Hello everyone and happy Autumn.
Fall is by far my favorite season because of all the beautiful colors that nature produces. It really is quite a sight to see! As the warm summer days slowly fade and cool weather sets in, the need to bundle up and keep warm is a must. Since moving to Knoxville over 2 years ago, one of the first things I noticed during my first fall/winter season was the boot game is very strong! The women here are very fashionable and have a certain sense of ease with the way they dress. I am currently in search of new boots for the fall/winter season because all my current boots are unsurprisingly falling apart.
With my recent lifestyle change in the way I view clothing and the fast fashion industry, it becomes a bit of a challenge to find boots that are “trendy,” sustainably made, and built to last. Much like the clothing industry, the shoe industry also causes more harm than good to the environment: cheap materials are used to produce leather and large amounts of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, a direct result of coal being used for both the manufacturing and distribution process. In the long run, these shoes don’t last are quickly disposed. This feeds our cycle of viewing our clothing as one big revolving door of one in and one out, adding to more textile waste.
In order to combat the amount of waste that occurs from poorly produced shoes and fast fashion, there are consciously minded companies who have built a brand with the consumers, the environment, and its workers in mind. I’ve done a bit of research and put together a list of 4 sustainably made shoe companies which I’m interested in purchasing from. The focus of this list is on boots for fall/winter season, however, there are tons of companies out there who provide ethically made shoes for every occasion.
10 years in business, Po-Zu is “an award-winning shoe brand company that combines comfort with outstanding ethics for shoes.” Their mission is the change the face of our current shoe market for shoes which encourages mass production while eating up resources and ultimately exploit workers through long hours, low pay and dangerous working conditions. Po-Zu manufactures shoes that contain no pesticides, bleaches, or toxic dyes and are locally sourced whenever possible. They also use organic cotton, and chromium-free leather, and have recently introduced vegan, solvent-free eco-microfiber. Yes, that means they make shoes which are Vegan and Vegetarian-friendly! They also offer full disclosure of all materials used in productions of their shoes.
Po-Zu operates from a small factory in the town of Guimaraes in Portugal. They employ 70 local workers and have a strict nontoxic policy. They recycle nearly all their waste products including excuse fabrics and water used in the factory. Employees are paid fair wages and work in a 100% toxin free environment. To add the cherry on top of it all, they also ship shoes to European destinations by land and whenever possible by sea, reducing Co2 emission. After 10 years in business, Po-Zu is still sticking to their mission in the fight against fast fashion. They offer a great selection of boots for both men and women and are priced between $150 – $250, with a 12-month guarantee on all shoes. #PoZuShoes
My Boot Pick – Liv Tan or Liv Brown
Fortress of Inca
Founded in 2004 by Texas native Evan Streusand, Fortress of Inca was started after Evan took a backpacking trip through South America. Influenced by the vibrant boots worn by the natives, this discovery led him to bring these handcrafted boots the United States. Not only does Fortress of Inca provide high-quality shoes with leather sourced from natural materials, their shoe makers also work in excellent conditions with benefits such as health care for workers and their entire family, paid maternity leave, and social security.
Though these shoes are produced in Peru, the country does have strong labor laws which employers must abide. Some of those requirements include paid holidays every year, and monthly incentives around 15% of the minimum wage. In a recent Interview with BigCommerce Evan states, “I wouldn’t want to make something that was going to be taking advantage of somebody in one place just so somebody somewhere else could benefit.” This shows me that keeping people in mind was at the center of starting this brand.
Reasonably priced around $150 and up, the price of each shoe is gauged at a rate that fairly compensates each worker. Fortress of Inca works with independent boutiques and believes in shopping local whenever possible. Here in Knoxville, Fortress of Inca shoes can be found at Tori Mason Shoes on Market Square. To find a local distributor in your city or a city near you, please visit fortressofinca website. #fortressofinca
My Boot Picks – Cameron Oxford Mid or Briana
Established in 2009, Oliberte is a Fair Trade Certified company manufacturing shoes in Ethiopia. Made from locally sourced leather, only free range, hormone free cows are used. which are also hormone free. Rubber used is naturally sourced from countries in Africa depending on availability. All shoes are handmade in the factory in Ethiopia. Since the shoes are manufactured in Africa, Oliberte is bringing jobs and opportunities to the impoverished areas. By owning the factory, it gives the team and the ability to ensure that each product meets all guidelines and creates sustainable full-time jobs to their employees with full benefits. This is not charity, but simply a partnership between the company and families in Africa without options for work or school to begin to build a future for themselves.
They offer a great selection for both men and women and are priced between $110-$175 which includes a lifetime warranty. Please be sure to visit the site the learn more about the team and put a face to the ones who made your shoes. #oliberte
My Boot Pick – Zimia
If you’re in the market for an everyday quality boot, Mamahuhu is the company for you. Hand made by artisans in Colombia, only premium leather is used. The tanning process of each shoe is strictly controlled to ensure the leather is Chromium-6 free and brings no harm to the environment. All material is locally sourced, produced and designed in house with no middleman and shipped from workshop to customers. Artisans, each from disadvantaged areas in Colombia who have at least 15 years of experience, have the opportunity to work normal hours with flexible schedules and are paid per finished product.
Mamahuhu brings life and opportunity back to disadvantaged areas in Colombia by rebuilding old workshops, which helps their employees build their own workshops, so they become independent and sustainable business owners themselves. This is another form of Trade not Aid. So far 11 workshops have been created resulting in 112 jobs, which will only continue to grow. They offer shoes for men and women and priced between $140-$165.
My Boot Pick – Colorines (any color)
From all these great companies which I’ve listed, I certainly have a tough decision ahead of me. I do feel comfortable knowing that whatever decision I make, my hard earned money is supporting a great cause, respecting the environment, supporting sustainable living and getting a product that is made to last!