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Good news conscious shoe lovers: you don't have to compromise on style to find shoes that are good for people and the planet. We've compiled a list of our favourite ethical shoe brands from casual slip ons to long lasting capsule pieces that will compliment your wardrobe as well as your conscience.
BB SHOEMAKER, Australia
Shoes from $299 NZD
BB Shoemaker is Beccy Bromilow, a South Australian based artisan who hand crafts shoes to order in her small Adelaide studio. A true champion of slow fashion, Beccy’s shoes are constructed by hand using locally sourced vegetable-tanned kangaroo leather, quality bovine leathers, cork and Eco crepe rubber. Chic, timeless and made to last.
BB Shoemaker ships within Australia for $15 AUD and to NZ for $32 NZD
Shoes from $102 NZD
Ethical footwear's answer to Converse, Ethletic use only certified fair trade and organic cotton and natural rubber from sustainable plantations – no pesticides or toxic chemicals. This protects both the environment and the health of the people who wear and produce their sneakers. They see to this with fair pay, good working conditions, and voluntary premiums for social projects.
Ethletic do not currently ship direct to countries outside of Europe. New Zealanders can ship using Youshop for around $60 NZD.
Shoes from $140 NZD
Everlane are more interested in long lasting styles than fashion trends. Everlane sell only direct to customers online, cutting out the high overhead costs of operating physical shops and markups applied by traditional distributors like department stores and boutiques, and pass these savings on to the consumer. Committed to their mantra of "Radical Transparency", Everlane publicise their supply chain, including videos and photos from factories, and a full breakdown in costs of each garment. They also work with their factory partners to improve working conditions for employers.
Everlane does not currently ship internationally. From NZ YouShop would set you back around $35 NZD
Shoes from $50 NZD
Another innovative company embracing waste, Indonesian brand Indosole repurpose casual sneakers, sandals and jandals from discarded rubber tyres. Due to their structure, tyres take thousands of years to decompose. Indosole are on a quest to save 1 million tyres from landfills and give them new life as soles for durable, practical footwear. Indosole are only tackling waste, by removing discarded tyres from the environment they are helping to reduce tropical disease (in tropical countries tyres can become breeding grounds for mosquitos, which lead to nasty diseases like malaria and dengue fever). Win, win!
Indosole ships to NZ or Australia for $29 NZD
Shoes from $239 NZD
Marais describe their inspiration as “Patti Smith meets Jane Birkin… the confidence and practicality of the New Yorker and effortless sophistication of the Parisienne.” Their collections encompass a complete shoe wardrobe of paired down essentials, made to last season after season. Their super chic yet affordable shoes have a minimalist appeal for any capsule wardrobe. Marais have an interesting transformation story. Seeing that the world of fast fashion was broken, they decided to embrace slow fashion, adopting a more sustainable and fair approach and moved production from China to a factory in LA, producing fewer but higher quality items made to endure the test of time.
Marais ship to NZ and Australia for a flat rate of $57 NZD.
MINNIE COOPER, new zealand
Shoes from $149 NZD
Minnie Cooper are self described as "simple, beautiful and indescribably comfortable." They have been designing and making shoes in New Zealand since 1989 and plan to keep production in New Zealand despite there being cheaper options for offshore manufacturing. Their shoes are timeless and made to last making them a great investment for your capsule wardrobe
Minnie Cooper offer free shipping to NZ and Australia.
Shoes from $97 NZD
Nashville based Nisolo specialise in handmade leather shoes, boots and sandals that are chic, timeless and affordable, while improving the lives of their producer partners. Nisolo pay their shoemakers above fair trade wages and ensure safe working conditions. They seek to provide consistent employment, an average income increase of 300% per producer, improved living conditions, access to education and savings, and above all, dignity and empowerment.
Nisolo does not currently ship internationally. From NZ YouShop would set you back around $27 NZD.
