Before we go any further and this gets really awkward, I want to get one thing out of the way. I'm not a "shoe person". I don't like shoe shopping, and my clothes to shoe ratio is about 15:1 (and considering the tiny size of my closet, I'll let you do the math).
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy shoes. I love how they put the finishing touches on an outfit, instantly pulling it all together. But shoes always seem to be the first things to wear out. In the past, I would have to buy a new pair of leather boots every winter or wear the same pair literally into the ground. I went the entire summer last year without a pair of good sandals simply because I knew I'd have to buy a new pair next year and the cost didn't seem worth it (Granted, I wasn't aware of all of the ethical brands I am now, but that's a different story).
A few seasons ago I bought a pair of booties from Target, for an upcoming trip AJ and I took to Monterey, CA. I spent our entire getaway with blisters on my feet trying to "wear in" my new shoes so that I could enjoy them. Fact: I still own the booties and only now feel like they're appropriately "worn in".
When I tried on my Cara booties from Fortress of Inca for the first time, they seemed to mold to my feet. They weren't rigid and immobile like the boots I had suffered through a few years ago. In fact, a few days after the boots arrived, I took them (and one other pair of sneakers) on a week long trip with me. I wore them everyday (sorry, sneakers) and guess what? Not a single blister or bruise from rubbing. The shoes, since they're made from natural leather, actually stretched a bit, forming to my feet and becoming a welcome companion as I walked, not an accessory I felt I needed to "break in" before I could enjoy.
Fortress of Inca is reclaiming the footwear industry one hand-crafted shoe at a time, and the craftsmanship truly sets them apart from any other shoe I've owned. Here's a little bit about them:
- All of their shoes are handcrafted in Peru using local, naturally sourced leather (from the Peruvian meat industry that would have otherwise been turned into organic waste,) wood, and rubber.
- The brand works with Peruvian designers to ensure their designs are authentic and true to their country of origin.
- Their artisans are paid fairly, work in excellent conditions, and enjoy benefits like social security, health care, and maternity leave.
I did a little bit of research on the fast-fashion alternatives and, as you'd guess, the information I found wasn't pretty. Here's a bit of what I found summed up:
- Most shoes, even from more expensive brands, are made out of almost entirely synthetic materials. According to The Good Shopping Guide, "Leather uppers are tanned via a 20-step process using strong chemicals. In countries with little environmental protection, tannery wastes can be discharged untreated into the water systems, making tap water undrinkable."
- Slate noted that faux leather or "pleather" is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), one of the most toxic plastics out there (as are most of our shoes, in fact, whether they're pleather or not).
- Many fast-fashion shoe brands like Nike, Adidas, and more are taking steps (perhaps surface level at best) to appear more worker friendly and ethical after coming under fire decades ago for their unethical processes. However, no fast-fashion brand is 100% committed to ethical production (most can't even trace their supply chains due to sub-sub-sub contracting) or sustainability. The best way to ensure you're buying an ethically made product that will last is to buy from the brands that are transparent from the get go. Like Fortress of Inca.
I'm beyond infatuated with my Cara booties, and believe it or not, this non-shoe person might just have changed her mind. I'm looking forward to styling these boots for years to come. Without the "break in" period to boot.
Have you purchased ethically made shoes before? What has been your experience with quality and durability?