For many citizens of the world, the present era requires immediate action. People are changing their purchasing habits to promote social and environmental justice. Vegan and climate-friendly diets are becoming more mainstream, and people are marching the streets in protest. People want to be heard and change is their demand. Helping to voice those concerns is American advocacy artist, Vicki Rosenthal, who uses Etiko sneakers as her canvas.
With a background in macro-practice social work, which saw Vicki advising governments and organisations on how to make equitable systemic changes, advocacy work wasn't a far stretch. "I've been an artist since I was a kid," explains Vicki, "but art was always just an escape before returning to reality. But a year and a half ago, I realised I had found a real purpose for my art, and that was advocacy."
Vicki found her niche during the US mid-term elections when she began painting campaign messaging onto canvas sneakers. "People liked having their opinions on their feet as a conversation starter, so I thought, this is great! I'm going to continue this," Vicki says. "So I became involved in a woman's march next, and it went from there."
Determined to reduce her environmental footprint and ensure the product she was offering was true to her values, Vicki chose Etiko sneakers as her brand of choice. "Originally I was using other brands until I looked at the Good On You ethical fashion app. Etiko had a perfect rating and everything I read about them aligned with my views," she says. "When I spoke to Nick, Etiko's founder, we connected. He recognised that my work was in tune with his business philosophy, and I felt Etiko was a sure match for me."
Vicki’s customers have also been very happy with Etiko’s quality and ethical practices, and while they aren’t about to recycle their artworks anytime soon, just knowing that Etiko has a take-back program is good news for conscious consumers.
The style of commissions Vicki paints take on a variety of themes, but her favourite two designs are environmentally related. "I painted a black sneaker with an image of the planet that turned out really well," she says, "and I love the butterfly shoe which said 'Protect The Monarch'.” To ensure Vicki continues to support other advocates, she donates ten per cent of her profits to grassroots organisations.
As America prepares for the 2020 elections, Vicki is working on a new exhibition aimed at representing US citizens whose voices will be marginalised. "The show is called, 'Every Voice- Vote 2020', and I have interviewed people from four key demographics," Vicki explains. "These people will have their votes suppressed because the government rigs the polling stations availability or the timing of the election processes. So I want to highlight what is going on and give these people a voice. To do that, I am literally painting their words onto Etiko shoes. After the exhibition, I will provide them with their sneakers as a thank you.
"I feel like my life's journey has come to an ultimate point, and I've now found my main purpose. Finding a tribe of like-minded businesses and people who support my goals and help me to achieve my purpose has been incredible.”
“Someone told me once that as artists, it is our responsibility to share our gift. And I want to use my gift to help change the world.”
Vicki Rosenthal was interviewed by Etiko staffer- Nicole Lutze
Nicole is a freelance writer with a passion for sustainability and social justice. She loves to tell stories about thoughtful people and businesses who are trying to make the world a better place.