Okay, so those who know me know that I love shoes. It’s my number one sartorial weakness and if I won the lottery, that’s what I’d fill my wardrobe with. But, alas, my finances do not stretch that far at the moment – luckily for my wallet, that just means the shoe-hungry gremlin in my brain is forced to stay quiet… for now.
However, it did awaken recently when the Black Friday sales hit last week, and I found myself wasting a few hours, not doing coursework, but scrolling through the shoe offerings on various websites. I even had a few saved to my shopping baskets. Ready to be shipped out at the touch of a button. The gremlin was particularly captivated with all of the new, shiny high heels on offer for the party season; a whole array of colours and shapes laid out like sweets at a pick ‘n’ mix. It was like I was in an Aladdin’s cave.
At the moment, I would really like a pair of (preferably sparkly) heels for my friend’s birthday dinner. I have been severely tempted by many, many pairs of shoes.
But since I’ve been attempting to be more conscious of where I spend my money and how my clothes are made, not only was the saving money side of my brain distracting the gremlin, the sustainability side was too (okay I think I’ve run that metaphor into the ground). Turns out, footwear brands are TERRIBLE for transparency and sustainability.
So what happens when you google ‘sustainable high heels’, or every other variation under the sun? Well, a few things happen:
Number one, Veja is mentioned. I have nothing against Veja – super stylish shoes, worn by the likes of Emma Watson and Meghan Markle, incredible transparency as a brand, and of course a highly sustainable approach. All for fairly affordable prices (although it is an investment). What’s not to love? It’s a no brainer, right? So the little gremlin is surely appeased as I pop a pair straight into my shopping basket and hit checkout? Nope. Because… they only do sneakers. Cue several sad-face emojis.
The second thing to happen is that Stella McCartney is mentioned. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I’m a student, and whilst I’m sure Stella is doing lots of lovely things, and as much as I would love to, I cannot afford to drop upwards of £450 on a pair of heels which WILL get trashed when I inevitably end up in Floho/Soho on Saturday night.
The final thing that happens is that several ‘vegan’ brands come up. Which is a problem 1) because vegan =/= sustainable, or even ethical, and 2) SO MANY OF THESE SHOES ARE UGLY.
Why do they nearly all look like this:
PLEASE I JUST WANT A CUTE PAIR OF HEELS WHICH HAVEN’T BEEN MADE IN AWFUL CONDITIONS OUT OF MATERIALS THAT HAVE BEEN PRODUCED UNSUSTAINABLY.
There is some good news for lovers of good-looking footwear: according to a press release on their website, ‘ALDO Group have become the first fashion footwear and accessories company in the world to be certified climate neutral. South Pole, a world-leading developer of climate action projects, certified the ALDO Group as climate neutral according to South Pole’s climate neutral company label criteria. The ALDO Group offset 100% of the carbon emissions produced in 2017 by its corporate stores, offices and distribution centres, and will continue this commitment moving forward.’
Which is pretty cool.
However (why does there always have to be a however!), they are not transparent about where their materials come from, and whilst they claim that they are aiming to ‘reach full traceability for our core footwear materials by 2021’, there’s no evidence to back this up.
Where to go from here? How do I appease the gremlin? I guess I’m going to have to think very carefully about how many pairs of shoes I buy, whether I can wear them multiple times and get the full use out of them, and also do a bit of charity/vintage shop trawling whilst I wait for the industry to catch up.
This investigation into sustainable footwear has shown just how tricky shopping more consciously is. Particularly when footwear is actually necessary – ok, maybe not the sparkly heels, but trainers and winter boots are pretty important. It’s a shame that when brands are starting to make moves in other areas, footwear brands are really lagging behind.
And please, if you have ANY suggestions for reasonably priced, good-looking, sustainably produced high heels let me know in the comments… save me from shoe purgatory… somebody…