Fall is here. I stepped out in a short sleeved wool dress the other morning and shivered my way to work. Along with the yellow leaves on my jogging path in the morning, arrive thoughts of my fall wardrobe. Maybe it’s just because I’m living in NYC so I’m ware more conscious, but the fashion this year seems to be radically different than last year, calling for a whole new aesthetic of high heeled combat boots, droopy sweaters, 80′s style silk blouses with square pockets, and full skirts. (Plus a little bit of what you see above in the Refinery29 post.)
So where can I get some fashionable fall shoes that are kind to the planet?
When Naya asked if I had any questions about their eco-friendly line of shoes, I’m not sure they knew what they were in for. I grilled them about the nitty gritty details, and here are the answers from the Director of Design and Product Development, Kasey Gibbs:
1. You’re very specific about the materials [vegetable-tanned leathers and linings, natural or recycled content fabrics, water-based cements, footbeds containing natural cork, outsoles containing natural materials, boxes made with 80% recycled paper pulp, soy-based inks and water-based glue, reusable shoe bags and shoe forms made with recycled PET] used in your shoes, which is great. There’s seems to be only one piece of info missing: where is your leather sourced from? Oh, and do you use up scrap leather up as well?
Naya’s leather is sourced from two longstanding Brown Shoe partners in China and India. Additionally, Naya does utilize scrap leather for linings. Leather linings are part of Naya’s comfort promise, as they make the shoes feel smooth on the foot.
2. Do you have specific shipping policies for the shoes? Minimal packaging? Recycled cardboard boxes?
We ship Naya shoes in boxes made from recycled paper and the shoes are wrapped in reusable shoe bags. We share the Naya story on the box lid to cut down on the use of paper. Additionally, shoe forms made from recycled soda bottles are placed inside the shoes to help them retain their shape. This is an example of 360 recycling, in which items are continually reused to meet different purposes.
3. In what kind of facility are these shoes manufactured? Does Naya offset carbon emissions? Use wind power?
The shoes are manufactured in factories in China that pass Brown Shoe’s Production Code of Conduct, a broad set of expectations for all of its suppliers that establishes minimum requirements for wage payments, working hours, benefits, freedom of association, non-discrimination and respect, safety and health, protection of the environment, and compliance with local laws and industry standards.
Naya currently looking into ways to offset carbon emissions during the manufacturing process, but no specific practices are in use at the moment. As for wind power, it is not something we currently use, though Naya is constantly examining new opportunities to become even more eco-friendly.
4. Are these cradle-to-cradle shoes? Are there plans to put a system in place for that?
Naya is Brown Shoe’s first step into eco-friendly footwear, and while these shoes are currently not cradle-to-cradle, it is a goal toward which we are working. We look at eco-friendly footwear as a journey, and so far we believe our customers are pleased with the progress we’ve made in finding earth-friendly materials, and our ability to make them affordable for women.
5. Are these shoes made to last?
Yes. Naya shoes are made from premium quality materials that not only leave a softer footprint on the earth, but are also durable. Bamboo is one great example, as it’s a material that is used in other countries to build ladders and scaffolding due to its durability.
6. Has Naya circled back to influence the Naturalizer brand at all?
Naya is Brown Shoe Co.’s first green initiative, meeting consumers’ desire for comfortable, eco-conscious, beautiful footwear. We hope to spread the knowledge we gain from working with eco-friendly materials to other Brown Shoe brands, including Naturalizer.
7. Ok, and I’ll let you show off here: how do you think Naya compares to conventional fashion shoes for women? On the other end of the fashion spectrum, would you say Naya approaches or outdoes the classic “hippie shoe” Birkenstocks?
While there are other eco-friendly shoes to choose from, no one else is combining style and comfort with eco-friendly materials the way we are. The three elements of style, comfort and eco-friendly materials co-exist in every pair. We’ve heard from consumers that Naya is a “breath of fresh air” from the “crunchy granola” styles people have associated with eco-friendly footwear. Customers are often surprised to hear the shoes are eco-friendly when they see the styling and feel the comfort.
Well done, Kasey. I appreciate your time taken to answer all my questions!
So what is my verdict? I totally agree with the fact that Naya shoes are a breath of fresh air from the standard “crunch granola” shoes. Some of Kasey’s answer betray shortcomings: carbon emission from a factory in China, no take back program, a wall between them and their parent brand, etc. However, it’s important to remember that this is just a baby brand, not more than two years old. Even Patagonia had a long road to walk to sustainability. I’m actually very impressed by what they have accomplished so far.
I also have to give kudos to Kasey herself. According to her bio, she’s a composter, hybrid driver, and conscious shopper. Love it.