Vegan, planet-friendly and chic – yep, that’s pretty much all we look for in a shoe. That’s why we’re obsessed with LA-based footwear label Sydney Brown. This luxury vegan shoe brand offers directional designs with a contemporary edge and a holistic approach to fashion: handmade by artisans in the brand’s Los Angeles atelier, Sydney’s shoes are crafted using recycled materials and eco fabrics such as coconut insoles and reclaimed wood. We talked to Sydney about her background, design processes and the future of vegan fashion – and took a look at the SS15 collection.
Tell us about your background and how you started the brand.
I’m originally from Detroit, went to college in Ann Arbor, and traveled all over in my early 20’s before I finally landed in Japan. There I began a master’s program in sound design and worked as a music promoter for 10+ years.
I sold my half of our music promotion company in 2008 and moved to LA to do a personal growth course. We were doing a lot of consciousness and mindfulness exercises in the course, and I began examining everything in a new way. This lead to my New Year’s resolution of Jan. 2010, when I decided to stop buying leather. I had always felt conflicted about buying leather and not eating meat, as I had been a vegetarian for 20+ years. Within about a week of my experiment, I needed shoes for an event and realized that there was nothing available on the luxury market for sustainably-made, animal-free shoes, that fit my aesthetic. I became aware that there was a huge opportunity to do something about it, so my journey began there.
Why vegan shoes?
I don’t want to be involved in suffering in any way – especially for fashion. This is the year 2015 and we no longer need to use animal-based materials for clothes.
During our production, we try to infuse the shoes with positivity and it is my intention that they be as beautiful as possible, down to the cellular level.
How are your shoes crafted and what are your inspirations?
We handcraft our shoes in our Los Angeles atelier. For every collection’s inspiration, I choose a California nature scene and give it a soundtrack, to begin the design process.
How has your brand evolved? Have you run into any obstacles?
As I hadn’t worked in fashion before beginning the brand, I’ve hit huge learning curves on every front. I had to learn pattern and upper making through lasting and heel making, material and glue development, as well as every other aspect of the business since I have no partners. I worked in factories in Italy, Portugal and the UK for two years when I began, before opening our own atelier in LA. As we have been making all of the shoes ourselves, getting to know the machines and establishing my production team has taken a huge effort as well.
What are some of your favourite pieces from the collection?
I wear the Clogs on a daily basis. Those are my favorite go-to shoes as they are so easy to wear and go with almost everything.
What does the future hold for Sydney Brown?
We are in the process of developing sneakers for both men and women!
How do you view the future of vegan fashion?
There are some really amazing developments coming forward in the next couple of years! This is an exciting time for sure!