Sustainable footwear is not as easy to come by as sustainable clothing. Although there are definitely more offerings these days for sustainable fashion, I still struggle to find eco friendly shoes. That’s why I was so excited when I heard about Calgary-based Ándale Eco Friendly Shoes! They carry eco friendly shoes made with textiles from recycled PET bottles – how cool is that?
I got to ask owners Sophie & Alberto some questions, and try out and review one of the products they carry from Oni.
1. What inspired you to start Ándale?
We were visiting Alberto’s family in Mexico City last summer and saw the Oni sneakers in a shop window downtown. Downtown Mexico City has many trendy shoe stores, but those sneakers really stood out as something unique. So the first inspiration was just that Sophie really liked the shoes! After buying them, we did some research on the company and got excited about their story. The owner, Sara Sacal, is really committed to incorporating the recycled PET plastic, and we thought it was really cool that she also works with Mexican artisans to incorporate their beautiful embroidery and weaving using fair trade principles. Knowing Mexico is a major centre for shoe manufacturing, we were curious to see who else might be doing something similar with incorporating more sustainable materials like recycled PET plastic. That’s how we found our second partners, Jorge Castro and Mario Lopez of Renovare.
Ultimately, we were really excited to find these young entrepreneurs, both with family histories in the footwear and apparel industries in Mexico, really trying to make a positive difference for the environment and also for Mexican artisans and workers. We’re both nature lovers and concerned about the many serious environmental challenges we’re facing, including the issue of plastic waste. We know finding more sustainable footwear options isn’t easy (though thankfully this seems to be slowly improving). We thought others in Canada, the USA, and around the world might be interested in these options too. That’s how Ándale was born!
2. How did you decide what kind of shoes to carry?
After finding the Oni embroidered sneakers, we researched other Mexican shoe manufacturers using more sustainable approaches. That’s how we found Renovare was also using the same felt-like textile made from PET plastic water bottles for their designs as Oni. Oni uses the material inside their sneakers to stabilize the shoe, and Renovare uses it on the outside so it’s visible. Renovare also uses water-soluble glues in their manufacturing process, which is better for the workers and also more eco-friendly.
These are the companies we’ve found so far and we continue to be impressed with their commitment to doing things differently. Both companies are continuing to look at new approaches and designs, so it’s possible we will be able to bring those into Ándale in the future. We’re also continuing to watch new developments in the industry and are interested in supporting other innovators in this area.
3. Why recycled beverage containers?
A big environmental challenge with footwear is what to do with it at the end of its lifespan. The vast majority of our shoes end up in the landfill when we’re finished with them since there’s really no way to recycle most of the component materials (although this is slowly changing). One way to help address this problem is to use a post-consumer, recycled material in the construction, which help to reduce the overall environmental footprint compared to using entirely “new” materials.
At the same time, single-use plastic beverage containers pose another huge environmental challenge. We know the vast majority of single use plastics aren’t recycled at all, and much of that is ending up in the environment and is very harmful to animal and human health. Ultimately we need to reduce the use of single-use packaging in the first place, but for the time-being there’s still huge amounts being consumed around the world. We need to find ways to keep it out of the ecosystem and hopefully find other uses for it, whether through recycling or upcycling. It’s great to see a number of footwear and apparel brands out there using recycled PET plastic as a source of material for footwear and clothing.
4. How do you define slow fashion?
While we’re relatively new to this movement, we see see it overall as being more thoughtful and considerate of our clothing consumption and its environmental and social impact. The industry has an enormous environmental impact but it seems like we’re only now becoming more aware of it.
The old principles of “reduce, reuse, recycle” apply in the slow fashion movement too: we can buy less and better quality clothing that transcends trends; we can repair clothing to make it last longer; we can buy used clothing and also consign or swap with friends; and only dispose of items that really can’t be reused, preferably to textile recyclers. It’s important to be aware the majority of clothing we donate to thrift stores isn’t resold because the volumes are just too high with all the fast fashion on the market now.
Overall, it’s important to buy less, buy more thoughtfully, make it last, and think about what we plan to do with it when we can’t use it any more. We can also be more mindful of how clothing is made. We should be looking for products that use more sustainable materials and provide a positive working environment for the people making the clothing.
5. What advice would you give people who are just starting to figure out how to stop contributing to fast fashion?
While we’re pretty new to this journey too, here are a few things we’ve found helpful.
- For people who don’t like to spend a lot of time shopping or don’t really enjoy it, you may be better off investing in fewer higher quality items.
- If you love to shop and follow the latest trends, try supplementing with trips to vintage, consignment, and thrift stores, and considering brands that use recycled materials or other more sustainably-sourced inputs. With the explosion in fast fashion in recent years, people are often getting rid of clothing very quickly. It’s possible to walk into almost any consignment or thrift store and find trendy styles in virtually new condition.
- Another great benefit we see of being more mindful of our clothing consumption is it’s better for our wallets. Keeping better quality items for a longer time is less expensive in the long run. Of course prices in consignment and thrift stores are more affordable than the same items at full price. Often thrift stores support great charitable causes too so it’s a win-win-win!
- And most importantly, have fun with it. Experiment and see what works best for you.
Review of Oni embroidered sneakers
I got to try the sporty and gorgeous Oni shoes in Zinacantan Grey. I typically wear a size 8-8.5, and after pregnancy my feet are on the wider side. Sophie recommended trying them in a size 8 and they are a perfect fit. I absolutely love the embroidery on them – and I have gotten lots of compliments on how pretty they are. Most importantly, they are extremely comfortable. It’s hard for me to find shoes that don’t hurt my feet after a few hours – and these ones passed the test! I did some long walks in these shoes with my daughter (playing Pokemon Go), both inside and outside on more rugged terrain. My feet weren’t sore, the shoes still look fabulous – what more could I want?
These adorable sneakers are available in white and black as well as grey, and there are 2 other embroidery patterns too. Also super cool: no 2 pairs are exactly alike because the embroidery on the fabric is done by artisans. These shoes are available for both women and men.
Guess what? Sophie and Alberto of Ándale are giving away 1 PAIR OF SHOES OF YOUR CHOICE!! If you’re the lucky winner, you can choose any style of shoe from the Oni or Renovare lines, for either men or women!
Giveaway open to residents of Canada and USA only. Giveaway ends on October 17 at 11:59PM Mountain Time. Winner will have 48 hours upon notification to contact me with mailing address for prize redemption, at which point an alternate winner will be chosen.)
What Ándale Eco Friendly Shoes do you want to try?
(Disclosure: Ándale Shoes provided me with 1 pair of ONI shoes in Zinacantan Grey to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received. All opinions expressed are my own.)