I will be honest with you guys. I used to think that if you’re looking for high-quality shoes that will last for more than a season, you need to invest in a pair of leather shoes. That is weird for more than one reason. First, I have followed a pretty consistent vegetarian diet ever since I was a child (I might tell you guys more about that at some point), but I somehow just focused on what was on my plate. Second, experience should have shown me that this myth about leather being more long-lasting than other materials is not true at all. My leather shoes tended to look really worn out after a while, no matter how many care sprays and polishes I treated them with. More often than not they got creases and bumps and instead of wearing them for many years (like originally planned), I put them away / sold them cheaply after a year or two.
A year ago or so, I decided to try not to buy anything made from leather and I’m still often surprised how difficult that can be. Animal skin is still the material of choice to put on your feet in the 21st century and that is, in fact, a little strange when you think about it. Humans have developed all kinds of high-tech metals, foams, textiles and even some materials that function perfectly outside the planetary atmosphere (i.e. in space)… Yet we still choose to wear animals on our bodies? How does that make sense? I’m not falling for the cost argument, because it just *can’t* be cheaper to build factories, feed animals, vaccinate them, transport them to slaughterhouses, take them apart and manufacture them into a nice pair of shiny leather shoes. Sorry if that was graphic. Even if it was cheaper in some cases, then maybe, just maybe, it may be worth the extra cost for scientists and machinery for the love of human progress. Long story short, it’s still not always easy to find non-leather (or: vegan) shoes that look the way I want them.
That’s why I’m super happy I found the vegan shoe collection of a brand called Veja while living in Paris during the past two months. It’s a French brand built on transparency and sustainability that was founded in 2004 by Sébastian Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillon. The sneakers are made from fair trade and ecological raw materials like organic cotton and wild rubber. Now, Veja DOES sell leather shoes too, and even they admit that their leather CANNOT be produced under fair trade principles. That’s far from ideal, but at least they’re honest. Also, the leather they use is chrome-free (so, more ecological) and they take good care of the production process. ALL their sneakers are produced in Brazil, where they work together with cooperatives of small producers and social associations, which economically strengthens communities.
The name Veja (and I’m so in love with this) means “Look” in Portuguese: The message is to encourage customers to look around, look what’s behind a product and look how, where and under which circumstances it is made. Apart from detailed information about the production process, the Veja website features a section called “limitations” where they talk about aspects that do not yet fully correspond to their standards and acknowledge that their whole project is, basically, work in progress. I absolutely love that approach and I truly appreciate their honesty. No business can be 100% perfect. However, I think they’re doing a good job of providing a fair trade, sustainable and – yes! – stylish alternative to the more conventional sneaker brands.
I recently got the model ‘CARMEN’ from the SDU (Santos-Dumont) collection (click here) and they’re certainly not my last Veja shoes. Can I start with saying they’re super light-weight and incredibly comfortable? I love walking in them! They’re also vegan, made in Brazil, from synthetic leather from Germany, organic cotton, wild rubber, and B-Mesh – a material used from recycled plastic bottles. This pair specifically consists of 15 plastic bottles, how cool is that? I absolutely love the beige sections combined with the colorful B-Mesh – they’re perfect for spring and summer and add a touch of color to every outfit, turning it into something special. Still not sure why I love them so much? Look for yourself.