good for shoes made from imitation suede or textiles and the Bamboo Lotion can be used for the removal of stains, both made in Germany by Collonil. Check out other vegan footwear care products here.
N.B. All brands mentioned also offer a Mens footwear range except; Swedish Hasbeens, Bhava, Fortress of Inca, RAFA, and Momoc.
In Love&Light FS XOX