Who Makes Your Shoes?

Do you ever wonder who makes your shoes?  Even though I like to make my own clothing, sometimes I forget that there are many people, each with a name and a story all their own, behind everything else I use, own, and consume.

There’s just something so beautiful about watching something come to life in front of your eyes.  That’s the reason I fell in love with sewing– the thrill of watching rolls of fabric and spools of thread become unique garments.  But I know that for most of the people around the world in the garment and related industries, making things isn’t fun or rewarding– it’s grueling, tedious, and dangerous.  I don’t want my lifestyle to compound the suffering of others, and so I’m making a concerted effort not only to make my own clothes, but also to support companies that provide their employees with a living wage and a safe work environment.

Jill posted a link earlier this week that asks the question, “Would you be more likely to buy clothing with an ethically-made label?”  I think that if enough of us demand changes in the garment industry and others like it, change will happen.  It might take time, but it’s time worth taking.

(For more about Loly in the Sky, you can check out their shop or their blog.  I’m not on their payroll or anything, but I think the shoes are really cute and I love that they’re handmade.  Also… there’s a puggy model.)

55 responses

  1. Lovely video clip – those Loly shoes look highly desirable. I find buying ethically a minefield of choices. I don’t often buy new shoes except for my children and here’s the odd thing…I think about fairtrade and ethical shopping for me but for them I just think about fit and comfort for their feet! I buy them Startrite usually and now I am off to check out their ethics!

    PS You gotta love a pug model! xx

    Like

    • I know what you mean– it’s so overwhelming to weigh all your options (fair vs. comfortable vs. affordable vs. durable vs. attractive ad infinitum!). I can only imagine how difficult it must be to clothe kids, too, and they’re often so hard on clothes and shoes that second-hand is tough to find.

      Like

  2. Lovely video. The shoes are really nice and cheaper than I thought. They all seem to be canvas upper so not practical for me. I’ll be interested to see if they start making leather shoes.

    Like

    • Yes, they’re not a shoe for every occasion, that’s for sure, and they don’t seem like they would be very durable, necessarily. But it’s nice to see a cute, ethical, affordable product that seems to be aimed at the young and hip.

      Like

  3. Honest answer; clothes yes, shoes no. I do look where they’re made though as I’m aware of the working conditions in certain countries if I’m buying new but often they’re second hand. So it doesn’t solve the ethics of their construction but at least they’re not disposed off before my cobbler tells me they’re beyond repair. Which is the verdict on my favourite pair 😦

    Like

    • That’s another good point– it’s ethical and environmentally-friendly, for sure, to buy second-hand or to mend shoes. I can’t tell you how many girls I know that are shocked when I mention getting my boots resoled. We’ve just become such a disposable culture that many people aren’t even aware that there are people out there who fix shoes (and in my case, it’s crazy affordable– something like $12 to resole a boot!).

      Like

  4. Very interesting post… I rarely ever bought new clothes anymore, but found myself still going to stores like H&M for things like t-shirts, tights or cardigans. I’ve just decided not to do that anymore. There are enough alternatives, and maybe I’ll only buy one t-shirt instead of three, but I’ll no longer feel bad about buying it.

    As for shoes: I’m quite picky about my shoes, and have difficult feet, so ecological or fair trade isn’t always an option (especially the ones I find locally and can ty on in store, they tend to look a bit silly, or have this certain style I don’t like). I’m fascinated by shoes though, and am currently on the waiting list to take shoemaking classes next year… It would mean four years of classes after which I’ll be a fully qualified shoemaker, and will be able to make my own shoes or help other people’s shoes last longer.

    Like

    • Wow! I’d love to hear about your experiences if you take a shoemaking course! That’s so cool! I’ve always been a bit of a cheapskate with shoes (no Italian leather for me, as much as I love it), but recently I invested in a more expensive, but durable, pair of boots. I was so sick of having to replace a cheap pair of boots every year! So even if you can’t buy fair-trade or whatever, buying quality shoes and taking care of them to extend their shelf life is also a great option.

      Like

      • If I get into the course I’ll definitely post about it! I don’t have a big budget for shoes either, but I’ll buy second hand boots (most of those are really built to last) and sometimes ask for nice shoes as a birthday or christmas present from my parents. Apart from that I just make sure it’s real leather, or canvas.

