Wills Vegan Shoes

I have been on the hunt for a pair of well-made, water-resistant, vegan, ethically-manufactured black boots for months. I mean MONTHS! And there are several brands out there, but none that totally had me sold and were within my budget.

Along came Wills Vegan Shoes. This London-based retailer prides themselves on producing vegan shoes that are both ‘animal and human-friendly’. I sure liked the sound of that! With plenty of styles on offer, I went back and forth until finally settling on the Aviator 2’s. I was after a boot that was suitable for everyday, but could also be dressed up for an evening outfit and this option seemed to tick all the boxes. The reviews were all beaming too, which helped me make the decision.

Aviator 2s

They are a delight! They definitely feel the way new Dr Martens do – as though they need a good few wears to break them in. But that’s good – it indicates a sturdy boot that is likely to last. These are breathable and water-resistant, so perfect for the British weather. They have a slight heel too, which gives them a healthy dose of feminity. Chic work boots, if you like. Ethically-made and PETA-approved, they tick all the boxes.

I don’t think I can give these a full review until after a few months of wearing, but so far I am so pleased with the size (true to size) and quality. I would highly recommend checking out the Wills Vegan Shoes website if you’re looking for a new pair of kicks. I can’t think of a single outfit that these wouldn’t go with.

hiking outdoors

Over the past six months or so I’ve been paying more and more attention to where the things I buy are sourced from. This covers everything from tofu to trainers, candles to concealer. I realise that I find myself in a highly detached society: one that thinks Amazon pulls products out the air and ships them to us.

This isn’t a good thing. If we’re unaware of the process of getting whatever item it is to our doorstep, how are we monitoring whether the supplier is doing a good job or not? Just as we don’t think about where our trash goes once it’s collected from the kerb, we’re not thinking of the entire process when we purchase a shirt to wear. At least, not most of us.

This kind of blissful ignorance is what is fuelling bad practices across many (if not all) industries. Consumption is greater than ever and the demand to push prices down also greater than ever. Suppliers want to accommodate and so if this means forgoing ethics, many will unfortunately comply.

I know marketing is a clever industry and it’s aim is to convince us that we need x, y, or z. But I didn’t realise until recently just how wrong I was about one particular industry: outdoor clothing & technical gear.

From the months of March-November (though sometimes in winter too) I look for any opportunity to pack up the tent, don my gore-tex and get some fresh air in my lungs. Whether it’s hiking a mountain or getting some waves, I thrive in the great outdoors.

In order to participate in these kinds of activities, appropriate “technical” clothing and kit is often required. Up until recently, I’ve purchased whatever is on offer in my favourite outdoor chains. I guess I had this idea that brands producing items for allowing one to be more comfortable/prepared in nature must also care about nature. See the link there? Sadly, I’ve discovered that this truly isn’t the case. It seems outdoor brands are closer to the fashion industry in terms of ethics.

This excellent round-up from Ethical Consumer goes into detail about a variety of brands and aspects of  what is considered ethical manufacturing & supply. I highly encourage you check it out.

There are some new items that I’m due to be purchasing very soon. But with this now knowledge floating around my brain, I refuse to simply purchase the next thing I see that looks nice and fits well (or is technically-sound). There’s a lot of research to be done, but watch this space because I’ll be bringing my findings to you. The ethical brands are not the mainstream ones, but it’s important that they get a voice. If we talk about them more, they will become more widely acknowledged.

Photo via Unsplash

greenwashing

Today I want to talk about greenwashing, or the deceptive marketing tactics used by many brands to make themselves seem more ethical or environmentally-friendly than they actually are.

There’s no denying that we live in a time where more and more people are waking up to the detrimental effects our lifestyles have had on the environment in the modern age. We live and breathe consumerism. We produce more waste than we’ve ever done before. We quite simply live so out of touch with the earth that we don’t even understand the concept of balance. In this state, with more kind souls than ever before starting to at least think about what they can do to live more minimally and harmoniously with their surroundings, it’s no surprise that companies try to pull on our heartstrings by marketing themselves as ‘eco’ brands. For those brands that truly are trying to produce their products ethically, that’s great! But for those in disguise? These are the ones we need to watch out for.

Marketing, or the process of advertising a product in the best possible light, has one ultimate goal: highlighting how wonderful that product is in order to make us feel as though we cannot live without it. It’s all a mind-game. All advertising is. It plays on our weaknesses and encourages us to spend, spend, spend. Advertisers know what appeals to the general public and so they create this idea of the life you could well have if only you pick up their product.

