Vegan shoes: a mission

As winter finally makes an appearance in the UK, it’s time to revisit my annual mission: find some stylish, good quality, ethical footwear. I usually end up getting bored and buying some incidentally non-leather high street shoes, and then wish I’d stuck it out to find a decent ethical option. This year, I’m trying to stay resolute, and I thought I’d share some of the brands I’ve come across in my search in case you’re in a similar position and getting tired of trawling the search results for the perfect shoe!

Matt & Nat – this summer, this vegan super-brand branched out from handbags and wallets into shoes, and I think they’ve come up with a pretty solid collection. Nothing too jazzy here, but if the quality is the same as their bags we’re in for a treat.

Ethletic – look rather similar to a certain cult classic, but with supply chain visibility and vegan materials.

Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather – am coveting at least 5 items from the range tbh.

Beyond Skin – 100% vegan shoes. Need someone to stage an intervention to stop me buying all the gold shoes.

Nae Vegan – a solid range from the classic to the esoteric (and more gold).

Zibru – a new brand on me, but they have a small vegan line, mostly black boots and shoes.

By BLANCH – made in spain and 100% vegan, a small but perfectly formed range of shoes and boots.

Third Estate – a vegan clothing and footwear shop in North London (now with an online shop too) stocking a number of vegan shoe brands.

Jonny’s Vegan – site is in German, but a solid range of vegan shoes.

Bourgeois Boheme – some good options for smarter shoes in particular.

Nicora shoes – handmade in the US, offer flat-rate worldwide shipping.

Bahatika – a lovely aesthetic, Vegan society approved.

Muroexe – super minimal design, all vegan.

Avesu – stock a pretty massive range from lots of the brands I’ve mentioned here, and some others. A good starting point.

Ahimsa – a Brazilian brand offering free worldwide shipping. 100% vegan.

Vegetarian Shoes – a long running and well known brand, a worth a visit any time you’re in Brighton!

Bella Storia – made in Italy, 100% vegan.

Flamingos Life – animal free sneakers.

Insecta Shoes – made in Brasil, 100% vegan.

Native Shoes – a pretty wide range, catering for both adults and kids.

I’ll try to keep adding to this list as I find new ones (and hopefully eventually find the winter boot of my dreams!) but if you have fave brands that I’ve missed in the meantime please let us know in the comments 🙂

 

 

Advertisements

Review: Tea at The Ritz

Eating out can be one of the biggest obstacles for people thinking about becoming vegan, and this can be particularly true when thinking about special occasions. There is good news though – lots of higher end establishments are getting wise to the growing number of customers with requirements around particular lifestyle choices (like veganism) or dietary needs (like allergies).

20161218_140908

Whilst we often choose to celebrate special occasions at restaurants that are specif20161218_155616ically vegetarian or vegan (Manna and The Gate are just a couple we’ve been to recently), some of the most enticing luxury experiences are omni – thisdoesn’t mean we need to miss out! Calling ahead to the majority of high-end restaurants will ensure they prepare you an exciting and varied vegan menu. Cinnamon Club prepared us a fantastic mea
l for a birthday last year, and this Christmas we tried the special vegan afternoon tea at The Ritz. Since you need to book ahead for tea anyway, it’s not much extra trouble to request the vegan tea, and I’m very pleased to confirm that it’s excellent!

It’s definitely a special occasion thing as it isn’t cheap at £75 per person, but it is *incredibly* festive – the decorations are stunning and there is a small choir singing really excellent arrangements of popular Christmas songs around the piano to really set the mood.

We had a selection of finger sandwiches with lots of creative and flavourful fillings (topped up partway through – it’s the partial top up shown in the picture below), two warm scones with dairy free spread and jam, and three pastries each: a decadent banana and chocolate mousse, a miniature victoria sponge (the least impressive of the lot for me), and an aquafaba fruit meringue. All that, plus a pot of tea and a glass of champagne each.

20161218_140658

The Ritz isn’t the only place to offer a high-end vegan afternoon tea – we hear that the offerings at Claridge’s and Sketch are both really excellent too. The main thing is to give it a try – call that restaurant you’ve always liked the look of and see if they can accommodate you.