        Like

  5. Yes! I love this post. I’ve been thinking more and more about the same things and I’m doing everything I can to make my own (and the kids) clothing or to buy from ethical suppliers. Now that I know what goes into making each item of clothing, I find the low prices of clothes almost sickening.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    • I totally agree– it just seems impossible that anyone could make a living sewing $5 t-shirts. Kudos to you for making ethical choices dressing your kids– that can’t be easy.

      Like

  6. Seconding Anne’s comment– between sewing and thrifting, I think I’ve got clothes pretty well covered in an ethical way, but my feet are also difficult, and fair trade companies (and most of the standard ones) don’t really cater to people with extra-wide feet! Especially ones that seem to also be unusually prone to blisters. 😦 So my method of buying shoes is usually whatever I can find that is actually in my size, in a neutral color so I can get maximum usage out of them, and isn’t entirely unstylish. My new favorite brand is a British one called Hotter, they’re pretty cute and very comfortable to wear! The last 3 pairs of shoes I’ve bought have been from there!

    Like

    • I think it’s responsible to buy shoes that you’ll actually wear and wear often! I’ve definitely been guilty of buying shoes that weren’t very practical and just sat in my closet until I gave them away, and there’s nothing ethical (or environmentally-friendly) about that.

      Like

  7. Honesty, I try my best to buy sustainable fish, organic food, local and seasonal, make up without parabens and nothing that is animal tested but I confess I never though about shoes.

    Like

    • It is so hard to shop responsibly! I have to confess that I’m pretty lousy about food. Several years ago, I worked at a farmer’s market, so we ate fresh local food all the time, but now I’m so tired when I get home from work that we eat a LOT of pizza and other takeout garbage. 😦

      Like

  8. I’ve definitely been giving shoes a consideration for the same reasons. I’m not sure I’ll be getting the skills to make my own in a hurry, but I have been thinking about spending more and investing in well-made shoes. There’s a shoemaker in Melbourne, for instance, called Wootten, who I’ve been considering. The shoes are handmade and quite expensive, but all things considered, not really that expensive for what you get. For other peeps reading from this hemisphere, there’s also Minnie Cooper in NZ who have some cute styles.

    Like

    • For some reason I had a shadowy image of some kind of large machine/robot thing making shoes– I didn’t really think about people being part of the process. Really naive, I know…

      Like

  9. Thanks for the link! The shoes are so cute and reasonably priced! I’ve all but stopped buying new clothing and I’ve cleaned up my grocery shopping too but, shoes have been harder. I haven’t seen many ethical shoes so, I’ve been focusing on classic, comfortable styles and high quality rather than trendy and disposable.

    Like

    • Groceries are my next target! That’s definitely my weakness– since we both work a million hours a week, we eat lots of takeout or frozen foods. Definitely not healthy, local, or organic. 😦

      Like

  10. Pug model?!?! I’m sold!! But in all seriousness since I’ve started sewing I’ve become more conscious of how’s and who’s regarding my rtw wardrobe right down to my handbags. Thanks for posting this because I must now get my hands on those Camila’s! Too freaking cute!

    Like

  11. Wow, those are really cute shoes! I haven’t bought any shoes in a while, I may have to get a pair of those. I don’t buy leather and they have quite a few that don’t have any leather, so yay! I made a New Year’s resolution to not buy any clothes this year because I can make my own, and the last shoes I bought were these: http://www.mohop.com/moped_flat_slide.html Have you seen them? They are made in Chicago. You can switch out the ribbons and make them look totally different, and I want to make ties for them out of my fabric scraps too!

    Like

  12. Awwwww The doggy is so cute! It was a mean move to share the story of Loly in the sky because now I want to buy their shoes! 🙂 Although I am a not sure about their longevity. I do not pay attention who makes my shoes but when it comes to leather shoes, I buy the ones made in Italy because my main concerns are quality and durability.

    Like

    • That’s smart– those are probably the most ethical of all if they’re durable and made by European workers. The waste of constantly throwing away cheap shoes is pretty sickening. I finally sprang for a pair of expensive, but hopefully long-lasting, boots after throwing away a year-old pair of cheap boots that had disintegrated so much that my cobbler couldn’t repair them.

      Like

  13. That’s such a great video. YES, I do think about who makes my shoes. At work I sell equipment and some supplies that go into shoe n’ boot repair and manufacturing – mostly old-timers in Montana. It seems like it’s a dying trade in the US.

