SUSTAINABLE SHOES – KNOW WHAT YOU’RE WEARING
Justin Mead, left, and Gavin Reichel set up Vegan Style online and as a Fitzroy boutique to sell ethically made shoes and accessories.
From stylish shoes and handbags to belts, socks and briefcases, going vegan is ethical.
When Melburnian Justin Mead decided to become vegan 17 years ago, he struggled to find ethical and sustainable fashion in Australia.
“I always loved quality, good-looking footwear,” Mead says.
“When I became vegan in 2001 I found it really tough to find footwear to my taste so I made do with products that were more functional than stylish.’’
“In 2009, my partner Gavin and I were lucky enough to travel around South and North America and Europe. We found so many exciting vegan fashion products that we were missing in Australia. So when we got back we made a plan to bring them here.”
They launched Vegan Style, an online ethical shoes and accessories fashion business. Their Brunswick Street, Fitzroy boutique opened in 2016.
Products include shoes for men and women and accessories that are vegan, ethically made and environmentally responsible.
Handbags, briefcases, backpacks, wallets, belts, socks and T-shirts are purchased. Vegan Style also stocks cruelty-free skin- care products and cosmetics.
Mead says there is no doubt interest in veganism in Australia is growing.
“More and more people are coming to care about animals, the impact of animal agriculture on the environment or the treatment of leather-producing workers. When I became vegan, most people had never heard of the word. Now vegan products are everywhere.”
Mead says Vegan Style customers include those living a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, people who like to support those options and many who prefer to buy ethical and sustainable fashion.
“Also, anyone who likes shoes! We welcome everyone,” he says.
“If you buy our products, you can feel good knowing that no animal was harmed and that you’re supporting a growing movement that seeks to reduce animal suffering, minimise their impact on the environment and look after humans.”
Despite the growing awareness, Mead says even among the vegan community there is confusion around what makes a vegan shoe.
“A vegan shoe ensures that no animal products have made their way into the shoe. Even if the shoe is leather-free, often parts of the shoe can be made of a leather-cardboard blend; even the upper or outsole may be a blend of leather offcuts and synthetic materials and this isn’t always disclosed.”
Vegan Style seeks to bring high-quality non-leather footwear and accessories to thoughtful Australian consumers.
“We endeavour to ensure we source products that work to minimise their environmental footprint and also treat their workers fairly. “Not all vegan leathers are created equal, so we seek out products made from high-quality, cruelty-free materials such as European-made PU microfibres, Pinatex (pineapple leaves), cork, cotton canvas and recycled textiles.”
Mead says most of the factories Vegan Style partners with are family-run small businesses that can demonstrate they care about their workers, including ensuring they receive fair pay, work reasonable hours and have opportunities to professionally develop.
As well as carrying vegan brands from around the world, Vegan Style has an in- house brand, Zette Shoes, which includes styles for men and women.