Have you had a really fantastic luxury meal out as a vegan? Tell us about it in the comments!

 

Christmas Gift Guide 2016

2016 has been *quite* the year, hasn’t it? But the end is in sight, and we can start to comfort ourselves with the familiar warm glow of Christmas. Mulled things, cinnamon-spiced things, cosy nights, fairy lights and presents.

Presents are one of those things – for some people (me included) they are the best bit of Christmas, finding the ideal gift for the people you care about the most. For lots of us, they are one of the most stressful bits, and so we wanted to put together a guide to helping you find pretty and good presents whether you’re giving Santa a run for his money, or just hoping not to add to the re-gift pile come Boxing Day.

If you’re after a cosy hat for the winter, you can’t go far wrong with Hoodlamb. A totally vegan company making products from hemp and recycled plastics, you’ll be amazed at the quality of their craftsmanship. At 69 Euros for this Men’s Ruderalis Hat it isn’t cheap, but the quality is so good it’ll last you a lifetime. You can see a more detailed look at Hoodlamb’s handiwork in our recent video review of their Men’s Nordic Parka

One of our favourite finds of the year, Solkiki Chocolate is a vegan-run company making some of the very best chocolate we’ve ever tasted. They have a huge range of well-deserved culinary awards, winning out over some of the most well-established and highly-regarded brands out there. The Marañón 68%  (£4.95) is particularly stand-out for the chocolate lover in your life (or as a reward to yourself for getting through all that gift wrapping…).

There’s nothing quite like a super rich boy cream with a delicious scent to make you feel just a tiny bit luxurious. Lulu & Boo have a wide range of organic, vegan friendly products, including our new favourite Elderflower & Orange Blossom Body Cream (£29)

There’s nothing quite like a cosy night in with your favourite Christmas movie, some tasty treats and a delicious scented candle. Our current favourite is the Camp Fire utility candle (£25) from Essence + Alchemy. They do a range of scents in jar candles, a bunch of botanical candles, and little sets of tealights too (perfect for bath time!).

So it turns out that a majority of those designer sunglasses we all covet are made by a single company, who also own several retail brands. That means they control the whole value chain, including setting prices. This doesn’t sit quite right with us, but there’s a stylish solution: Finlay & Co.  (from £140). Their sunglasses are gorgeous, and they have a big range of styles and materials, including some bamboo frames which float – perfect for the pool!

If you follow us on Instagram or Twitter, you might have noticed that we love a pootle round London at the weekends, and coffee is a key part of our pootling! Our favourite London stop for coffee is probably Workshop – the staff are friendly and total experts, and the coffee is always delicious (and served in beautiful cups!). This year, they’re offering a fantastic gift for the coffee lover in your life – a selection pack of their current filter coffees (£20). We’d definitely be chuffed to find this in our stocking!

So, we know organic cotton is kind of a must, but it can be pretty expensive and hard to find, and often favoured by the more designer-y end of the market. Help is at hand from the smart people at Rapanui, where you can get a 5 pack of organic cotton t-shirts for £35. They offer full traceability from cotton field to delivery, and the products are made in a ethnically accredited eco-powered factory. Ticking *all* our boxes, and they offer a bunch of other products too.

You want to get something sparkly for someone special, but you’re reluctant to choose diamonds because it’s difficult to be sure that they’ve been ethically mined and sold. Brilliant Inc. have the answer, producing beautiful simulated diamond jewellery (from £50). The sparkle is indistinguishable from natural diamonds to all but professional gemologists – we got engaged this year with a beautiful solitaire from Brilliant Inc. and can confirm that this is true, the compliments (and the sparkle) prove it 🙂

We’re loving watching a new vegan business go from strength to strength in All Glamour No Guts. Right now, we’re particularly excited about their new character, Autumn, featuring on a range of their merch. A cute sticker (£1) or two would make a perfect stocking filler!

We are *obsessed* with the incredible cakes coming out of Heart of Cake – a one-person vegan business turning out amazingly beautiful custom cakes. Think it’s time to give traditional Christmas cake the heave-ho and get one of these beauties instead!

