The world's trusted guide to sustainable and ethical fashion

The world's trusted guide to sustainable and ethical fashion

How to Pick Out a Good Quality Shoe


This excellent post is from EF Magazine by Malorie Bertrand, who styles, writes and blogs about ethical and sustainable fashion, beauty and everything in between.  

When it comes to ethical and sustainable fashion, shoes, for me, are tricky. I don’t want to purchase shoes from a company that sources leather from poorly treated cows, and I want to know that the leather was a by-product of the beef industry so as to avoid waste. I don’t want to support just any beef industry though; I try to eat only locally raised, grain-fed beef, you know, from happy cows who were treated with respect in life and in death. Is this too much to ask!?

It’s difficult to find shoes made out of such leather. There are some great online shops that sell high-quality, vegetable-tanned leather shoes, Mallorca-based Coclico being one of my faves, but most other eco-shoe brands are vegan, so they use “pleather” or plastic leather, and this material has its own environmental issues.

Many people will argue that I shouldn’t buy leather shoes at all, and a part of me agrees. Why do animals have to be killed at all? We don’t really need meat and we certainly don’t need to wear their skin or their fur. But from a sustainability perspective, many argue that leather is better than plastic. And so long as cows are killed for their meat, might as well use their skins to minimize waste.

This is an entirely separate post, one that I’ve wanted to write for a while now on leather vs. pleather. Until I tackle that beast, I thought I’d approach shoe buying from one type of sustainability, one that involves craftsmanship, quality, durability and timeless design. I turned to shoe designer, Zoe Lee, for a simple how-to guide on buying quality shoes.

Zoe is a rising star in high-end shoe design who opened up a shoe boutique in the Marais quarter of Paris in 2014. She studied at the prestigious Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art and then went on collaborate with the likes of Alexander McQueen, Erdem and Vivienne Westwood before she went rogue and launched Zoe Lee Shoes in April 2011. The Zoe Lee Shoe is not your average shoe, nor your average high-fashion shoe either, as we’ll soon find out. Zoe sources from the highest quality leathers and works with a family-run shoe factory that has been in business for many years.


Side note: Now that she has her own shop, Zoe is soon launching a bag collection made out of scrap leather from factory floors – a great way to reduce waste. If they’re anything like her shoes, I’ll have to put one on my “save for” wish list.

Zoe Lee Shoes are just like Zoe, straight-forward, exotic, understated, no-fuss and beautiful. If you want to see what a quality shoe looks like, dissect one of her shoes. But instead of sacrificing one of her creations, I worked with the talented and adorable illustrator, Becky Murphy of Chipper Things, to break it down for you here (see below).

See the rest of the illustrations and tips at EF Magazine

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