Fashion brands held to the highest style standards are now being called on to create unforgettable designs, responsibly.
The footwear industry poses a few hard-to-answer questions when it comes to sustainability. The amount of waste generated in the production phase is staggering and the options for recycling post-consumption are challenging due to the wide variety of materials used.
For example, rubber and leather are difficult to recycle and the chemicals used, such as glues and dyes, can be detrimental to the environment. Despite the many obstacles, there are companies that are more than up to the challenge.
Photo courtesy of Rothy’s
Model with shoes photo by kerstin jacobsen
ALINASCHUERFELD, named after its founder, is the perfect example of a fashion-forward company offering high-end products without harming the environment along the way. “We are galvanizing the way to a fair and sustainable fashion industry, built upon the powerful human and planetary principles of respect and responsibility,” says the founder and CEO, Alina Schürfeld. “I am using fashion as a tool to create consciousness; the products tell a story about traditional craftsmanship, quality, and appreciation.”
From the beginning, Schürfeld knew she wanted to create well-crafted, distinctive pieces, and sustainability was always the starting point. “The fashion industry has disastrous, often irreparable socio-cultural and ecological effects,” says Schürfeld. This is why her company utilizes salmon leather and chrome-free tanning, which help to reduce chemicals and limit waste.
Leather tanning is the process that transforms animal hides into a durable and long-lasting material that will not quickly decompose. However, the approach involves harsh chemicals that not only contain dangerous carcinogens but can contribute to harmful runoff. To avoid certain hazardous chemicals, ALINASCHUERFELD uses leather that is tanned with chrome-free, vegetable-, or rhubarb-based substances.
Additionally, the eco-conscious company uses bio-certified salmon leather, which would otherwise be disposed of and wasted. “I was inspired by the idea of adding extra value to a former waste product that was discarded from the processing fish industry,” Schürfeld says. Salmon leather provides the same durability as traditional leather and offers a unique texture that contributes to the style of the shoe.
The texture of the salmon leather is clearly preserved and adds to the individual design.
Photos courtesy of Alinaschuerfeld
Rothy’s, another unforgettable brand, proposes fashion crafted mainly from the dreaded, post-consumer plastic water bottle.
This sustainable footwear company is growing in popularity, not only because of the big names that are sporting its shoes, like Kristen Bell, Amy Adams and Meghan Markle, but due to the company’s admirable goal to create shoes without leaving behind waste. The Flat, the Point, the Loafer, and the Sneaker are made from recycled PET plastic — a widely-used packaging material — that is transformed into yarn and then 3D knitted, according to Rothy’s. Even the foam and the rubber used for the soles of the shoes are made from recycled materials and designed to reduce waste.
The company emerged in 2015 when co-founders Stephen Hawthornthwaite and Roth Martin realized comfortable and fashionable flats were hard to come by. Once understanding the amount of waste that’s created in the footwear industry, they decided on a sustainable process. Rothy’s 3D knitting process reduces waste significantly compared to other companies. The entire procedure from the plastic bottles to the minimalist shoe box has been streamlined in terms of sustainability.
Already, 25 million water bottles have been saved from a lifetime at the bottom of the ocean and transformed, according to Rothy’s. The sophisticated designs and brilliant colors are professional enough for the office, stylish enough for a night out, and comfortable enough for a day of adventure. Rothy’s also offers a collection of kids shoes that are lasting and easy to care for in a variety of prints such as flames, rainbows, and more.
Photos courtesy of Rothy’s
Responsible footwear continues to be a new kind of luxury that facilitates fast-paced and fashion-forward customers. “VEERAH is inspired by women, made for warriors,” says Stacey Chang, founder of VEERAH. “We are a mission-driven luxury shoe company founded for women to conquer the world in style and make a positive impact.”
The company works with a variety of groundbreaking materials that are cruelty-free and non-harmful for the environment, making the brand stand out among others. With sustainability in mind, VEERAH uses cork, which is durable, soft, and water-resistant, as well as post-consumer PET plastic bottle fabric, vegan calfskin, and even apple peel skin. This revolutionary bio-based vegan leather comes from actual apples harvested in the Italian Alps. The peels are dried, ground into a fine powder, and transformed into a breathable and sturdy material that is perfect for crafting footwear.
“As a socially and environmentally conscious woman, it was essential for me to create a versatile collection that aligned with my own personal values. I knew that sustainability and luxury could harmoniously coexist when you combine smart sourcing and thoughtful design,” according to Chang. Chang decided to start VEERAH when she couldn’t find a shoe that was sustainable and vegan. Every aspect of VEERAH shoes, from the fabric and the soles to the ink used for the packaging, are designed to effectively reduce landfill waste and limit toxic chemicals.
VEERAH’s apple peel skin is a sustainable, vegan alternative to traditional leather.
Photos courtesy of VEERAH