For These Luxury Footwear Brands, Earth Day Is Everyday


When Earth Day was founded 50 years ago, the idea of ​​vegan and sustainable footwear hovered somewhere between a Birkenstock-style shoe or a cheap vinyl shoe pretending to be leather, which had more to do with cost than with environmental concerns. But a lot has changed since its beginnings in 1970. A 2019 CGS report found that at least 65% of consumers consider sustainability when shopping and are willing to pay more, especially Gen Z. The movement movement towards eco-friendly fashion and accessories has spawned several independent luxury shoe brands disrupting the market with alternatives. approaches to business and materials.

Becoming sustainable also means rejecting the endless cycle of more, more, more – more designs, more collections and more pressure on factories to produce, creating an unsustainable retail system that these brands have witnessed before. Nomasei, a “slow luxury” brand founded by Paule Tenaillon and Marine Braquet while working for Chloé, realized: “We were tired and exhausted. To continue doing this work, we decided to connect more with our beliefs and the life we ​​wanted”, according to Braquet.

To achieve this, the brand has demystified the regular seasonal collections, adding new models only after considering its purpose in the offer. Primarily direct-to-consumer, Nomasei offers shoes that are built to last, made from high-quality, ethically-sourced leathers, priced under $500, while disclosing the costs associated with producing each shoe. Their manufacturing partner in Montopoli, Italy owns shares in the company and supports the brands philosophy of reducing environmentally toxic procedures in their factory, just a way to offset their carbon footprint.

Aera, a vegan luxury footwear brand based in New York led by CEO Tina Bhowjani, creative director Jean-Michel Cazabat and investor Alvertos Revach share a similar point of view. “The system that worked before doesn’t work anymore. You can’t continuously produce a product that doesn’t end up on customers’ feet,” Cazabat said. “You don’t think to buy a spring shoe in November, and in April, This item goes on sale.” Aera promotes a timeless classic footwear wardrobe delivered seasonally by offering a few seasonal essentials as needed. They source their vegan leather from the supplier market which is expected to reach 85 billion in sales by 2025 according to Shoe News. They can also boast of having scientifically measured transparency as a brand ethos.

By carefully selecting wholesale channels, these brands have “rid themselves,” as Braquet puts it, of the broken retail cycle. Luxury sustainable sneaker brand P448 has also broken the mold by having pre-cut inventory that allows for immediate orders. “We believe in never having ‘aged’ inventory. Sneakers are also a little less seasonally focused, which doesn’t hurt,” said Wayne Kulkin, CEO and Co-Founder of Street Trend LLC. , owner of P448, who also cited a need. so that the distribution is “controlled”.

Launched during the Fall 2020 market in February by Jimmy Choo design alum Alfredo Casadei (no connection to the Italian Casadei shoe family), Piferi is disrupting the vegan designer shoe market that offers design first, then the ecological value. “Responsible luxury design is highly uncharted territory and the combination of sensual and durable footwear almost non-existent,” he said. “My shoes first create a desire for the design, then the guilt-free bonus.”

While the designer quit eating meat five years ago, his MO comes from the challenge of creating without the usual shoe ingredients. “I discovered innovative and technical materials that are sometimes more expensive and superior than leather,” he said. These include vegetable suede made from 100% recycled plastic bottles or rubber-enhanced Tunnit, offering an integrated non-slip sole. The brand is in good company because according to a recent study by McKinsey, by 2025, 55% of companies are expected to aim to source sustainable materials for more than half of their products. “A good designer brand is not remembered and appreciated for a single product, but rather for how it has changed the perception of products”, noting the need for added value in design, technical performance and comfort.

Piferi, like every brand, was going through an important stage before COVID-19. Harrod’s exclusive launch in London has been postponed from May to November. A month later, its other retail channels and website will open sales, the latter featuring top-selling styles from its super-targeted debut collection. Luckily, the London-based Italian-born cobbler feels lucky not to be dealing with unused delivered goods from a closed shop. “Keep communication to a minimum; we have time to plan for a fresh start and craft our tone of voice and strategy for the future.”

Aera, fortunately, was able to deliver 250 units of its shoes to sellers in the Middle East and received their stock. A sustainable brands group pop-up for the month of April was planned but postponed indefinitely. “We were in the next round of fundraising and had some interesting conversations that got cut short,” Bhowjani said. The crisis forces the CEO to adjust budgets and projections.

Gaining momentum since its launch in November 2019, Nomasei was already struggling with waiting lists for sold-out shoe styles after editorial placements in and InStyle magazine. Shoe sales have slowed, but surprisingly they are selling branded handmade pendant necklaces ($105-$135). “It tells us that people are interested in the brand but are buying more cautiously right now,” Tenaillon said. While waiting for two delayed shoe designs until mid-May, they’re keeping their factory — which voluntarily converted early to making masks — busy creating and selling cute covers for the much-needed masks.

P448 had just opened an interactive store in Milan’s Brera district a few weeks before closing. But the brand realized “by accident” that 70% of sales came from its wholesalers’ website, making it a “truly digital” brand. Kulkin was successful in leveraging employees such as store managers. turned them into live chat experts, expanding our service model and improving touchpoints for our customers.”

Sustainability will also weather the storm, as most believe the coronavirus crisis has heightened consumer awareness. An aspect on which all can agree; it’s a journey, not a destination as innovations continue to evolve in the field of environmentally friendly production. As Piferi’s motto states, “Sustainability shouldn’t be a battle where we take steps forward or back, but a process of sharing ideas that can lead us all to make better choices.”


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