For these luxury shoe brands, Earth Day is every day

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

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 she was 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 demystified the regular seasonal collections, adding new models only after scrutinizing its purpose in the offering. Primarily direct to the consumer, Nomasei offers shoes built to last, made from high quality, ethically sourced leathers, priced under $ 500, while disclosing the costs associated with the production of each shoe. Their manufacturing partner in Montopoli, Italy owns shares in the company and supports the brand’s philosophy by reducing environmentally toxic procedures at their factory, just one way to offset their carbon footprint.

Aera, a New York-based vegan luxury shoe brand 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. This item is for sale. “Aera promotes a wardrobe of timeless classic shoes delivered in season by offering a few essentials according to the season, as needed. They source vegan leather from the women’s market. suppliers, which is expected to reach 85 billion in sales by 2025 according to Shoe News. They can also boast of scientifically measured transparency as brand ethics.

By carefully selecting wholesale channels, these brands “stood out,” as Braquet puts it, in the broken cycle of retail. Sustainable luxury sneaker brand P448 has also broken the mold by having a 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 at the Fall 2020 Market in February by Jimmy Choo’s alum Alfredo Casadei (no connection to the Italian Casadei shoe family), Piferi is disrupting the vegan designer footwear market that offers design first, la ecological value then. “Responsible luxury design is very uncharted territory and the combination of sensual and durable footwear is almost non-existent,” he said. “My shoes create a desire for design first, then the guilt-free bonus.”

While the designer quit eating meat five years ago, his MO comes from the challenge of creating shoes without the usual ingredients. “I have discovered such 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 a built-in non-slip sole. The brand is in good company because according to a recent McKinsey study, 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 known and appreciated for a single product, but rather for the way it has changed the perception of products”, noting the need for added value in terms of design, technical performance and comfort .

Piferi, like every brand, was living a milestone before COVID-19. Its exclusive Harrod’s London launch was postponed from May to November. A month later, its other retail channels and website will open up sales, the latter with the best-selling styles from its first super-targeted collection. Thankfully, the Italian-born, London-based shoemaker feels lucky not to be dealing with goods delivered unused to a closed store. “Keep communication to a minimum; we have time to plan for a fresh start and to design our tone of voice and strategy for the future. “

Fortunately, Aera was able to deliver 250 units of its shoes to vendors in the Middle East and received its stock. A lasting brand 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 off,” Bhowjani said. The crisis forces the CEO to adjust budgets and projections.

Accelerating since its launch in November 2019, Nomasei was already grappling with waiting lists for exhausted shoe styles after editorial placements in Vogue.com and InStyle magazine. Shoe sales have slowed down but surprisingly they sell branded hand pendant necklaces ($ 105 to $ 135). “This tells us that people are interested in the brand but are buying more cautiously right now,” Tenaillon said. While waiting for two models of shoes delayed until mid-May, they are making their factory – which converted to mask manufacturing on purpose early on – to work by creating and selling pretty covers for essential masks.

P448 had just opened an interactive store in the Brera district of Milan a few weeks before closing. But the brand realized “by accident” that 70% of sales came from their wholesalers’ website, making it a “truly digital” brand. Kulkin has been successful in leveraging employees such as store managers. “These are employees on leave elsewhere, but we’ve turned them into live chat experts, broadening our service model and elevating touchpoints for our customers.”

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

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