5 Places to Find Ethically Made Boots This Fall/Winter
I had believed autumn was already over. If you read my last post reviewing a few new Everlane pieces, you know that winter made an usually early entrance in my city, and certainly seemed like it had no intention of leaving. I brought out the winter boots and thermal leggings, bracing myself for the ensuing seven months of winter ahead as I unhappily dug my car out from under a heavy white blanket.
And then, unexpectedly, the sun. Layers peeled off, two feet of snow melted to reveal patches of still-green grass. I rolled the windows down in my car. In true Calgary fashion, the seasons tangle and shift, dance around each other to keep us on our toes.
I’ve put my heavy winter Blundstone boots back in the closet. There is currently no snow in the forecast… for now.
In celebration of this gorgeous weather we’ve been experiencing, I wanted to share a list of five places where you can find some beautiful and ethical boots for fall (but also winter, if you don’t live in the arctic like I do) 2018.
*disclaimer: my definition of ethical focuses primarily on the fair treatment of humans in the production process and the absolute absence of human exploitation. For those also concerned about options with no real leather, I would encourage you to check out my brand directory for vegan shoe brands.
5 PLACES TO FIND ETHICALLY MADE BOOTS THIS FALL
Imagine if brands were so transparent, they allowed you to visually see and trace every step of their supply chain. If they had so little to hide, they actually built their whole brand around consumers being able to know exactly where and how their products are made… with just a phone app.
As it turns out, Philipp Mayer, creator of CANO Shoe, has done just that. A brand that works closely with fairly-paid Mexican artisans to handcraft high quality vegetable-tanned leather shoes, CANO is using technology to both educate their customers about the importance of ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry by allowing them to see exactly how their shoes are made. How it works? Using the CANO app, you can scan the tag to see the artisans and process behind your specific pair of shoes. CANO has found a brilliant way of connecting consumers with makers, and I couldn’t be more excited about this development. I mean, how cool is that?! It makes these boots more than just boots, which is the way fashion should be. We shouldn’t be so disconnected from the skilled makers of our clothes and footwear. Not so long ago, we knew the shoemaker and the tailor down the street. Now we can experience a sort of futuristic version of that… and I sincerely hope more brands follow suit!
CANO crafts a variety of shoes for men and women, including sandals, mules, and huaraches. However, we’re here to talk about boots — and do they deliver on boots! Each style comes in: Grey Suede, Beige Suede, Cognac, Cafe, and Black. How gorgeous are these styles? I adore the little engraving details on the Carlos and Eloisa boots on the left.
CANO is currently on Kickstarter, and their early bird prices are still available until tomorrow. If they can reach their goal of $30,147 CAD by November 19, 2018, the project will be fully funded and ready to launch. Right now, you can pledge about $194 CAD to receive a pair of handcrafted boots of your choice when the brand officially launches (which is super reasonable for boots of this quality). If you want to pledge less, you can receive a pair of sandals or huaraches. Normally I wouldn’t promote a brand whose shoes I hadn’t tried yet, but the work that this brand is doing is so groundbreaking and their passion for quality and ethics so evident, that I wanted to make sure it made it onto this list.
If you had asked me a few months ago if I would ever add rain boots to my wardrobe, the answer would likely have been no. I wore them plenty as a kid, of course — what with all of those puddles to jump into and frogs to catch. But as an adult, I could never see tall, clunky rain boots quite meshing with my outfits. On rainy days, I’d just hope I didn’t stand outside long enough to ruin whatever shoes I was wearing. That is, until Alice + Whittles came along, ethical rubber and all.
Their sleek ankle-height booties are such an elegant take on a practical shoe. They’re snug and comfy to walk around in, waterproof (obvi), and minimalist enough to look good with any rainy-day outfit. I’m wearing the Classic Black Ankle Boot in a size 9 (I’m usually an 8, but they recommend tgoing one full size up).
It gets better: Alice + Whittles works directly with rubber communities in Sri Lanka to ensure ethical production. Each boot is handcrafted with 100% fair-trade rubber. To top it all off, the boots are affordable, and Alice + Whittles offers free shipping to the US and Canada!
Want to get 10% off a pair of boots? Use the code ALLY10 at the checkout!
When I’m asked to name my favourite ethical brands, Nisolo is always one of the first that comes to mind. And not because I own a hundred pairs — I still only own one, a pair of super comfy loafers I bought a year and a half ago. I still wear them weekly, and they’ve only gotten more comfortable with time. The quality is impeccable. But the reason I love this brand has to do with more than the quality of their shoes; it’s for their ethics.