Greenwashing can be seen when words such as ‘ethical’, ‘organic’, ‘natural’, ‘green’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainable’ – amongst many others – are used when they might be misleading the customer. Everyone has differing opinions about what constitutes a truly environmentally-friendly brand and I do think that it’s hard to please everyone, but there are definitely cases where greenwashing can be seen plain and clear.

LUSH

I – like many ladies – was an absolute addict to the brand as a teenager. I worshipped the flagstones upon which those shops were built, deeply inhaling the heady aroma as I marched through the door and into a melting pot of colour, texture and aroma. It wasn’t until I started getting into my skincare when I hit the age of twenty-or-so, that I started considering ingredients. I started doing research into which ingredients were truly good for the skin and which to avoid. Something I quickly noticed was that LUSH used Sodium laureth and lauryl sulfate. Hadn’t I heard those names before? Yes, I had indeed come across an article pinning them as industrial strength, cheap cleaning agents and known irritants. Why were they using them? Next up, almost all the products contained parabens. Whatever your opinion of these preservative agents and whether or not you feel they have bioaccumulative effects in our bodies over time, it seemed bizarre that this ‘natural’ brand was throwing them in everything.

So many brands now advertise that they don’t include SLS or parabens, becuase they know the fear these spark in consumers. It makes their products seem better for us (despite whatever other chemical concoctions they consist of) even if they’re not. So with there so much hype around these, why was LUSH still reaching for them?

I love the fact that LUSH launch so many campaigns for all kinds of pressing issues, from animal-testing to shark-finning to the current internet shutdown. We see few brands doing that, and so for someone with such a loud voice in the cosmetics department, this is a fantastic thing to see. As for the ingredients lists though, I do think that they should be striving for better quality in order to be ‘green leaders’

The Body Shop

In my opinion, The Body Shop is much worse than LUSH. It was founded by Anita Roddick back in the 1970’s and was a real step up in the cosmetics game, calling for a total no-go policy on animal testing. More, Roddick highlighted the importance of using fair trade ingredients.

Take a closer look now, however, and we see their products filled with synthetic fragrance, preservatives and colours and many petroleum-derived ingredients as a main component. Oh, and it’s now owned by global beast, L’Oreal – the cosmetic king of animal testing.

H&M Conscious

Last example goes to H&M. About 4 years ago, H&M launched what it described as an ‘ethical’ sub-label, named Conscious. The products (though few and far between compared to a store’s worth of clothing, are either made of organic cotton or recycled fibres. I can’t help but laugh a bit at this logic. You are still creating millions of cheap, unsustainable garments every year, but somehow you think offering a few recycled or organic options rectifies this or is somehow undoing the damage done by fully driving forward fast fashion? Nope. It just doesn’t really help. I can see how it might make consumers who want to be more environmentally-friendly feel like they can make a positive choice, but purchases of Conscious still ultimately support a brand that at the end of the day is doing far more harm than good.

So you see, it isn’t easy nagivating the market and deciding what to purchase when you want to part with your cash. The best thing you can do, however, is research. Really try to gather as much information as you can on the brand and the product(s) in question. Only then can you make the most informed decision.

 

Photo: Flickr

 

HiptipicoIf I were to describe Hiptipico in three words, those words would be: empowering, beautiful and vitality. At a time where there are copious fashion brands available, it’s harder than ever for any one to stand out. They’ve got to be doing something unique; something interesting.

As soon as I came across Hiptipico a few years ago, I knew it was love at first sight. I was all wide-heart-eyes and excited. They were making pieces that (were I that way inclined) I would have designed myself. They were pieces that spoke to me. They were pieces that I felt were an accurate expression of me. I had to get my hands on some of them.

Ethical fashion is something that matters to me more and more the older I get. Now, ethical fashion means different things to different people and I understand that Hiptipico won’t appeal to everyone because many of the products are leather-based. But it’s important that I emphasise that these are artisan-created pieces that each tell a story and each hold tradition woven into their creation. I think I put them in the same category as eating a local diet (including meat and fish). It might not be earth-friendly in the way that say a vegan diet is, but you’re supporting small farmers and the local economy. Mass produced, no, local and unique, definitely.

