- A version of this article was first published on Here And There Collective.
Vegan leather gets a really bad reputation and I find that a lot of people lump it all into one category. There are those who think the term is just a clever marketing ploy to distract consumers from the fact that the product is made from cheap plastic, while others believe that all vegan leather is terrible for the environment and no better than the leather industry, which is fraught with an alarming array of problems, including major human health reperscussions.
And, truth be told, much of the “vegan leather” out there in the vast expanse of the fashion marketplace is crap. It’s mass-produced in factories of dubious standards and ethics and made from unsustainable, low-quality materials.
BUT, there are companies out there creating vegan leather products that are made with both ethics and sustainability in mind, proving that leather shouldn’t be the benchmark for luxury, quality, or craftsmanship.
With their fingers on the pulse of exciting new research, many of these brands are on the cutting edge of textile design and innovation. Whether it’s incorporating recycled materials into their designs, or utilizing entirely new textiles crafted from plant-based or lab grown materials, these brands are turning the notion that all vegan leather is bad right on its head.
Here are a few of those brands making high-quality, vegan footwear, and my eight picks from their respective collections for the colder months ahead.
BRAVE GENTLEMAN | PARADIGM BOOT
I honestly had no idea that Brave Gentleman offered their footwear all the way down to smaller sizes that can accommodate ladies’ typically smaller sized feet. My husband wanted to check out their brick-and-mortar shop when we were in town a couple of weeks ago, and I was delighted to find several boots, in my size, and on sale!
In fact, while the name Brave Gentleman may deceive you into thinking it’s a menswear brand only, the brand is actually one of several emerging fashion brands offering fashion in the non-binary; Brave Gentleman just does it in the menswear aesthetic – so the entire collection is sized accordingly. I love this not only as someone who really appreciates that aesthetic, but also because it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone identifies with the “traditional” manner in which gender norms are ascribed to fashion.
I ended up purchasing the Paradigm Boot (pictured) because of its timelessness, quality of materials, and craftsmanship. Produced ethically in Portugal, the boot is made from “future leather,” which is an EU Eco Label certified PU based microfiber. From the BG website : “PU is made in a strictly controlled and regulated chemical process, during which only a few grams per ton of chemical is ever released into the environment. The final polyurethane polymer is chemically inert, and therefore harmless. PU is also biodegradable by way of fungus found in landfill and soil.”
BOURGEOIS BOHEME | ANNIE PINATEX BOOT
Made from pineapple leaves, which are typically discarded as waste, piñatex is a revolutionary new fabric that makes for a unique, and supple leather-like textile. Ethically made in Portgual, the boot also features a breathable bio-polyoil lining, which is a petrochemical free polymer derived from plant-based sources like seeds and grains.
NICORA | EUGENIE BOOTIE
Los Angeles-based NICORA was one of the first vegan footwear brands on the market to focus on both sustainability and ethics. I can attest to the quality of Nicora shoes, as I have a couple pairs myself. And although I don’t wear them every day, I’ve had them for years and they’ve withstood the test of time.
The Eugenie boot is made in Italy in a unionized third party verified ethical factory. Made from “Kind Leather,” which meets strict supply chain standards in three key areas, Eugenie is crafted from plant waste and recycled materials. Eugenie is your go-to, every day ankle bootie that can be dressed up or down.
SYDNEY BROWN SHOES | HIGH MULE
Depending on where you live, the fall months are still warm enough for slides (although you could definitely wear these with warmer tights or socks). And I love a good mule, so why not a high mule?! I love this one for its warm, amber color, and soft velvet material. The lining is derived from recycled plastic bottles with a cork covered insole and a sustainable harvested German beech wood heel.
Sydney Brown takes a holistic approach to design. Each piece, from concept to creation, is designed around the beautiful concept of “reverence for all life, which they extend out to three spheres: human, animal, an the environment. They make every effort to minimize waste and their use of hazardous and non-renewable substances, opting instead for materials made from renewable resources, or recycled materials whenever possible.
SYDNEY BROWN | V FLAT
Also by Sydney Brown, the V Flat is constructed from a bonded cork upper, with a liner made from recycled plastic bottles, featuring a sustainably harvested beech wood heel. The cork is harvested every summer in Southern Portugal, and is then shaved, pressed, dyed, and bonded to organic cotton. Sustainably harvested cork is a renewable resource that will last for years.
RAFA | RANGER BOOT
Rafa is a Los Angeles based luxury footwear label focused on creating timeless footwear manufactured in an ethical and ecologically responsible way… And I personally can’t get enough of the colors they use in their collections – I have my eye on a pair of their mid-heel pumps for the holidays.
The Ranger boot is a mid-height boot handmade in LA from recycled textiles and comes in an array of lovely colors.
NICORA | ANGELA PLATFORM
Also by Nicora, the Angela platform is made from their “Kind Leather” in their USA based factory in Minnesota. Fun fact: all of their shoes are women made! (note* an earlier version noted that these shoes were made in Los Angeles. All of Nicora’s USA made shoes are made in Minnesota)
SUSI | BILLIE BOOT
Another Los Angeles based brand, Susi utilizes recycled and other eco-friendly materials in all their designs. The Billie boot, which is also available in black, is made from recycled microsuede.
Which one of these vegan boots would you rock this fall?
Photo: Respective brands