August 19, 2008
Pamela Anderson, vegan shoes and a guilt-free sole
Blame it on the power of Pamela Anderson. A chance encounter with the pin-up girl and PETA activist has JJ Lee thinking about leather-free fashions.
Q. From what I understand, you've had a consciousness-raising experience with Pamela Anderson. What happened?
A. Many of your listeners may not know this, but I'm an associate producer and director for Sounds Like Canada. That's my day job. A couple of weeks ago Pamela Anderson visited us to talk about her new show and a bit about her work with PETA or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
She walked in with an entourage of four or five people. Her eyes hidden by a pair of sunglasses and her nose in a Blackberry. More importantly, she came in well-turned out. No sweatshirts and yoga paints for Ms. Anderson.
But after she left the studio to carry on her media blitz, she got me thinking about what she wears for shoes and accessories...
Q. Being an animal-rights advocate ..... Does she wear leather-free clothes?
A. I spoke with PETA and they tell me she is in fact NOT leather free. Apparently, she keeps PETA up to date with her animal-cruelty index.
In the past, there have been “gotcha” moments.
For example, there is a picture of Pamela Anderson wearing UGG boots – those very ugly shearling boots that were in fashion a few years back. Dating from her Baywatch days, Anderson has renounced those boots.
You could say a ladder of leather-freeness.
Anderson does emphasize she buys from designers who provide vegan options and has endorsed the vegan fashion of Stella McCartney.
Q. Stella McCartney is a high-end fashion designer. Are there good, affordable leather-free shoes on the market?
A. Well, I've found quite a bit over the last few weeks. There are local sources and online sources that are quite interesting.
For example, a man named Jay Nathanson wrote to me from Boston. He's a Vancouverite who is a vegan. He now lives in the States. While his correspondence was about which vegan shoes would suit his body type (hard to explain but it can wait).
Jay drew my attention to North America's first VEGAN shoe store. It's in Manhattan and they have an online presence. It’s called Moo Shoes. Yesterday, I had a chance to talk to the owner about the quality of vegan shoes.
Q. What kind of quality can you expect from faux-leather shoes?
A. Sara Kuberski of Moo Shoes was frank with me. She said there's a history of awful vinyl or PVC shoes in animal-free shoes.
She says it’s not a very good material. They don't breath and they feel terrible.
You'll recognize these shoes by the fact that are are usually lined with a fabric on the inside to hide the humble material. She said one should avoid those shoes.
Instead, she recommends good polyurethane micro-fibres. She says they are breathable, durable and the micro-fibre has the give of leather. Plus as a synthetic product it's more environementally friendly in comparision to vinyl.
Q. That's the material. What kind of build may we expect?
At Moo Shoes, because they have practice ethical buying, many of their shoe lines come from shoe-making countries like Portugal, Spain and, my favourite, England, which in my opinion is the greatest nation of cobblers!
They are getting shoes made in some of the best English factories. Ironically, these manufacturing facilities used to make leather shoes, but like Clarks, they have since abandoned England to make leather shoes in India.
Any way, vegan or vegetarian shoes can be of very good quality and cost no more than regular leather shoes.
I personally haven't been able to check out Moo Shoes quality but Jay Nathanson - the guy in Boston - swears by them.
Q. What about Canadian and local designers?
A. In the field of leather-like accessories, I would give the nod to Matt & Nat. They're based in Montreal and have a very successful line of non-leather goods.
They use polyurethane micro-fibre. They also use cardboard to make brief cases and they've started to make felt out of recycled pop bottles. It's call the Feutre line and it's quite impressive for faux materials.
Q. What about in Vancouver?
A. Well, there's Boris Brothers - it's a luggage brand designed by Mike Jackson. His messenger bags are made out of recycled vinyl sheets used on billboards. It's a tough material with lots of colour -- no one will mistake them for leather. You can find them at the store, Thriller.
In the shoe department, John Fluevog has a vegan line of shoes called, D.O.G. or Disciples of Good shoes. They are vegan, crepe soled shoes with the fun style that you expect with Fluevogs.
They're also working on an entirely eco-friendly AND animal-free versions of their iconic Angel Shoes.
Angel shoes look like Docs and made Fluevog famous.
It's a big deal for them to go enviro and animal-free with their core shoe and they are constantly experimenting with vegetable dye leather (more green) and cruelty-free materials.
Q. What if you don't want a faux leather look? What should people look for material-wise when it comes to shoes?
A. Going back to Sara Kuberski of Moo Shoes, she says HEMP is the ultimate material. Like cotton shoes (think Converses), they breath and have their own material authenticity but hemp, Kuberski says, is more durable than cotton and has a better ecological footprint.
Sara says she has a pair of hemp Simple Skater shoes. She loves them and they've lasted four years.