Founded by determined girl boss, Alyssa McGarry, Hiptipico is an ethical fashion brand based in Panajachel, Guatemala. Their ethos is to provide an alternative to generic and mass-produced by offering beautiful, carefully-created gems. Essentially, encouraging local Mayan crafters to keep creating and providing the means to get those products from Guatemala to the US and Europe.

Hiptipico also support a couple charities through the sale of their products. Ten percent of every backpack purchase supports the education of local children and ten percent of pet collar purchases support local stray animals. Alyssa has chosen to fully support the local economy through the work she does.

I own two beautiful Hiptipico bags that I get compliments on all the time. They are a pleasure to look at – artwork in themselves – and bring simple outfits (that I tend to wear these days as part of a capsule wardrobe) to life. They’ll never go out of style or become dated.

If you’re looking to adorn yourself or a friend in something beautiful and meaningful that does good, I could not recommend Hiptipico enough. The less we support mass-produced, characterless crap, the more special we allow our world to become. At a time where fast fashion is the dominant theme, say no.

 

 

vegan_leather

How many of us give much thought into the fabrics we drape around ourselves? It can mean the difference between sweating to death or experiencing breathability, tearing while lunging or giving yourself the power of free movement. In my experience it wasn’t until I placed fashion into the context of outdoor pursuits that I realised how making a bad choice can ruin an expedition. But actually, smart choices can improve every day activities. Some fabrics simply feel better against the skin. Some are tougher and thus last longer.

Let’s take a waterproof jacket. There’s goretex, hyvent, or AQ2 and that’s only dipping a toe in the pool. Each has its own pros and cons.  With a lot of investment placed on bigger and better things, a great deal of R&D goes into outdoor gear. If you’re facing the elements, you want to know that your gear has got your back. Quite literally. So it’s easy to see why these not only cost more, but also tend to be the best-made garments.

But what about everyday materials? There’s cotton, for starters. This natural fibre is arguably the world’s most common. But it also creates numerous environmental concerns that make me want to buy organic only. There’s also wool, linen, hemp, bamboo and of course leather. Each of these are from different natural sources and have their own selling points. Then there are synthetic fibres like polyester, nylon and viscose. Known for their stretchy properties and frequently combined with cotton in sportswear.

With an array of choice on the market at all selling points, it’s easy to find something for you. But there’s another layer to all this that throws a spanner in the works. You’ve got the choice to select from, but from an environmental standpoint some fabrics are more ethical from others. And then there’s the likes of veganism and it’s upward trend. This eliminates animal products like wool and leather from the mix.

Vegan Leather

I try my best to follow a vegan lifestyle and incorporate this ethos into what I eat and the cosmetics I use. But I’ve always struggled with wool and leather. If the alternatives are fibres that won’t biodegrade because they are essentially made of plastics, is that really the best choice? I love leather and I’ll openly admit that. But yes, I do think that it’s sad that animals have to die to make that fabric.

It wasn’t too long ago I came across Piñatex. Piñatex is a leather-like fabric composed of the fibres of pineapple leaves, as the name might suggest. It can be treated in various ways to alter the appearance from canvas-like to leather-like and offers much scope for growth. According to an article on The Guardian, 480 pineapple leaves are required to produce 1sq metre of Piñatex. These are leaves that would normally rot in the ground after the fruits are harvested, so talk about salvaging waste!

Next up in the vegan leather category, with emphasis on natural fibres is Muskin. This is a leather-like material composed of mushrooms. Yes, as bizarre as that sounds, it is indeed being manufactured by Italian Grado Zero Espace. It is able to be flexed and ‘tanned’ in the same ways, making it a potentially viable long-term alternative to cow hide.

Lastly I’ll leave you with SeaCell – a fabric made of seaweed. Brown algae are incredibly tough and I can see how research could be done to investigate the likelihood of producing wearable fabrics from them. Algae typically become brittle when dried, but grinding the fronds once dry and transforming this into a fabric? Well, I guess that’s plausible.

It’ll be interesting to see the developments in each of these, because Lord knows we need something innovative to move us into the modern day. We’re holding on to old ways and fibres unnecessarily it seems. And with fossil fuels rapidly running out, we’ll have no choice but to find alternatives to materials derived from these hydrocarbons.

There’s much to discuss and many different opinions on what’s best from an environmental standpoint. But either way, I think we can all agree that research is the best area to focus on right now. We have no idea what we might find.

Photo: Flickr