AUG 14, 2020

Why Vegan Leather Shoes Rock and How To Preserve Them

With the threat of global warming and other environmental concerns brought about by the impact of animal agriculture, people are making the conscious transition from cowhide mules to vegan leather shoes. What started ten years ago as a small movement to lessen carbon footprint, is now making headway to a significant number of people's hearts. Today, combined with plant-based diets, eco-friendly fashion is becoming a zeitgeist stamp towards sustainable living.

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Maintain the shine of your VEERAH Appeel heels by polishing them often (Photo from @sustainablychic)

Why many are now choosing vegan leather products over animal leather is not difficult to understand. Each year, the leather industry slaughters billions of animals, and most of these happen in countries like India and China with non-existent or weak animal welfare laws. The animals are grotesquely abused and are inhumanely killed, and for what? So that we can adorn our feet and bodies with their skins. In addition to these abuses, there are also known environmental risks linked to greenhouse emissions. Deforestation in the Amazon is one controversial issue now to clear space for livestock.

Fortunately, people are becoming more aware of what transpires behind the scenes. Thanks to animal welfare advocates like Stella McCartney, who pioneered the engineering and manufacturing of her 100% vegetarian luxury brand, people are shifting their shopping preferences to cruelty-free shoes and other articles of fashion made of recycled polyester, ethically-sourced wool and organic cotton instead of animal leather and fur.

When it comes to footwear, one of the rising mission-driven luxury vegan shoe brands is VEERAH. Founded with a mission to create quality footwear that exemplifies feminine strength and fearless aesthetics, Stacey Chang stomped forward with an array of beautiful, versatile, and ethically- designed vegan shoes. Apple peels, renewed plastics, and excess algae, all saved from landfills,   are what constitutes their elegant fashion collection. Free from tanneries and pollutants that damage our oceans, Veerah's vegan luxury shoes and shoe accessories are revolutionizing fashion with its best foot forward using eco-friendly alternatives.

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Stacey Chang at Sustainable Fashion Day During New York Fashion Week (Source: planetfashiontv.com)

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Faux or vegan leather contributes to just one-third of the environmental impact incurred by cow leather production. (Source: Pulse of Fashion Industry Report 2017)

These vegan options prove to be sustainable and responsible choices, and these claims are backed by the 2017 Pulse of the Fashion Industry report conducted by Global Fashion Agenda & The Boston Consulting Group. In a nutshell, the report states that synthetic or vegan leathers had only one-third the ecological implications of cow leather. And although the vegan leather industry still has a lot to improve upon, it's a better choice in terms of environmental impact per kilogram.

Spotting the Difference

Although plastic apparel has been around since the 1960s, it wasn't until 2011 that the term 'vegan leather' was coined, according to Google Trends'  records. This means that the actual use of sustainable materials to replace animal leathers is relatively new. And since vegan leather is not yet as widely used, we might not be accustomed to the proper ways of maintaining its quality.

Besides appearance, there are minimal similarities between real leather and vegan shoes. Since genuine leather comes from animal skin, they are porous or breathable, so they stand the test of time much longer. They acquire a unique patina, which adds to their value. Given proper care, they could last for decades. On the other hand, vegan leather is a synthetic product made of recycled bottles, plastics, fruit leathers, and other sustainable materials to resemble that of real leather in terms of look and feel. Although they are equally soft, pliable, easy to clean, and water-resistant, vegan leathers do not breathe, so they are still not as durable as their animal counterparts. We need to ensure that intricate care is necessary to prolong its lifespan, enough to be considered ‘slow fashion’. We need them to be here long past one season to effectively minimize waste.

Here are some of our suggestions to prolong the longevity of your new, eco-friendly designer vegan shoes:

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The advent of ‘vegan leather’ searches in 2011 according to Google Trends

Surface Dirt and Minimal Stains

Wipe any dirt or smudges off your vegan dress shoes as soon as they occur. Removing dirt from mattes, patents, and micro-suedes shouldn't be a problem if you don't give it time to seep in. These marks can usually be removed by using a slightly dampened microfiber cloth or wet wipes.

Stains

For new still-wet fresh stains on suedes, pat the stain with a paper towel. Better yet, get a handful of salt and place it on the stained area to let the salt absorb the liquid/stain. For dried stains such as coffee, gently clean the area with a soft brush. You may also use a well-wrung microfiber cloth dampened with lukewarm water. Be mindful not to use too much force while scrubbing as you don't want to scrape the suede material of your vegan shoes. Completely air-dry before wearing since you don't want more dirt to stick to it.

You may also opt to use mild dish soap and dilute it with water to clean both your shoes and shoe accessories. Use a white rag to prevent dye transfer and gently blot-spot set-in stains. It's also important to wring the cloth completely so that no excess solution goes into the non-stained parts to prevent oversaturating the material. Alternatively, you may also use a soft-bristled toothbrush.

To remove oil-based stains, ink, dyes, and other cosmetic stains, you may dampen a cloth with equal parts ethyl alcohol or vinegar and water and gently blot the area or use small circular strokes. Do it several times until the stain is removed. Follow it up by blotting with a dampened cloth. You may want to try this on a discrete area of your vegan shoes first to ensure that it won't harm the leather. Afterwards, get a teaspoon of coconut oil and white cloth and dip into a small bowl of coconut oil. This is great for reconditioning the leather of your vegan luxury shoes.

Scuffs

If you’ve incurred any scuffs on your shoes, treat it with a water-based shoe paint and not the spirits-based variety. These are usually available in shoe repair shops. Using a damp cloth, clean your shoes with warm soapy water and scrub with small, circular motions. If the scuff doesn't come off as expected, you may apply a spot cleaner. Use it sparingly to prevent stripping the top layer color of the shoe. Apply the paint to affected areas and on other stains on your shoes. Two coats is usually sufficient if your shoes are badly scuffed. If you think the color is uneven, apply a coat of the solution onto the whole shoe or mix in another color to match the original. Finish with coconut oil or complementary vegan shoe cream.

Shoe Shape and Form

The form of your shoes is essential, so you might want to invest in shoe trees and a dustbag. These protect the appearance of your shoes and prevent unnecessary dirt and scratches. Alternatively, you may use some crumpled paper or napkins to fill in your shoes and ensure that the shape isn't compromised.

Shoe Soles

Usually made with cork, vegan shoe soles can be cleaned using circular movements with a white cloth. Use polishing cream for extra protection from stains and aesthetic purposes.

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Cork soles provide a rustic, earthy vibe to vegan shoes. (Source: Nae Vegan shoes)

Now that you know the basics of vegan shoe care, you can rest easy and enjoy them minus the worry about how they will stand the hustle and bustle of everyday life. More than ever, people need to understand that their shopping preferences make a massive impact on their carbon footprint. Vegan leather should be seen as more than simply an "alternative" to real leather. It should be embraced for its beauty and environmental contribution. Side by side with genuine leather, you can no longer tell the difference, plus, it’s much healthier on your wallet and the planet, so why choose one that promotes cruelty.

You might not realize it, but there lies great power in our hands. When we shop, we can either contribute to the world's healing or its detriment. Wearing vegan items shows that we have equal respect for other species' lives, and we care about the next generation to come. So if you're still hesitant to buy a pair of vegan leather shoes, don't think, just do, because you are helping to make the world a better place while looking fantastic at the same time.

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