As anyone can attest who has tried to keep their conscience clear & shoe wardrobe fully-stocked, their is a serious dearth of high quality, stylish ethical footwear on the market. Committed vegetarian-turned-vegan Natalie Dean - a longtime make-up artist in the music and fashion industry - decided to take action by creating Beyond Skin, a line that combines style & fashion with a cruelty-free lifestyle.
"In the past, attempts to combine fashion and ethics have generally resulted in one side of the equation being sacrificed," notes Dean, explaining that Beyond Skin is produced "in a manner that is non-exploitative to animals or humans and - wherever possible - the greater environment." The shoes are also designed with the trends in mind in order to remain chic for the next few seasons. "Beyond Skin endeavours to support a sustainable lifestyle rather than the throwaway culture that is an inherent part of our modern day lives."
Handmade in a small, family run factory in East London, Beyond Skin sources eco-friendly, natural fabric alternatives to leathers, suedes & satins. "Our satins are made from polyester rather than viscose; viscose has a far greater impact on the environment as it's processed with huge amounts of acid chemicals. Much of the waste from production is dumped into rivers which severely damages entire ecosystems."
Instead of leather, Beyond Skin uses polyurethane (PU) which, surprisingly, turns out to be the less damaging choice. "In terms of disposal you'd think that leather products would be biodegradable, but the tanning agent renders it non biodegradable," explains Dean, pointing out the tanning leather produces vast quantities of environmentally-devastating toxic industrial waste. In addition, farm animals produce waste that leaches into the ground & surface water, polluting wells & rivers and directly contributing to global warming (not to mention all the desertification that occurs when forests are cleared for grazing, land that could be used to grow trees for timber, fuel, fruit and vegetables). "Although not ideal environmentally, PU is clearly the less of two evils."
She also points out that PU doesn't contain a key toxin found PVC: the chlorine which produces dioxin during manufacturing and has been linked to estrogen-mimicking chemicals and additives that cause asthma. "PU provides all of the glamour of PVC but without harming our environment to this extent."
- Lesley Scott