Convert{ing} Jeffrey Campbell – vegan shoes

By Kate | Women
Posted Jun 19, 2012

If anyone could get a mainstream fashion shoe designer, with a cult-like following in Hollywood, to design exclusive vegan versions of top shoes, so they could sit on the shelves of a sustainable shoe boutique, it was Randy Brewer.

California-based Brewer’s goal is to “convert” apparel and footwear companies to more sustainable practices; donate a portion of their proceeds, change their sourcing, move their manufacturing stateside, or in this case, create an exclusive, sustainable collection for Convert. So when he opened his second Convert boutique in Berkeley California, this one dedicated to stylish, sustainably made shoes, he called his friend Jeffery Campbell. They have known each other for years, while Brewer was building a career and a name as a veteran buyer and retail manager, Campbell was turning his small family-owned business into a global brand with a line of shoes coveted by style bloggers and young Hollywood alike.

“When I approached [Campbell] with the concept for our new store, he basically said ‘how can I help?”‘ Brewer recalls. “We both decided that a vegan collection worked best from an operational perspective, so Jeff made sure all the components of the shoes made exclusively for Covert were animal free.

But it wasn’t easy recounts Campbell, “being very careful not to use ANY leather, and sourcing materials that wear well was a big challenge! We first used cotton canvas as lining, but it frayed around the edges and didn’t work well for us.” Trial and error led to the durable yet still stylish faux suede cloth they now use.

“Sustainable footwear is hard to come by and comes at a price,” notes Brewer. “The footwear industry is particularly tough on the environment, so we’re really excited about supporting those that are going against the curve and producing shoes that leave less of a footprint, so to speak.”

With so many retail brands now starting to collaborate with ethical designers to try to both learn from them and share some of their ‘green halo’, it’s refreshing to see this example in reverse; a sustainable brand, working with a designer from the mainstream and pulling them towards sustainability. “I have always been environmentally conscious,” reveals Brewer, “and felt that I could use my strong relationships in the clothing industry to make a difference.”

While Brewer insists that Convert is first and foremost an on trend fashion clothing and shoe store, that just happens to be sustainable, there is no mistaking this new reverse collaboration; sustainable retailers pulling coveted brands into sustainability, is definitely going to be the next trend.

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