THE PEOPLE'S MOVEMENT, USA
Shoes from $84 NZD
The People’s Movement creates “eco-hip” sneakers that stand for reduction of single-use plastic. They pair eco-conscious materials with up-cycled plastic bags cleaned up from Bali, creating products that help protect our planet. They also also support organisations like 5 Gyres who have systematically reduced plastics through oceanic research, collaboration and action.
The People's Movement ships to NZ and Australia for $36 NZD.
Study NYC, USA
Shoes from $277 NZD
Clothing label Study's motto is “Making Fashion without Making Waste." They are yet another brand proving that style doesn't need to be compromised on the path to social and environmental responsibility. To maintain socially and environmentally responsible designs, they use a variety of fabrics including hemp, organic cotton, ethically sourced alpaca, and other recycled materials as well as natural dyes. Included in their range of minimalist, chic designs, are their "Carcel Creepers", made by female prisoners in Mexico who are paid living wage and compensation for their work. How cool is that!
Study NYC ship direct to NZ and Australia for $43 NZD.
THE ROOT COLLECTIVE, usa
Shoes from $56 NZD
The Root Collective believe in kindness, and creating change through cute shoes. They partner with artisans in Guatemala to produce cute and colourful handcrafted shoes with a bohemian feel. Consumer purchases of these cute slip-ons changes lives by creating jobs, mainly for women, in rural and urban slum communities.
The Root Collective ships direct to to NZ and Australia for around $23 USD.
Shoes from $70 NZD
For leather sandals, loafers and oxfords with a feminine feel, check out Portland brand Sseko. Sseko believe in the power of fashion to provide employment and educational opportunities to women, helping them to achieve their dreams and overcoming poverty. To date, they have enabled 71 women to continue on to university through their scholarship initiative. They provide employment, along with access to a comprehensive social impact programme, to a team of 50 women in Uganda through a financially self-sustaining model.
Sseko ships to NZ and Australia for around $30-$40 NZD.
Shoes from $46 NZD
Although you'd never catch them bragging about it, Veja have been described as the worlds most ethical shoe brand. They work with a collective of rubber tappers in the Amazon Rain Forest for the sustainably harvested wild rubber latex used in their soles. Pesticide-, GMO- and fertilizer-free fair trade organic cotton is harvested from the north-eastern state of Ceará before being bought at a fair price from a collective in north-east Brazil – which is then spun into canvas for the sneakers. The super stylish shoes are then assembled near Porto Alegre in factories where working conditions and wages are above-fair wages.
Veja offers free international shipping for orders over $234 NZD, otherwise it costs $39 NZD to NZ or Australia.
Image provided by Mud Jeans
There is major ecological and social fallout from the two billion pairs of jeans we are buying worldwide each year. If you need some motivation to invest in denim brands that are doing better for people and the environment, take a look here at our background piece to the denim industry . But if you’d rather skip straight to the good news, read on. Here are eight truly inspirational brands that are shaking things up in the denim industry. This is in no way an exhaustive list, so let us know about any other great brands that should be talked about here.
Jeans from NZD $360
Australian brand bassike originally launched their line of organic cotton t-shirts in 2007 and the following year expanded their product range to include a denim line. The bassike spring 2016 denim collection launched last week, and we love their take on slow fashion, focussing on beautifully constructed garments that are designed to last forever and actually improve with age.
They have achieved this through partnering with a small denim village in Southern Japan where age-old techniques & specialist denim knowledge are passed down through generations. The Japanese take great pride in their craft, and are renowned denim experts. The owner of the bespoke factory where bassike denim is made stays back after his machinists have finished for the day to change the tension on each machine in the production line, ensuring that no two pairs of jeans is exactly the same.
International shipping is around NZD $15.
MUD JEANS, NETHERLAND
All Jeans NZD $154
Mud make their jeans using organic cotton which has been independently certified using the GOT Standard. They began their ‘lease a jean’ initiative in 2013, where customers pay a small monthly fee to rent jeans for one year. After a year you can choose to keep them or swap them for a new pair. They also recycle worn out jeans for you by shredding the denim and blending with new organic cotton to create a brand new pair. It looks like Mud plans to give out a €30 store credit for all returned jeans in the future. The option to buy jeans in the conventional manner is also available through their website and stores. Love it.
