What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking about shoes? Is it leather... or Europe? That’s handy because we’re presenting today the story of how a simple shopping session can start changing one of the biggest industry in the world, fashion. Well, shoe fashion.
It turns out as we find out from Nae Vegan’s founder Paula Pérez that buying nice quality non-leather shoes in Portugal was very difficult back in 2008. So she came up with the idea of starting her own shoe company, become her own boss (for once) and since she was already a vegan, she decided to start a vegan shoe company. As simple as that would you say?
Um... no. The Portuguese suppliers and shoe-makers are part of a 2 billion euro industry that exports 95% of its production. Why would they want to modify their ways of doing since it served them so well so far? What could make them change their traditions and mindset? One word, demand. As difficult as it was for Nae Vegan to train, teach and educate factories the processes and equipment modifications required by microfiber at the beginning, its production is now much bigger and the factories understand today the cause behind this change in tradition. To the point where a once-reluctant factory manager proudly announced to a visitor looking at nae shoe boxes – yes yes yes, we make Nae shoes here!
And things are starting to change on a bigger scale as well. Sustainable fashion is now a thing and Nae Vegan proudly participate every year in the Berlin Ethical Fashion Show. Since the Portuguese-based company developed from the very beginning a desire for promoting sustainable fashion and vegan leather, it has now its own technology center (nothing less!) offering seminars and conferences on their products.
Even if it’s going pretty well for Nae Vegan (we’re talking exportation to 30 countries and online sale to 20 more), it keeps it real. Its production is still located in Portugal in order to be able to show up, say hi to the workers and make sure every aspect reflects its beliefs. It also has its eyes on Brazil, from which it would like to import natural material (but not at any cost like others we won’t mention). Nae Vegan is of course thinking partnership, social help, better labor conditions, etc. It feels that every part of a whole is important to change deeply and effectively the industry and help environment, labor conditions and animals.
“We don’t see other vegan shoe brands as competitors. It's good for all of us.”
Hence, Nae Vegan’s great sense of community, vision for a better fashion industry and above all, its perseverance is what we like about it. This sustainable fashion warrior showed us that changing habits and tradition that are no longer coherent with the world today is possible by taking one small step at the time.