The times they are a’changing, and one of the places that is most evident is the supermarket shelves! There are a whole host of deliberately and incidentally vegan treats out there this Christmas, new and old. Some of the things that have caught our eye for this year include: Tesco free-from selection box (we can be kids again!), M&S gold creme brulee liqueur (move over Baileys!), Oatly cream (bring on the hot mince pies), Tesco finest chocolate fondant truffles (we’re making our own tin of choccies this year), Divine 70% dark chocolate coins (our favourite stocking filler last year and now a firm fixture).

It’s been an amazing year for new and growing ethical independent businesses, so there’s no reason not to have a fun-filled festive season, and be the change we want to see in the world. We’re so excited about what 2017 has to offer – it’s got to be better than 2016…

Merry Christmas!

Product Review: Märss Bags

Walking around London, you’d be easily convinced that there are only a handful of backpack brands (precisely which five would depend on which part of London…). I’m sure it’s the same all over the world. Thing is, I wanted a backpack that didn’t have lots of extra plastic fixings, and certainly didn’t have any leather tags or accessories, and I wanted one that was as stylish as it was practical. I thought all this was a pipe dream, until I came across Märss on Instagram. Märss produce custom bags, always made with vegan leather and upcycled materials. My bag is perfect for carrying everything I need for work, including my laptop and water bottle, and it’s just the right size for a weekend trip to visit family or a day trip out of London.

Screenshot 2016-05-07 at 5.32.37 PM
Ellie’s Marss bag, c. 60 Euro

The process is really simple and super quick for what you get – a quick email exchange through Instagram, facebook or her online store with the woman behind Märss (Liisi), explaining what you would like, and then she gets to work sourcing the relevant materials and producing your bag to your precise specifications. For example, I wanted a leopard print lining for mine, and gold coloured clasps. Lewis wanted his bag to go with his forest green coat, and have zip pockets on the side. Liisi was even able to make a custom raincover for Lewis’s bag at his request.

Screenshot 2016-05-07 at 5.34.43 PM
Lewis’s Marss Bag, also c. 60 Euro

A few weeks after receiving my bag, one of the straps broke a little – Liisi was happy to cover the costs of postage and repair, and turned that around for me really quickly. A fantastic product, and really excellent service.

It’s great to be able to support independent vegan businesses, especially when I end up with a product that’s exactly what I was after, and the service is such a high standard too. There’s loads Märss can offer in terms of customization, so if you’re after a new backpack do take a look at the website and get in touch with Liisi!

http://marssbackpack.bigcartel.com/ 

Product Review: Washed Out Body Butter

Yes, we’ve featured Washed Out before. However, this isn’t favouritism so much as another really great product from these lovely folks!*

The new Body Butter from Washed Out is a real star product. Great on Lewis’ beard as much as his face, and fantastic for Ellie’s combination skin.

E: With my combination skin, I really struggle to find a single product that can handle the dry patches I get during winter, and the oily bits I have on my face pretty much year-round. I was expecting the Washed Out butter to be primarily used for dry elbows and hands, but when it came I was suffering a really painful dry skin day on my face, so just slathered it on to my freshly cleaned face.

Washed_Out_Barista_Butter
£12 for 100g, £7 for 50g

The butter has a really light texture for a product like this, and absorbs into the skin really well. After a minute or two, it makes the perfect base for make-up too, and the Barista coffee-scented butter is great for a wake-up in the morning! If coffee isn’t your thing, there’s an unscented version, and a lovely sounding ‘Six More Weeks of Winter’, which is scented with rosemary, bergamot and pine essential oils.

100g is £12, and our 50g (£7) pot is about halfway through after 6 weeks, with two of us using it. I’d say that’s pretty decent value for such an effective product which feels like a real treat to use.

*for the absolute avoidance of doubt, we bought this product ourselves as we wanted it – Washed Out have never sent us freebies to review or paid us for reviews.

Wool: What is it Good For? Not The Environment

Individuals interested in an ethical and sustainable lifestyle come from different perspectives. We all realise that our actions have an impact  on the environment, and based on this, abstain from consuming products that perpetuate climate change. Surprisingly, I have seen a number of progressive shops selling ‘sustainable’ wool. It has been pitched as a renewable product, which fails to understand the reality of global factory farming and the environmental devastation it leaves in its wake.


