Putting a Green Foot Forward
More often than not, we don't realise the impact that our footprints leave behind, while we indulge ourselves in those beautifully-crafted and customised shoes. While organic fashion has been doing the rounds of our closets, now fashion consciousness extends even to the soles. Eco-friendly and vegan shoes are the call of the hour, in sync with the 'green' philosophy that the fashion-forward are endorsing. Several brands and designers have conscientiously moved towards making shoes that are made of sustainable materials.
Shoe designer Rohan Arora says, "The market [for eco-friendly shoes] has grown. Earlier, footwear wasn't taken so seriously. Now, people understand the importance and are increasingly becoming experimental. Also, today with global warming knocking at our doors, Indians are becoming conscious about the environment." Arora's collections are made of hand-woven khadi and raw silk. Fashion designer Paromita Banerjee makes her eco-friendly footwear lines with scraps of leftover fabrics with the inner lining made of cotton or cotton elastic. The leather used, if at all, is chicken leg leather.
Designer Sounia Gohil reiterates, "Footwear is essentially made of leather and [now] many labels have come up with alternative materials like canvas, jute, hemp, cork , bamboo, organic cotton, recycled tyres, etc."
Blake Mycoskie, founder of the international eco-friendly footwear brand, TOMS, says, "Over the past couple of years, we have seen an increase in the number of consumers looking for more eco-friendly products. Our animal shoes use no animal by-products and are made from either pesticide-free fabrics or from recycled materials."
From ballerinas to gum boots, green shoes have taken the fashion world by storm. Gucci's pre-fall shoe collection takes this notion forward with the launch of 'Sustainable Soles', a line carefully designed by its Creative Director, Frida Giannini; while the Puma Wilderness collection is 'sustainability-focused'. Gucci's Sustainable Soles has a range of Marola Green ballerinas for the ladies and California Green sneakers for men. Both the collections are made in bio-plastic, which is a biodegradable material in compost, and used as an alternative to petrochemical plastic. A recent participant at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, one of the world's most important conferences on sustainability and fashion, Gucci's collection is a way forward in 'green style'.
While brands shift focus towards the environment, Timberland, known for their eco-friendly footwear, in their Front Country Travel collection has used recycled coffee grounds and recycled PET (plastic bottles). Coffee absorbs odour and dries quickly, while the outsole is made of 42 per cent recycled rubber. The Earthkeepers Hookset Handcrafted Fabric Chukka is made of 100 per cent organic washed cotton canvas; while the Wellington 6" Waterproof Boot for women is made from recycled rubber.
Betsy Blaisdell, Senior Manager, Environmental Stewardship, Timberland, explains, "Values drive behaviours of today's socially- and environmentally-conscious consumers, who are constantly looking for value in their purchase." Banerjee echoes this sentiment, adding, "The customer is usually a professional in her own right, someone who is well-travelled, aware and not afraid to experiment."
As an 'adventurist brand', Woodland, in addition to using PETs, uses partially recycled soling rubbers, foot beds, toe puffs and insoles made of cellulose. Harikrat Singh, MD, Woodland, says, "Choosing eco-friendly shoes is not only an earth-friendly purchase; it is an act for your own health. While some are concerned about the sustainability of the planet; others are bothered by the use of toxic materials such as the glue used in making most shoes and how these toxins can affect overall health."
However, eco-friendly shoes continue to be a niche market, as Arora elucidates, "Making organic shoes as opposed to leather shoes involves a more complex procedure and are therefore, more expensive." Banerjee adds, "It's a question of mindset; when you don an organic fashion wardrobe, it's pertinent to complete the look with eco-friendly/vegan shoes as well." However, she confesses that the current takers of this category are growing, but still limited.
While the more popular international and eco-friendly footwear lines like TOMS, Beyond Skin, OlsenHaus, Charmone, Noah-Novacas (for men), and the recyclable jelly pairs from Melissa, among a few others are yet to be available in India, you can always opt for e-shopping! Even international designers like Stella McCartney, in addition to Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier for Melissa shoes have added their touch to the world of eco-conscious footwear. And it's only a matter of time when we can slip our feet into a pair of vegan shoes right here, closer to home.
- Loafers and ankle-length boots for men
- Ballerinas and flats in bright colours and colour blocking for women
- Contrary to popular belief, organic shoes are low on maintenance
- Dry your shoes in the sun if they get wet
- Dry brush the pair if they get dirty
- Clean and air out your shoes regularly