Nisolo is an incredibly human-centered brand. Their business decisions revolve around the well-being of their employees, not their profits.They sometimes run out of styles, and they’re okay with that — they don’t rush production or push unreasonable quotas. All Nisolo workers receive beyond fair trade wages, healthcare, and a healthy working environment — and that’s just the minimum, which is rare in garment factories around the world. Beyond carefully running their own factory, Nisolo personally visits all of their partner factories to maintain a strong relationship with them and ensure standards are met.
The founder of Nisolo’s passion for ethics is evident even outside of his brand. You can actually watch Patrick Woodyard’s TED X talk about fast fashion and the need for ethical production on YouTube — I highly recommend it.
Back to the shoes. Nisolo is well-known for their exquisitely craftsmanship, and their boots are no exception. They offer a beautiful range of men’s and women’s boots, all of which are perfect for fall. I particularly love the Dari Boot in wheat, pictured below. They’ve also recently released a “Commuter Collection” of black water-resistant boots with rubber soles, perfect for walking around in the elements.
For those who live in Canada, you can shop Nisolo on Garmentory. Unfortunately Nisolo does not currently offer shipping outside of the US, but Garmentory has a great selection of their shoes.
While known more for their versatile, minimalist clothing, Everlane also offers a solid and ever-expanding shoe collection. Their designs are sleek, pared back, and timeless.
I own a pair of the Boss Boots (pictured above and below on the far left) and can personally vouch for the quality of the leather and how comfy it is. They fit true to size, something I haven’t always found with other Everlane shoes. I was a bit skeptical about how comfortable they would be at first, especially since the upper leather around the opening was quite stiff; I’ve recently started working downtown, which means a lot more walking as I go to and from the train. But the pebbled leather became pliable and soft after just a few wears, and I can now get everywhere I need to be without sore feet or blisters (I have very blister-prone feet). Everlane also recently released a few new colours of the Boss Boot: taupe, bone, and patent. I adore how elegant and unfussy these boots are. But so are all of their boots, for that matter. No unnecessary details, nothing overly trendy. Just beautiful, fall-ready boots made from Italian leather in carefully monitored factories.
I’ve been wearing my black Boss Boots almost daily since I received them a couple weeks ago. I love how they instantly elevate any outfit; a good pointed toe will do that. But be sure to check out all of the other beautiful boot styles Everlane has to offer, including the ones pictured below!
5. poppy barley
An entirely woman-owned business, Poppy Barley is a Canadian ethical shoe brand focusing on the highest level of comfort and craftsmanship. Each pair of stylish boots is ethically made in Mexico and prioritizes its employees through small-batch manufacturing. Believe it or not, Poppy Barley was actually the firsts company in North America to offer handcrafted fashion boots online!
In the picture above, I’m wearing the Block-Heel Ankle Boot in dove grey. That was a limited edition colour for spring, but you can find the same boot below in black with or without the natural heel (second from the right). I’ve lost count of how many compliments I’ve received when I wear them! You can really see and feel their quality. And for a heel of that height, these boots are surprisingly comfy. While I wouldn’t spend the entire day walking briskly in them, I’m very happy with how my feet are supported for a usual day of errands or a night out. I’ve also heard from friends who own Poppy Barleys that their Chelsea Boots (low version on the far left) and Two-Point Five Ankle Boots (second from the left) are ridiculously comfy.
Poppy Barley’s social and environmental impact efforts are admirable. They are currently in the process of applying to become a certified B-corp, and they donate 1% of their sales back to the community. They ensure that all of their tanneries clean the water that they use in the tanning process and dispose of hazardous waste properly. The packaging is 100% recyclable, and Poppy Barley only works with factories that meet or exceed their rigorous ethical standards. The work that Poppy Barley has accomplished makes me even prouder that they’re Canadian — and from my own province, no less!
Not from Canada? Unfortunately Poppy Barley does not offer worldwide shipping at this time, but they do ship to the US at no extra cost.
There you have it! I hope you found this guide helpful. Have any great ethical boot brands that you’d like to share? Leave the name in the comments below!
This post contains affiliate links. When you purchase items through some of the links above I may make a small commission from a sale. Thanks for supporting the brands that support Ally C Tran! As always, all opinions are my own.