The Bendy Shoe

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As is the case for most industries, ethics isn’t typically at the forefront of many brands’ and consumers’ minds when they create or shop for new shoes. Creating shoes is admittedly more labor intensive than most garment production and, for most conventional shoe brands, convenience and cost trump eco or human-friendliness.

With the peak of fast fashion, shoes followed the trajectory of most other kinds of production. Exploitation, cheap corner cutting, and blind eye turning.


Luckily, there are always the trailblazers and the innovators who choose to look at footwear from a more all-encompassing perspective. They choose to create quality product without putting anyone else (planet or person) at risk. These are the companies I love to support and shed light on.

For decades, Mary Sue and her co-founder have worked in the fashion and footwear space. Their brand Ashbury Skies has always been a little unconventional, supporting small, independent shoe brands on their online retail space, but they haven’t created a product specifically their own, until the release of their newest endeavor: the BENDY Shoe.

They designed a shoe that reduces environmental impact without sacrificing comfort or style. entirely handcrafted in California. The BENDY is made with only four materials - a rubber sole, a front suede leather piece, a back sturdy leather piece, and thread. The shoes are designed to last, and are made with the utmost humanitarian standards.

Not surprisingly, BENDY surpassed its fundraising goal within a few days of launching, but that doesn’t mean that the campaign can’t use more support.

Today, Mary Sue and her co-founder have launched a scholarship program for emerging designers and students in the footwear industry who want to create an ethical brand or product from concept, to sourcing, to creation, to completion. The Ethical Shoe Design Course is a 12-week intensive course, and the first of its kind in the footwear space. The duo hopes that this course will create radical change for the future of sustainable footwear. And for each pair of BENDY Shoes purchased, a portion of the proceeds will support the scholarship fund.

BENDY, they hope, is a catalyst that will spark change and push consumers to continue to consider the impact of their purchases.

To learn more about BENDY or to support their campaign, click here.

Adelante || Shoes Worth Standing For

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See the boots I'm wearing? They weren't made in a factory, somewhere in an industrialized city district. They weren't made by machines in a warehouse. They certainly weren't made in a sweatshop, by underpaid workers with cheap materials destined to fall apart and end up in landfill only after a few wears. 

No, Selvin made my shoes. 

This is the first time I've ever known the name of the person who made an item specifically for me, taking days of his time to create a piece I wear almost daily. 

We talk about "artisan made" products all the time in the ethical fashion world, but what does that really mean? Is it just a fancier word for someone who works in a factory making products? Is it an old word that we just use to mean a more "ethically made product"? Yes, in a way. But in a much more impactful way, the word "artisan" is all about skill. 

ar·ti·san

ˈärdəzən/

noun

  1. a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.

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More than just handmade, defining something as "artisan made" implies the learned, refined skill of the creator. It's more than just a job, it's a trade. It's more than just a product, it's a piece of art. 

Through my partnership with Adelante, my appreciation for "artisan made" has doubled. 

Adelante is a shoe company that employs craftsman in Guatemala. And Selvin, of course, is one of the craftsman working with them. 

True to their "cobbler to customer" promise, in each shoe box, Adelante includes a photo of the craftsman, with a bit about them. A simple step, but one that drives home the fact that there are hands, and faces, and stories behind each product. 

In an effort to make this more than a "product review" and to better understand the stark difference between what Adelante does and what most shoe companies do, I was able to speak to Selvin directly, via Skype, to hear his story and learn about what goes into making a pair of boots like the ones he made for me. 

Here's what I learned: 

Selvin has been making shoes since he was in the sixth grade. Shoe-making was once a large industry in Pastores, a main stream of income for many families there, and a trade that Selvin learned from his father. However, as other trades and demands have pushed their way in, many cobblers have been out of work. Adelante is the first business of its kind in Pastores, and Selvin told me that through the brand, he's able to provide for his family.

(Adelante ensures that their artisans are paid above the "Living Well Line", which, means that the wages are determined by balancing a "regression analysis of World Bank data with in-person craftsmen interviews" and determining a wage that doesn't stop at country level and considers the individual community, economy, and livelihood of the people they employ.) 

Speaking of his family, he has three children who hope to grow up to be accountants. 

He also told me that his favorite part of the shoe making process is putting the finishing touches on the product - the polish and shine. At this stage, he said, you can truly appreciate the quality of the shoe and get excited about the final result. I showed him my Granadas through the computer screen, with his signature on the inside, and he smiled as he asked how I liked them and what I thought of the fit. 

Our chat was short, about 15 minutes, but seeing his face and hearing his story was a conversation I won't soon forget. The importance of choosing to support brands like these - brands who care about the people they employ, brands who value the culture and craft behind their product, and brands who pay their employees a wage they deserve to be paid - these are the brands I'll never stop falling in love with. 

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** This post is sponsored by Adelante Shoe Co. as part of an ongoing partnership. All opinions and photographs are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep this blog running!**

Olli || Fair Flip Flops On A Mission

Olli || Fair Flip Flops On A Mission

I've mentioned before that when it comes to footwear, like most things in my life, I like to keep it simple. I need shoes that I can throw on easily, wear with 94% of the pieces in my closet, and chase a 3 year old and a 1.5 year old around in. While it's pretty safe to say that heels (of any shape or size) aren't for my lifestyle (or level of walking ability), flats, sandals, booties, and of course, flip flops most definitely are. 

When the ladies of Olli reached out to me about their Kickstarter campaign for fair trade, ethically made flip flops, I immediately knew I wanted to get involved. Believe it or not, for the past two or three summers I've been without a pair of flip flops for a few reasons. A) I was too lazy to buy a new pair, and B) I couldn't find an ethically made option that was in my budget AND higher quality than the Old Navy pairs I had been used to.

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