Why vegan shoes made in Europe?
Whether we are talking about shoes, accessories, clothing, or more generally everything related to fashion, these last decades have seen the offer explode, to become so wide and varied, that everyone has the possibility of dressing themselves in a style all his own. Shoes, and more particularly, sneakers are of course no exception to the rule; between rhinestones and colorful prints, we'll be amazed. If it is true that these stylistic assets give everyone the opportunity to assert through their look and their style of clothing - or their pair of trendy sneakers - a little of their personality, this heterogenization of fashion and this range of clothing have a significant environmental but also social cost.
Indeed, producing such extensive ranges of clothing and shoes, what's more, sold cheaply to be accessible to all, requires reducing the production costs of the items offered for sale. And this is done by two means:
- Lower the quality of items (use of cheap, low-quality materials that are often polluting)
- Use cheap labor; which leads to employing people who are poorly regarded and poorly paid.
This movement of production in large quantities and poor quality is now well known to the public, under the name of fast fashion. Literally, fast fashion, or in other words, “quickly produced, quickly bought, quickly thrown away”. Many brands of shoes, sports sneakers, accessories, and brands in the clothing industry are relocating their production to countries in the economic South, particularly to Asia, to benefit from higher profits.
Far from being supporters of these immoral methods, at COG, we are on the contrary more than anything attached to the human values on which our brand was based, and which it continues to apply since its launch. Like our vegan shoes (women's/ men's brogues , ankle boots for women and men , etc.) and our sneakers without materials of animal origin , all our vegan shoes are made by maximizing the use of synthetic and plant-based materials. recycled, and assembled by local artisans and partners based in Europe. As for our workshops, all are in Portugal. Ecological vegan materials produced in Europe, eco-responsible items made in close collaboration with local artisans in Portugal, secure working environment for our partners, workshops meeting European health standards, qualified workforce; There is no shortage of reasons to opt for shoe production made in Europe.
In this article, we detail in more detail the motivations for our choice of handmade made in Europe for our vegan shoes.
“Work is health, doing nothing is preserving it” said Henri Salvador. Whether we are supporters of one of these two visions or not, working in a clean and secure environment to preserve our health is all the harm we wish for ourselves, and by extension, also what we we want for the people with whom we collaborate.
If our first wish when launching COG was to protect living species by producing shoes without materials of animal origin , humans being no exception to this reign, it was out of the question for us to benefit from the work of people operating in poor conditions. At COG, there is no more human suffering than leather or glue of animal origin.
This is why we chose a European manufacturer to manufacture each pair of COG vegan shoes that you wear, so that you can, with peace of mind, proudly affirm that your eco-responsible shoes also help to offer employment to women and men working in a framework that respects their human dignity.
What assurance is there in that?
To begin with, European legislation establishes rules and standards intended to protect the individual in the context of their work.
In addition, there is nothing to certify that each European shoe factory and sneaker manufacturing workshop scrupulously follows the labor laws set by Europe, our team visits the manufacturing workshops at least once a year, but also - within the limits of the possibilities available to us - from our suppliers of textile materials and assembly materials (sole manufacturers, shoe box manufacturers, etc.).
This allows us to see for ourselves that the framework in which your vegan sneakers and shoes are produced respects the standards mentioned above, and that the women and men employed in our partner workshops work in respectable conditions. This production framework is offered to us in the northern region of Portugal, where people cutting materials, sewing, assembling shoes, etc. work in clean and secure premises.
Finally, if any workplace, as long as it ensures that it respects certain standards and conditions, can prove to be a fulfilling working environment, a production workshop on a human scale makes it possible to facilitate human exchanges, and to better ensure to the well-being of each factory employee. For this reason (and many others), all the models offered by our brand are assembled by hand, in family homes, passing down their know-how from generation to generation as an inheritance.
Each of our visits to production partners in Portugal is a real enthusiasm. Not only because we are received by wonderful people, sharing with us all their warmth, their motivation and their kindness, but also because each phase of the production of our ethical shoes is a new learning ground, and the opportunity to better understand the reason why Portugal deserves its international reputation for its know-how in shoe making.
Work on the shape of the feet, adjustment of the pattern of the inserts, research and comparison of vegan materials and alternatives to animal leather, development and placement of logos, cutting, drilling, reinforcement work...The world of shoes on the production side is a never-ending science, and Portuguese artisans have talent and know-how in this area which are based on decades of knowledge transmission.
Although assisted by advanced technologies, helping with the effort and accuracy of manufacturing, but also with the robustness of assembly of the various components of the shoe, each foot is assembled by hand, and a lot of technical gestures do not rely on only on the expertise and dexterity of our artisan shoemakers.
Local production for real eco-responsible vegan shoes
First of all, what would be our definition of the perfect (or almost) ecological shoe ?
The 5mm thick foot horn, or at most the natural beech wood clog.
But to be more serious and realistic:
- A vegan shoe , and as such, does not contribute to the numerous environmental nuisances caused by livestock farming.
- A shoe produced in a geographical area close to its storage location (if possible its place of sale) and transported by less polluting means of transport.
