Alice + Whittles makes use of high-quality materials that would otherwise go to waste.
Whenever I find out about a shoe company making footwear from recycled, upcycled, or biodegradable materials, I get excited. There are not a lot of companies making eco-friendly shoes, and it's far easier to find an organic cotton t-shirt or recycled poly or wool winter coat than it is to find a pair of shoes that reflects those same values.
Second, the lining is made from a breathable, plant-based vegan material, not because the shoe has any aspirations of being vegan – obviously it can't with its leather upper – but because the maker wants to reduce reliance on petrochemicals.
Finally, production takes place in a family-owned shoe factory in Porto, Portugal, that hires local workers, pays living wages, and respects European workplace safety codes.
Says co-founder Sofi Khwaja,
"We’re not trying to bring more stuff into the market — but stuff that there is a functional aspect to, that there is a market need for, and that we can build according to our ethos. We’re refining a manufacturing model that is really trying to do as little damage as possible to the environment and help empower surrounding communities while making contemporary, accessible fashion that people love."
Khwaja and her partner Nick Horekens founded Alice + Whittles in 2015 after working in Tunisia to resettle refugees for the United Nations. They were interested in fashion, and wondered if they could make the notoriously extractive and cutthroat industry somewhat more equitable. From an email sent to TreeHugger:
"The industry is ripe with unethical and destructive manufacturing practices – affecting indigenous workers and the natural environment – and appears to have little concern for the waste generated from fast fashion... Our brand blends humanitarian principles with clean, modern design."
The Minimalist Luxa Sneaker has a black reclaimed leather upper, with a choice between a white or black rubber sole. Shoe laces are waxed cotton. It sells for $160, and only ships to the United States and Canada.
Alice + Whittles produces one additional product – a basic ankle rain boot made from fair-trade natural rubber, which is definitely worth checking out if you're in the market for waterproof footwear.
Learn more at Alice + Whittles.