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Sustainability, eco-friendly, environmentally conscious — these have become buzzwords in the fashion industry of late. Millennials and Generation Zers in particular are choosing to shop brands with eco-friendly bents — and in some cases, even ponying up extra cash to support environmentally conscious labels. In the past few years, shoe brands are coming up with new ways to reduce their carbon footprint and utilize new sustainably sourced materials.
In some cases, brands like Allbirds, Veldskoen, Rothy’s have made sustainability their core ethos, while others — industry heavyweights like Nike and Adidas — have recently taken aggressive steps to move environmental protection higher on their list of priorities.
Plant and food waste, such as corn, apple and grape skins, previously used in the auto and interiors industries, are becoming popular alternatives to leather, especially in the luxury footwear sphere. Prota Fiori, an emerging label that crafts its shoes out of food scraps, is using sustainability as a selling point to target luxury consumers looking to be more conscious consumers.
Other brands like Allen Edmonds encourage customers to send their shoes back to their Wisconsin factory, giving a pair a second and even third life rather than ending up in a landfill.
As we move forward into the new decade, there’s no doubt that sustainable elements will become another pillar in the fashion and footwear world. The burgeoning category already has created a new market fit for both popular brands and newcomers to make their mark on the industry.
One brand in particular stands out. Not only because of how they source the materials used in the products, but also because of how they treat their employees and suppliers. That company is Veldskoen.
Veldskoen keeps it simple. The company focuses on doing a handful of styles exceptionally well, not offering 40 different pairs of shoes. They offer three main styles: chukka boot, Chelsea boot and what they call the Heritage shoe. These are timeless styles that are well made and will last for years, so no need to be replacing them at the end of the season.
Veldskoen stands apart from others for a few very distinct and honorable reasons. This boot is beautifully crafted by hand in South Africa using locally sourced materials — leather and recyclable leather.
Veldskoen is a South African term meaning a shoe made of leather first made by the Kho people. According to Khoisan tribal folk lore, they were made and worn by the tribe for more than a thousand years before. They made for the perfect shoe construction in hot, harsh African desert. Easy to make, lightweight and extremely tough. Veldskoen stays loyal to its roots and has a factory on the East Coast of South Africa.
The fashion industry, namely the fast fashion industry, greatly contributes to environmental and humanitarian harm. According to the World Economic Forum, the fashion industry produces 10 percent of the world’s carbon emissions and is the second largest consumer of the world’s water supply. Tomake matters worse, more than 85 percent of all textiles end up in landfills each year.
Many textiles used in fashion are fibers like polyester. Washing these clothes releases microplastics into waterways which causes endless issues for the quality of our water systems. Fast fashion is also causing harm to marginalized groups of people.
Many brands produce their goods in China, where unreasonable work conditions and quotas are enforced and where labor can be exploited. There are many reasons to avoid fast fashion, both for environmental and humanitarian reasons, and it is imperative that brands like Veldskoen are supported and applauded for their efforts to minimize waste, pollution, and their efforts to treat their employees fairly.
Veldskoen is leading the way in using recyclable and sustainable materials for their shoes when many shoe companies contribute tons of waste to landfills each year. Veldskoen not only is using progressive means to produce its shoes but also paying homage to the rich history of the chukka boot and the artistry behind its production.
Veldskoen sources its leather from a 175-year-old tannery called Mossop Leather; Mossop Leather is actively involved in making environmentally conscious business decisions. According to their website, “Mossop Leather is the first tannery in the world to plant a Spekboom garden, a wonder plant that will capture 5,000 kg of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere to help offset not only our carbon emissions but the industries around it.” Mossop Leather is also extremely active in recycling, even recycling 1 million gallons of water per year, which lessens their reliance on municipal water. We are extremely impressed with the evident compassion that Veldskoen and Mossop Leather has for its community.
Hopewell is the factory that makes Veldskoen shoes; it is a member of fairfactories.org and audited by Open Source to remain an internationally approved supplier for Veldskoen. Their website states: “They take full accountability in running their factory in an ethical and transparent manner, with very strict fair labor, health and safety procedures. The longest serving employee has been there 48 years. In short, people love working there”.
Businesses that prioritize sustainability and ethical business and manufacturing practices are extremely important to the health of the environment and workforce, and Veldskoen puts these principles first when creating their shoes. Veldskoen shoes are moderately priced but very well-made and have a very high-end feel and style. According to their website, South Africa has a 30 percent unemployment rate and their business model makes it a priority to employ local people and to support the local economy by sourcing its materials.
Veldskoen excels at producing three styles of shoes:
The chukka boot is a classic versatile boot that should find a home in everyone’s footwear collection. The chukka boot can be worn casually or dressed up and looks good with almost any outfit. The chukka boot is an ankle-high leather boot with a rubber sole. Most chukka boots are made with synthetic textiles that wear, stain, and lose their shape quickly. Veldskoen chukka boots are hand sewn using locally sourced materials and recycled rubber. The rubber soles range in colors from green, orange, and pink to the classic rich brown.
The history of the chukka boot is rich and interesting. This boot was first worn in Africa hundreds of years ago. Also known as a “desert boot”, the chukka boot is lightweight and extremely tough. Veldskoen boots are designed with a few extra millimeters in the toe box to allow for your toes to flex and move more naturally. The website states: “We use high-performance technical leather that repels water and dirt. Super easy to clean.”
The Chelsea boot is an ankle-high boot with elastic on the side and a loop at the back so the boot can be easily pulled on. The Chelsea boot has been a wardrobe staple for years, dating back to the Victorian era. Veldskoen Chelsea boots are made of ethically sourced materials by sustainable production practices. Veldskoen designs Chelsea boots for both men and women.
The Heritage boot is a low-top boot with minimal rubber sole. The leather will conform and mold to your feet making Veldskoen boots extremely comfortable. The Heritage boot comes in several color combinations that pay homage to their country of origin – South Africa.
Veldskoen uses superior materials and uses locally sourced leather and recycled leather in order to support local businesses and reduce their carbon footprint. When most fashion companies are trying to operate as cheaply as possible, it is admirable to find a brand like Veldskoen that is dedicated to making the community — and the world — a better place.