Environmental Impact

There are over one billion sheep in the world. Australia, China, UK and New Zealand dominate the market. A government reports puts the number of sheep in the UK at around 23 million. Each one produces 20 litres of methane a day simply by burping. The issue with methane is that it is 19 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide, over a five year period. Alarmingly, methane has a Global Warming Potential  (GWP) rating of 86 over a 20 year period.

Each year 90 million tonnes of methane are produced by all ruminant livestock globally. Shockingly, sheep account for 90% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. This is due to the large amount of  burping that ruminants do. The impact of wool needs to be considered within the wider context of the farmed animal industry. There is serious dollar to be made out of exploiting non-human animals. Livestock occupy 26% of the Earth’s ice-free land and account for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Meat, wool and other animal fibres are apart of an interdependent system of environmental devastation. The lamb in your kebab as you make your way home in the wee hours could have once literally been connected to your Uggs.

Polluting rivers near farmland is a concern to local wildlife and people alike. Sheep may be treated for parasites by being dipped in a chemical bath. After dipping these substances may find their way into local waterways. Contamination of rivers by livestock faeces / carcasses pose a health risk to people too. Experts stated that the parasite detected at a water treatment facility Lancashire  over the summer was likely caused by this.

444593162_0030ef11be_z.jpg
Ebony and Ivory say  ‘leave our wool alone’. Image from Flickr user Maurice Koop

Merino Wool

The global wool industry is barbaric.There has been sustained coverage regarding the mistreatment of merino sheep in Australia. This is due to 80% of global merino wool being produced there. It is often seen as a high end luxury product. Sheep are not indigenous to the continent, much like the European invaders who brought them to Australia in 1796. Sheep initially used for wool are sent to slaughter, once there is no further economic value in maintaining them.  The industry  employs  a number of efficient practices as illustrated with the merino breed.

The merino has been bred to yield the maximum amount of wool and not to shed their wool. They have been bred to have wrinkly skin. More skin equals more wool.  Sheep may become overloaded with wool and die due to high temperatures. The wrinkles encourage excrement and urine to be trapped in the folds. This attracts blowflies which leads to flystrike whereby flies lay eggs. The maggots hatch and, if untreated will literally eat the sheep alive. To prevent this farmers employ a practice called mulesing. It involves cutting out chunks of skin from the groin area. No anaesthetic is used.

At the point of shearing the sheep are typically handled roughly. They may be deprived of food and water up to a day before shearing, to make them easier to control. The shearer is paid by volume and not hour. Sheep can be left with bloody wounds which are routinely stitched up without anaesthetic. When sheep are no longer economically viable to maintain, they are transported to slaughter. The Merinos from Australia are shipped to the Middle East without food or water. But this cruelty is not confined to far off distant lands. In the UK it has been reported that 15% of lambs die in infancy. Should they not die, they face tail docking and castration, which often takes place without pain relief if done before sheep reach three months of age – which is routine. This is due to the time needed to administer the injections and the cost of medication. The practices of farming in the UK and elsewhere are necessarily cruel.


There have been suggestions that organic wool is the solution to issues of sustainability. The core issues raised above are still present in all forms of non-human farming. Organic methods are to be championed, but no method is justified when a Being who wants to live, is killed. If small scale farms are able to clothe the world then the issue of methane is back on the table. It has been said it may be possible to reduce the levels of methane produced. This reminds me of the story of NASA producing a pen that could be used in space, whereas their Russian counterparts used a pencil. Though the story is an urban legend it does make one think. The answer is simple. Wool / animals’ bodies generally are unsustainable, so we ought to stop using them –  for the benefit of our children, and their children.

The organic wool green-washing machine allows those who don’t want to know, not to know. Sheep are abused in conventional / ‘humane’ slaughter houses as documented by Animal Aid. Abuse has been reported at facilities linked to progressive  bcorps. Workers on Ovsi 21 farms, who supplied wool for Patagonia, skinned sheep alive. The wool from these farms was sold as sustainable and responsibly sourced. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Patagonia has cut ties with this supplier.


Instead of being complicit in the cruelty of wool, you may wish to make a donation to the Fleece Haven sanctuary in Devon. They rescue sheep from the farming industry and allow them to live out their lives in peace.