Ah, the frustration of vegan shoe shopping. The irritation of walking through a gorgeous shop and reading “100% leather” on tag after tag. The excitement of finally finding a vegan shoe shop…only to be presented with frumpy pairs not even your grandmother would wear. This is why, when a truly appealing vegan shoe designer comes along, we listen up. Case in point: Wills Vegan Shoes, where quality meets style in what can only be described as a vegan shoeaholic’s dream come true. We caught up with Will Green, the brand’s founder, to talk eco materials, design inspirations and all things style.
How and why did you start making vegan shoes?
For me making vegan shoes is like a natural combination of my life. I have always wanted to make a difference with my life, was brought up in a free-thinking vegetarian family, have always loved the idea of having my own shop and held a passion for shoes. Everything came together whilst working for another vegan shoe company. People kept telling me how hard it was to buy ethical and fashionable, affordable shoes. I knew what the steps were to make my own vegan shoes so took the leap and started Wills in spring 2013.
Can you tell us about your materials and manufacturing process?
I want to make shoes people fall in love with. The kind of shoes you want to wear even if they do not go with your outfit or it’s the wrong weather.
I travel around Europe searching for the best vegan materials such as beautiful Italian microfiber uppers and linings. I have noticed the first thing some people do when they pick up a pair of Wills is smell them for leather – because they cannot believe they are vegan!
I make my shoes in top factories in Portugal where people work in decent, safe conditions and are paid a fair wage. I place animal and human rights on the same level. I do not see the point of protecting one life and putting another in danger.
I have put my ethics through into my company, which is why my shoes are and always will be vegan and ethically made.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
Wills as a shoe brand is a little different from others. With other shoe brands people want the shoes. With Wills people need them – because they cannot buy them anywhere else.
For this reason I make sure I provide a service to my customers – and have all the key styles for the season that people need in their wardrobe.
My inspiration really just comes from living in London and seeing what people are wearing. My shoes are a kind of reaction to that experience. I rarely have time to check what the shops are selling – what is showing at the shows or is supposed to be “big” next season. The Underground is a great place for me. So many people in one place and it’s easy to take photos of a complete strangers feet without being noticed! In this way I guess Wills are classic British style – which I interpret as just doing what I like and believe in.
Where do you think vegan fashion is headed? What’s the future of cruelty-free style?
Cruelty-free fashion could and should go all the way. Whether this happens I think is up to us. I don’t think as a people we realise the power we have. If we all took responsibility for our personal actions – we could change everything. Do you think the sweat shop industry would last one week if everyone stopped buying £5 shoes tomorrow? Would chemicals be put into our food chain if we all chose to buy organic? Would animals be murdered if we all stopped eating meat? Look at the biggest positive changes in the world in the last 200 years – they all began with the individual.
What’s next for you and your shoes?
My dream is to bridge the gap between everyday people and ethically produced vegan shoes. I think having Wills on the high-street is key to this – so I guess the next thing is making this happen. Hopefully one day I will get there.
Free EU and UK shipping for all Vilda readers on Will’s Vegan Shoes with the code VILDA