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Distupting the footwear industry
A step change to slow fashion with vegan shoes
Written by Alicia Lai
As a vegan who loves style and fashion, I was often concerned and frustrated at how environmentally unfriendly many vegan shoes brands were. When I founded B_Boheme 16 years ago, I made it my mission to create a vegan shoes brand that was kind to animals, people and planet.
Many vegan leather alternatives are made from plastics and synthetic fibres, which take years to decompose and have long-term negative effects on the environment. Shoes made from PVC or PU are now being marketed as vegan, but the manufacturing processes use chemicals, dyes, and plastics that pollute the groundwater and ultimately cause damage to animals and the ecosystem, affecting animals, people and planet.
Vegans and an increasing number of eco-conscious consumers are seeing through these greenwashing labels and marketing campaigns.
I’ve spent years researching the best plant-based and sustainable materials to create a range of vegan shoes that is certified as 100% vegan and committed to sustainability. Where some ‘vegan fashion’ brands only consider the usage of non-animal leathers within their design, we go further.
“With innovation, we’re now able to create a range of technologically advanced vegan shoes.”
Innovations in plant-based materials have evolved exponentially over the past decade, and we’re now able to create a range of technologically advanced and ethically sound vegan shoes. This includes every part of the shoe being animal-free, from the uppers to the glue used in production. We use water-based and animal free glue, recycled PET sequins, plant-based ultra-suede and biodegradable glitter to create a stylish, hard-wearing, sustainable vegan product. The materials we use include polymers extracted from cereal crops (replacing crude oil) which is combined with viscose obtained from tree pulp, and recycled polyester textile obtained from recycled bottles. The resulting materials are hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial and temperature regulating.
We took a conscious decision not to release new vegan shoes collection during the height of the pandemic.
But materials are just one area of concern for us as an ethical business. Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Part of that is the unsustainable materials used, even in other vegan shoes, but there is also a huge amount of waste due to products not being sold. Nearly two thirds (64%) of fashion products ending up in landfill within a year of being produced.
We took a conscious decision not to release new collections of vegan shoes during the height of the pandemic and instead focussed on reviewing our processes to further reduce our environmental footprint. We’ve now re-launched as a made-to-order slow fashion brand, ensuring no wasted stock or energy, both in the materials and in our processes.
B_Boheme’s made to order model also steers away from the traditional fashion industry cycle to promote more considered purchases and less ‘fast fashion’. In the UK, continuing to actively wear a garment for just nine months longer could diminish its environmental impacts by 20–30% (source: WRAP). Our aim is to take a more ‘season-less’ approach to collection planning rather than a strict seasonal one.
” We never rest on our laurels; good ethics are the backbone of our business.”
There will be two B_Boheme seasonal collections a year, in line with the fashion market of spring/summer and autumn/winter, with each season having two drops of seasonal design to introduce excitement and freshness, while maintaining a continuity range of two key styles with enduring design, our flats and trainers.
We’re passionate about both the importance, and the joy, of slow fashion. The process of creating a pair of B_Boheme’s is filled with a whole lot of love, and patience! From first sketch to final polish, the journey can take up to a year.
This might feel like a step-change in the fashion industry but listening to our customers tells us this is how they want to shop now. We’ve turned our back on fast fashion, but consumers who are passionate about making more considered choices and shopping sustainably are prepared to be patient too.
At B_Boheme, we’ve been working on decarbonising our fashion value chain since our inception more than a decade ago – from design, sourcing, to manufacturing and shipping. I’m incredibly proud to be the founder of this market leading global brand. And we’ll never rest on our laurels; good ethics are the backbone of our business and we’ll continue to lead the way in independent innovative vegan footwear in 2022.