To me they are the white button down of footwear — super versatile, they go with pretty much every outfit and you can dress ‘em up, or dress ‘em down. They’re also really great for this current transition period in the year known as spring — when the weather is more indecisive than the Republicans trying to replace a healthcare bill (no, too soon?). In short, pretty much the most optimal form of footwear out there.
But the problem is that shoes are very often left out when people talk about ethical fashion, even though they have a longer lasting impact than most of our clothing. They are less biodegradable over time, they are usually made of more synthetic materials, and shoe production is definitely not exempt from the sweatshop labor and other human rights issues that surround the rest of the fashion industry.
Never fear, more and more companies out there are turning their focus to making ethical and sustainable footwear. And while in the olden days (and by olden days I’m really just talking a few years ago) a lot of the sustainable footwear out there was maybe a little hippy-ish and not super fashionable, that is actually far from the case today. There are options now for almost any type of footwear you’re looking for from sandals, to sneakers to, you guessed it, ankle boots.
So, without further ado, I have gathered some of my favorite ankle boots (and I maybe, just maybe snuck in a few mules — it is spring after all) from responsible and ethical companies for your shopping pleasure. You’re welcome.
The epitome of slow fashion, the people at Coclico, believe that “luxury isn’t the ability to purchase endlessly, but the privilege of choosing wisely.” They offer great shoes that are minimal and modern, elegant and ethical. Their materials — mostly leather, wood and cork — are locally and ethically sourced, often renewable and recycled. They track their annual in-house carbon usage and offsets what they use by investing in international renewable energy projects. And they work with a local, family-run facility in Spain that provides living wages, environmental reliability and is setting the bar for best practices.
Nisolo is definitely one of my favorite ethical shoe brands out there right now. Their styles all look amazing, and a company after my own heart — all of their collections are designed to take you from day to night and work to play. The less changing the better, if you ask me. The Nashville based company responsibly sources all of their leather from tanneries that are committed to the ethical treatment of animals (making sure it is a byproduct of the meat industry); they implement eco-friendly waste disposal systems; they pay all of their producers beyond fair wages with benefits and a healthy working environment (and work closely with them to help them grow their businesses and production capabilities); and take a direct-to-consumer approach, which means you pay a fair price.
At this point you’re probably sick of hearing me talk about Everlane, but let’s be fair, I’ve never talked about their shoes, so I think I get a pass here. As I’ve said before, Everlane is blazing the trail around radical transparency. They focus on finding the best factories, visiting often and working very closely with them in order to ensure integrity. They also share the cost and markup of every single item with the customer. And there’s no way around it, their shoes are top notch. Top notch, I say!
Nicora makes super cool shoes. The end. I kid, I kid. Nicora is the only female-founded shoes company made exclusively, thread to sole, in the US with (female) scientists on staff to ensure accountability to the environment. They are always cruelty free; they use high quality, domestically sourced, ethical materials (often recycled or eco-friendly vegan); and produce in small batches, which helps reduce waste.
R.M. Williams is a little higher on the price scale, but the Australia-based company makes absolutely beautiful leather boots and shoes. The company is certified with Ethical Clothing Australia, and all of their footwear is handcrafted and built to last. In fact, the brand is actually known for their longevity. Each part of the boot can be replaced, repaired or fixed, which increases the piece’s lifespan and reduces waste on the tail-end.
Fortress of Inca was started in 2004 by Evan Streusand after he discovered his first pair of Peruvian boots while backpacking through South America. Upon his return he wanted to bring the tradition of these high quality, intricately detailed, comfortable and original boots back to the states. Still handmade in Peru, Fortress of Inca audits every one of their workshops, making sure their artisans are working in excellent conditions and enjoy benefits like health care, paid maternity leave and social security. They also source only the best local materials like rubber and wood that are plentiful in Peru and leather that is a byproduct of the meat industry that might otherwise be turned into organic waste. They consistently offer a fair price for a high quality product and favor working with independent boutiques to support local business.
Matt & Nat is probably one of the more well known vegan brands out there. With a name, inspired by material and nature, Matt & Nat strives to help their customers “live beautifully.” They offer consumers timeless, durable and beautiful collections (from sandals, to sneakers, to oxfords, to ankle boots) that are comfy, fashionable, weather resistant, and you guessed it, vegan. They value social responsibility, excellence, inclusiveness, integrity, learning, authenticity and love, and are inspired by the textures and hues of nature and thus are constantly seeking ways to better protect it.
What companies do you think make the best ethical shoes, and more specifically (asking for a friend), ankle boots.