At Etiko we’ve been wanting to do a faux-leather shoe for years.
Without trying to come across as crass, leather has - and continues - to be publicly perceived as a durable and aesthetically pleasing material for production of both clothing and footwear. This can be (and is, if you believe the facebook trolls) used as an argument in its favour. Yet, more often than not, we neglect to take into account the negative environmental impacts (beyond the obvious animal cruelty issues) of the treatment processes. Epic quantities of toxic wastewater in
the tanning process. A complete inability to break-down naturally.
Our belief in leather’s ‘sustainable’ superiority is due to the perception of alternative ‘leather’ as being almost exclusively petrochemical based material. Plastic. Gross. It’s all good and well to offer a ‘vegan’ alternative of a classic sneaker - think the Nike AF1 or Adidas Superstar - but maintaining any kind of clear conscience with a knowledge of the materials’ origin ain’t easy. Even the most environmentally friendly alternatives are primarily polyurethane based, with the soles being, in the majority of cases, made from synthetic rubbers. Gross.
So what’s the solution?
In recent years we’ve seen a variety of science and fashion-type folk attempting to suss out an appropriately durable, as well as aesthetically pleasing, alternative. The ingenuity that has gone into this experimentation is genuinely astounding. From kombucha scobys to cactus, cork to mushroom (mycelium) leather, the search for a material that is truly circular in its nature. The big question is, how do we make a product that is both ethically and environmentally sound that doesn’t exclude the everyday consumer. I mean, a price point of $400 plus is all good and
well for the luxury jet set crowd, but it’s certainly a challenge to the majority.
The producers of commercially available faux ‘leather’ like to make some pretty huge claims about ‘sustainability’, yet they dance around the stats and percentages of oil-based material in their end-product. How long until we can safely say we have a material that, from start to finish, exists in an environmentally regenerative sphere. An end product that biodegrades without leaching any harmful toxins into soil. Again, that word. Circular. Both an upper and a sole that
breaks down and does no harm to the earth in the process. It’s the least we can do, no? Wouldn’t it be great to one day be able to hoik your worn out kicks into the backyard compost? Safe in the knowledge that they’ll harmlessly break down in a few months time.
What a nice thought.