Shipping to NZ is steep - around $NZD 80. We’ve estimated using YouShop it would be around NZD $50.
NUDIE JEANS, SWEDEN
Jeans from NZD $229
Göteborg based Nudie Jeans make unisex denim garments from 100 per cent organic, fair trade cotton from Chetna Organics. Their strong emphasis on transparency through the production cycle means they know exactly who makes their jeans, and how much they are being paid. Worn-out Nudie jeans can be repaired free of charge at selected stores around the world, and free repair kits are sent out to customers.They also run a re-sell service for your jeans you don’t want to wear any more, or you can donate them to the Nudie Jean recycling programme. Aces.
There’s a store locator here for New Zealand and global stockists. Photos on their website are all of dudes, but the jeans are designed to be worn by anyone.
Jeans NZD $152
We’re bananas for Deadwood. We’ve posted about their eco-friendly leather line before, but their mens and womens denim range definitely warrants a mention. Deadwood sources GOTScertified organic cotton to produce their rock inspired collections, meaning it’s been grown free from harmful synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Deadwood proves you can have it all, a killer punk aesthetic while looking after our planet and people. Love this quote from their website: “Rebellion today is standing up to fast fashion, ruthless mass production and distorted ideals. Join the movement.” Right on.
YouShop charges would be around the NZD $30 mark for posting a pair of jeans to New Zealand.
RE/DONE JEANS, UNITED STATES
Jeans from NZD $324
There are loads of local stores to source pre-loved jeans here in New Zealand, but it can be a tedious and time consuming process. Re/Done Jeans have done the work for us, sourcing individual well loved vintage Levis and Hanes, and tailoring them to ensure a modernized fit. On the homepage select your waist size to start shopping, and a bunch of different styles show up. Once an item sells, it is out of stock because they are all one offs, but new items are added to the inventory as they are produced.
International shipping is USD $90. Shipping to New Zealand using YouShop would be around NZD $33.
RIALTO JEAN PROJECT, UNITED STATES
All Jeans NZD $341
We also love the take on vintage that Rialto Jean Project has taken. Rialto is an “eco-friendly, philanthropic denim brand specializing in hand-painted, one-of-a-kind vintage products”. Creator Erin Feniger takes discarded vintage Levi’s and used, contemporary styles that she finds in second-hand stores and markets, and hand paints them into works of art. For every pair sold USD $40 goes toward art therapy programs at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. On the website, start with the style you are after (boyfriend/skinny/flared) and then see what’s available in your waist size. Go on - Oprah loves them.
JC DENIM, AUSTRALIA
All Jeans NZD $156
JC Denim is more than a jeanswear brand, it’s a social enterprise providing sustainable work for Cambodian girls who have been rescued from the sex trafficking industry. They’ve partnered with local NGO Destiny Rescue to provide vocational training to the girls in garment production. The newly trained seamstresses are then commissioned to handcraft the jeans. The girls are encouraged back into their home communities where they have social support networks to start their own businesses, and provide for their families financially. Some of the brands work is done back in Australia, but the website explicitly states where each garment has been designed and made.
JC Denim are a small, financially constrained company so runs are limited, as are sizes. You may have to be a little patient on designs. They ship to New Zealand for AUD $28.
Jeans from NZD $138
Patagonia’s Helena Barbour, recently commented “Traditional denim is a filthy business. That drove us to change the way our jeans are made.” The iconic outdoor clothing and equipment maker has always been at the leading edge of sustainability in the clothing industry and their collection of jeans stays true to this ethos. The jeans are made from 100% organic cotton, and a new dyeing/manufacturing process uses dyes that bond more easily to cotton, minimizing the resource-intensive and environmentally damaging indigo dyeing. They claim to use 84% less water, 30% less energy and emit 25% less CO2 than conventional synthetic indigo denim dyeing processes. The jeans look classically cool and are priced well.