How To Have A More Sustainable Shoe Collection

When we think of eco-fashion, we rarely consider shoes. Here’s how to have a more sustainable shoe collection

By Chere Di Boscio

We obsess with who made our clothes and which fabrics are the most eco-friendly. But why is it that we rarely consider how to build a more sustainable shoe collection.

With countless heels waiting to be worn, sandals eagerly awaiting the sunshine and the smart court heels you’ve had for years piled high, it could be time to sustainably revamp your collection.

It’s actually quite simple. Creating an environmentally-friendly shoe collection needn’t be the impossible task it sounds, especially when you have Emjee Smit, the Founder of Kaya Capriole, to help.

Capriole is the founder of a sustainable, artisan brand which creates luxury heels in an environmentally-friendly way. Here below, he outlines his best tips on how to have a more sustainable shoe collection, so that you can walk into a greener, and more beautiful, fashion future. 

How To Have A More Sustainable Shoe Collection

how to have a more sustainable shoe collection

1. Organise your shoe-drobe

To have a more sustainable shoe collection, first and foremost, organise your shoe closet well.

‘For example, group your shoes by season, colour or style. This will show you how many similar shoes you have. From there, you can whittle down those you absolutely cannot live without and the ones which you’ve perhaps grown out of,’ says Capriole.

Create four piles:

  • shoes to repair
  • shoes to wear
  • shoes to toss out
  • shoes to donate

‘When you discover shoes you no longer enjoy wearing, consider donating them to nearby charities. By giving these shoes a new home, instead of throwing them away, you’re embracing a sustainable alternative,’ he continues. ‘Meanwhile, you can be happy knowing that someone else is enjoying something you’ve so generously donated. Sustainability is all about being considerate, both with regards to the environment and the wellbeing of others.’

Similarly, if you adore a pair of shoes but find that they have a small scuff mark, or worn-out heels, ignore your temptation to throw them away and repurchase a near-identical pair. Instead, repair them! This is inexpensive and will allow you to continue strutting your stuff in your go-to pair of shoes.

vivaia sustainable shoe collection

2. Research fast fashion and understand where you’re buying from

‘‘Fast Fashion’ is a term that people are, thankfully, becoming increasingly familiar with; we hear about popular brands mass-producing garments and selling them at cheap prices, to the detriment of those who make the products and our environment. It has been said that ‘fast fashion is speeding toward environmental disaster.’ This isn’t something we can continue to gloss over,’ insists Capriole.

Fast fashion exists not only in clothing, but shoes, too, of course. In fact, the shoes made by fast fashion brands are probably even worse for the planet than garments, since they last less long, as they wear out quickly.

Shun cheap shoes (especially those dubbed ‘vegan’, because they’re made from cheap plastics) and invest in a slow fashion shoe maker which guarantees their work. Look for qualities such as:

Yes, having those characteristics may make a shoe pricier. But those shoes will likely last for decades.

vivaia sustainable shoe collection

3. Buy shoes from the perspective of longevity

And speaking of shoes that last for decades, you should shop for footwear with the future in mind.

‘All too often we search for cheap shoes to pair with a specific outfit. We wear them once, maybe twice, and then move on to the next pair,’ says the shoemaker. 

Hands up if you’ve ever bought a pair of shoes just for a special occasion, like a wedding or Hallowe’en?

One of the best tips on how to have a more sustainable shoe collection? Just stop doing that!

Instead, buy pieces that are timeless and of outstanding quality, in classic styles. Good choices include:

  • classic heeled pumps
  • ballet flats
  • loafers
  • Chelsea boots
  • trainers

If you have one or two pairs of each, in classic, neutral hues that match everything in your wardrobe, what else do you need, really?

4. Constantly look after your shoes

Shoes go through a lot of wear and tear. And not just from walking on cobblestones and streets. Capriole says: ‘It’s easy to throw your heels in the wardrobe, ignoring them between wears, but this isn’t sustainable. To ensure your shoes lead a long life, look after them, treat them with respect, clean them and store them correctly.’

For example, another top tip on how to make your shoe closet more sustainable is to use a water guard on leather shoes, and a polish, too. They even make those for ‘vegan leathers’, too!

In addition, if you have tall boots, you should store them with newspaper stuffed in them to retain their shape and the integrity of their materials.

Finally, avoid wearing inappropriate footwear in certain settings. If you’re wearing high heels to a party held in a garden setting or on a beach, you’re likely to destroy them. Similarly, if you live in a place with a lot of rain (like the UK), avoid buying suede and other materials that don’t deal well with water.

5. Don’t be silly

We’ve all been there. At the sales, with up to 70% off. And those shoes you’ve had your eye on since forever are now within your price bracket. The only problem? They’re half a size too small. Ah, no worries, you think. They’ll stretch out! Except they never do. And now they’re unused, at the back of your closet.

So our last tip on how to have a more sustainable shoe collection is a simple one: only buy shoes that fit really well! There are basically two kinds of things in your closet that should fit like a glove: shoes and bras. And if they don’t fit properly, don’t buy them. They’ll only hurt you, and you’ll end up neglecting them. It’s as simple as that.

Learning how to make your shoe closet more sustainable is easy. To ensure your collection supports the environment, prioritise quality, avoid fast fashion, support businesses that are doing good, care for your collection and buy well.

What tips do you have for how to have a more sustainable shoe collection? Let us know in the comments, below. 

All images via Vivaia vegan shoes on Pinterest

Chere Di Boscio
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