- A vegan shoe and/or sneaker made from the textile materials most in line with a logic of ecological sustainability : plant materials composed of a high percentage of natural materials, or recycled synthetic materials, materials produced locally around the shoe assembly areas , potentially recyclable materials at the end of their life, organically sourced natural materials.
- A vegan sneaker or vegan shoe made from a reduced variety of materials .
- Quality and robust cruelty-free materials, for a durable vegan shoe , which stands the test of time, leading to a reduced need for renewal, and by association reduced consumption.
Our team's approach in our search for recycled vegan materials - non-recycled in the case where no recycled alternative is available to us: not only being careful to select only high quality and durable vegan faux leather, but also ensuring strictly to their origin.
Since our creation in 2019, we have only collaborated with European suppliers , established in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Germany. We will certainly also work soon with our first French supplier of recycled cotton :)
This is why COG shoes are not only made without materials of animal origin, but also all made in Europe .
Most of the materials from our European suppliers are OEKO-TEX 100 certified , which guarantees that the textile does not contain any products that are toxic to the body or the environment. These materials are also produced with the aim of participating in a circular economy since they integrate a process of recycling the water used during their manufacture.
Finally, the import of materials from Spain and Italy, to ultimately produce our shoes in Portugal, emits considerably fewer C02 emissions than if we used leather, and therefore animal skin, a large part of which The majority are raised in South America, before their skin is then processed in Asian countries such as Bangladesh.
Europe, the home of eco-responsible plant materials
Did you know that certain European countries, notably Italy, leading countries in the fashion and leather goods industry, but also Spain, are pioneers in the field of sustainable fashion and production of plant materials comparable to leather with a vegan composition?
Are in fact produced on European soil a wide choice of plant alternatives approved by the “ PETA approved ” label? Material made from grape marc, textile material made from apple waste, imitation leather and textile coverings made from cereals, is the vegan shoe sector made in Europe about to become a fruit paradise?
Regarding your models of cruelty free COG shoes for women and men, whether it is the recycled cork from which the insoles of our men's/women's sneakers are made, or the vegetable imitation leather made from grape waste which covers the upper of our Topsy sneakers, our Wallace high-top sneakers or even our vegan Laïka women's ankle boots or Aïko women's Richelieu models, all of these materials are produced in Europe. The same goes for the plastic fibers from materials recovered from the sea and recycled which constitute the interior covering of our women's/men's sneakers, or the imitations covering our Winton and Raven sneakers.
Vegan shoes made in France?
COG is a French ethical shoe brand, so why not produce our vegan shoes on French territory? The question is as legitimate as it is relevant, and we are logically often asked.
France is in fact a reference in terms of fashion, particularly haute couture, since the country employs more than 60,000 employees each year in the clothing industry according to the UIT (Union of Textile Industries). However, the shoe sector has unfortunately been in decline since the second half of the twentieth century, and despite the various businesses carried out in recent years to breathe new life into this economy, the sector currently has less than 5,000 people working. French shoes - compared to another 21,000 in 2000 according to the media France Info. France produced more than 100 million shoes in 2000, compared to only 22 million in 2019. Business closures, relocation, the stigma of globalization on the French shoe sector are numerous, and the reduction in the number of workshops working shoes, which have also become less easy to access, and have reduced the range of technical possibilities offered in the field of needs necessary for the making of shoes. Fewer workshops, fewer artisans and local players also mean know-how that is being lost.
In addition, the costs of companies (salaries, taxes, premises, etc.) have an impact on the cost of production of goods created, a French confection would imply a sales price which, although in every respect justified and justifiable, could prove to be dissuasive for consumers, accustomed for decades to buying items at knockdown prices, because they benefit from a workforce based outside the European Union, and infinitely less well paid. Our objective through COG is not only to offer quality vegan products, made in a human setting, but also to make people aware of the reality of the real manufacturing cost of an item made in Europe, and therefore produced in a human framework. This is the reason why, while paying particular attention to the working conditions of our workshop partners in Portugal, we want to offer our shoes at an affordable price, not prohibitive, but also reflecting the real cost of their ethics manufacturing, and their quality . Considering these criteria and our expectations, Portugal seems to be the area best suited to our needs at the moment.
Finally, the northern region of Portugal, where our eco-responsible shoes are manufactured, is a microcosm bringing together all the suppliers of textile materials and accessories specific to the world of footwear (eyelets, interior reinforcements, buckles, zippers, imitation leather and imitation nubuck, etc.). ) which allows us to take advantage of all the components and trained personnel and a wealth of knowledge, necessary to bring our collections to life, without having to generate new import/export flows.
Furthermore, as a French brand keen to support a local production effort, our team continues to explore opportunities for French production, and eco-responsible and local alternatives (French materials such as linen)
Keep your eyes peeled, COG items made in France, sorry, made in France, could well see the light of day soon.
You now know more about our motivations for choosing Europe and Portugal as the location for the production of your favorite vegan shoes.
Enjoy your visit, and thank you for all the people considered and preserved thanks to your orders and your ethical efforts on a daily basis.
The COG team