What do women look for in the perfect pair of shoes? Some are interested in the wow factor and only settle for glamorous designer high heels that turn every outfit into an instant hit. Others simply want a reliable pair of flats that feel just as comfortable even after a 10k walk. And, there are also those who, regardless of aesthetic, want their collection of shoes to be as ethical as possible and also contribute to a noble cause when investing in footwear. In the past years, there has been a massive paradigm shift towards fair trade, sustainable fashion and consumers are no longer happy with items that just look good. They want to buy products that were manufactured in ethical conditions, by brands who do not exploit workers and, even better, by brands that give back to the community. For shoeholistics who care as much about social impact as they do about design, the 10 brands below are a must-have:
TOMS is one of the first shoe companies to promote the ethical movement and served as an example for many of the other designers on this list. Founded in 2006, TOMS is equally famous for their fashion-forward designs and corporate responsibility, which focuses on eco-awareness and responsible practices. The company now has charitable programs in more than 70 countries and fights for various causes, including: providing prescription glasses and eye surgery for children in developing countries, providing clean water and safe birthing conditions. How can you contribute? Well, for every pair of shoes you buy at TOMS, one pair goes to a child in need in Argentina or Guatemala.
Oliberté reached an important milestone in the shoemaking industry in 2013, when they became the first Fair Trade Certified™ footwear manufacturing factory in the world. Quality-wise, this brand stands out because their shoes come with a lifetime warranty, so each pair really is made to last and, from a social standpoint, they are doing a remarkable job by empowering their workers in Ethiopia and treating them with respect. Oliberte is a certified B-Corp and Certified Fair Trade USA partner and they donate part of their proceeds to environmental non-profits.
If you’re an artistic spirit who supports creativity and self-expression, you’ll love the canvas shoes designs by BucketFeet and their mission statement. Created by Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein, BucketFeet donate part of their proceeds to charitable platforms and have created a network where everyone can send their designs and have them featured on BucketFeet shoes.
4. Sseko Designs
Looking for a new pair of sandals to rock the boho-chic look? When browsing deals on different shoe brands, you might want to stop by Sseko Designs, a small shoe brand with a big mission: to help women in Uganda get a college degree. Ever since they were established, has made it possible for 87 women to go to university and have access to a better future.
This might come as a surprise looking at the dainty Indosole flip-flops, but their footwear is made from recycled old tires. Indonesia, where Indosole is based, has a massive tire waste problem and the founders of the company wanted to make a difference by turning tires into fashionable flip-flops. And don’t worry – the production process is sustainable, organic and non-toxic.
If you care about animal rights, you probably don’t want a pair of shoes that ended up on the shelf by causing pain and agony to an animal in the production process. Keep is an up-and-coming footwear company that makes only vegan, cruelty free shoes and guarantees ethical factory conditions to all workers.
7. ROMA Boots
Lovers of boots and charity now have a shoe store that meets both: ROMA Boots. Founded in 2010 by Samuel Bistrian to help impoverished children in Eastern Europe, ROMA Boots now activates on all continents. When you buy a pair of boots from this store, another one is donated to a child in need.
Sneakers are having a good moment this season, when it’s acceptable to pair them with just about everything, so why not buy some that tell a story? Meet Veja, the stylish sneaker company that actually encourages small producers instead of competing with them. In addition to sourcing organic cotton and rubber, Veja are also known for winning the Guardian Sustainable Business Award and the Observer Ethical Award in 2012.
9. BANGS Shoes
The mission of BANGS Shoes is to support young entrepreneurs who want to launch a business but don’t have the resources. This is why they invest 20% of net profits in helping them start and grow their businesses. Under the motto “your adventure helps others find theirs”, BANGS Shoes has helped more than 1500 entrepreneurs in 70 countries.
Do you love the unique, refreshing beauty of artisan designs? Then you will also love Nisolo, a shoe brand that sells only footwear manufactured via fair-trade practices and created by impoverished artisans. Nisolo invest 10% of the profits in educational programs and offer wages that are 33% higher than the average fair trade wage.