    Like some of the other commenters, I’m a bit more conscious when it comes to clothing. I love, love, love shoes, but rarely splurge on nice ones so I’m probs supporting poor labor conditions. That makes me sad. I guess I better look up business practices of my favorite brands.

    Like

    • That’s so cool! It does seem like a dying trade, which is too bad. There are quite a few shoe repair shops here in NYC, but they’re always manned by an elderly Italian guy, so I wonder if the days of the neighborhood cobbler are numbered. :/

      I’m hoping that the recent focus on the conditions of garment factories brings some real change. It shouldn’t be this hard to shop responsibly!

      Like

  14. What a lovely video! Her aesthetic is beautiful. I’ve thought about shoes randomly, meaning I’ve bought a few pairs of Toms, because I like their company philosophy. I’ve bought NB running shoes cause they are made in the US, but beyond that, not too much. I just bought two pairs of Crocs because my back is needing good support right now, and I know those are made in China, but I have know idea what their company is like.
    Shoes are hard. Those little tuxedo shoes from Loly are tempting me big time!!!

    Like

  15. so cute! and reasonably priced, which is a bonus. as i think more and more about the ethics of everything i buy i like to look for companies that do treat their employees well. it gets overwhelming though, because it’s not just clothes and shoes, but plastics, toys, furniture… makes me hesitant to buy anything!

    Like

    • It’s totally overwhelming! It’s sad to me how sudden the economics of manufacturing changed for the worse– just a few decades ago, it wasn’t very hard to buy domestic-made products! Now it’s virtually impossible. 😦

      Like

  16. It’s ironic that you bring up this subject. Urban Outfitters collaborated with an LA based designer for an exclusive collection that gives back. The clothes are produced in Ghana and proceeds for the sale go to keeping the women employed as well as maintaining a better lifestyle. Check it out. Although it’s not my style, I would be more inclined to purchase it because of the cause.

    Like

  17. I love the idea of ethically-made shoes, but I must confess that I find most of the styles something that I don’t think I’d ever wear. Those Loly shoes are CUUUTE, though! I’m also very surprised at how inexpensive they are, always a plus!

    Like

    • These really are cute! BTW, I’m still thinking about getting a pair of rad American-made jeans like yours– considering that I basically live in jeans, I should probably invest in an ethically-made pair!

      Like

  18. Interesting question. I guess I’ve never really though about it because my feet are so difficult (extremely narrow width) to fit that I’m usually buying shoes that are Italian or Brazilian or Spanish-made and leather. Leather is a must for me. And because most mass-production shoe companies don’t cater to narrow feet, I’ve never bothered to go much farther than be happy my shoes support European workers making a European wage.

    Like

  19. Great post. I’ve always been happy to have the skills to not have to rely on the high street for clothes…but never really thought about shoes before… Hopefully this new interest in sewing will help bring some lasting change in the whole industry and is not just a trend.

    Like

    • I really hope so. If there’s any kind of silver lining to this terrible tragedy in Bangladesh, it’s that maybe people will finally start to demand changes in these industries.

      Like

  20. What a great video. I think from day to day you forget about all the different things you consume, from paper to plastic to electricity. It’s great that as consumers we are slowly starting to think much more about where our items come from, who has made them and what impact that has on our planet.

    i’ve thought about trying to learn to make my own shoes but havent found anywhere to teach me yet. Hopefully I can soon 🙂 It would be great to wear a total me made outfit 🙂

    Like

  21. I would for sure be more likely to buy something if I knew it was ethically made. I often wonder about how shoes are designed and made, such a cool video.

    Like

  22. I love making my own clothes for some of the same reasons. I wish there was an easier or more transparent way of knowing whether something you want to buy, be it fabric, shoes, or a RTW garment, is actually made under safe and fair working conditions.

    Like

    • I’m with you. It’s not very easy to find out which things are made responsibly. I recently splurged on a pair of expensive boots from a company that loudly touts its “Made in the USA” credentials only to notice a few weeks into wearing them that they were imported. Turns out only a few of their models are still made in the States! I can only assume that companies will work much harder to cover up the fact that their products are made in unethical conditions. 😦

      Like

  23. Good post. I have been very consciously trying to limit my acquisition of fast fashion, shoes included. Thanks for continuing to raise the awareness. I’m SO thankful I can sew my own clothes.

    Like

Got something to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: