If you’re anything like me, you must have noticed a shift in the process of looking for good vegan shoes. All of a sudden, you’re no longer stuck choosing between a hefty, shapeless, orthopaedic-looking contraption and your trusty old Converse. Vegan shoes, especially boots, are now worthy rivals to their non-vegan counterparts. Made from supple, resistant materials that are kind to the Earth, the new vegan shoes are also stepping it up (pun absolutely intended) in the style stakes: gone are the “comfortable” and, let’s face it, a bit depressing, options of the past – replaced with sleek and stylish designs that don’t scream “I’m an ethical shoe!”. Instead, they whisper, “psst…I know I look amazing, but I’m also kind. Nice, huh?”.
One of the brands behind this revolution for our feet is By BLANCH. Founded by Spanish designer Mireia Blanch, the French-based brand has conquered both a vegan and non-vegan customer base by offering an entirely wearable, minimalist shoe line characterised by simple lines with a hint of edgy detailing – think a crossing strap here, a gold-toned buckle there, all topped off with the kind of chunky stacked heel that the modern fashionista goes bananas for, and you’re there. What’s more, the brand specialises in materials that tread lightly on the Earth – the collections are crafted from Ecolabel-certified polyurethane with a vegetable oil coating. As a designer who cares both about ethics and aesthetics, Mireia is clearly a Vilda woman – which is why we couldn’t wait to catch up with her for a (virtual) soya latte and a (very real, see below) walk in her Offshore heels.
I’d love to say I studied shoe design but actually it didn’t happen like that. I grow up in Barcelona and did my studies there. I’ve been always attracted by new places, cultures, languages…that’s why I decided to study Tourism, specialising in Hotel Management. After few years working in marketing and communications for a Spanish hotel group, I decided to leave my country for a while and explore the world.
I left with a one way ticket to Australia, where I met my French boyfriend and that’s how I ended up moving to France. Here, I worked for three years organising conferences and events for an international hotel.
While working in France, I decided to quit meat and all animal products and become vegan (that was five years ago). My whole perception changed after watching the documentary “Earthlings” and reading “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer.
I have always loved clothes and getting rid of leather was a challenge, as I struggled to find “my” style of shoes. After a year of brainstorming, I decided to create By BLANCH and design the shoes I wanted to wear. You could say that it was a mix of being selfish and wanting to show the world that cruelty free alternatives to leather were possible. I taught myself everything – each step in making a shoe, such as materials, production, and so on. By BLANCH makes chameleonic shoes, meaning that you can wear them in a casual yet sophisticated way. They are chic but still comfortable, allowing you to wear them from day to night. Some designs have a twist of boho and a hint of rock.
What was certain is that the brand had to be not only vegan but ethical too. In my point of view, being ethical for the animals couldn’t be separated from ethics that concerned the people who make the shoes. That’s why our shoes are made in Spain, where there’s a tradition and expertise and all materials come from Europe.
I’m very happy there are more and more vegan brands on the market. They all do a good job, for the animals and the planet. The majority of them are ethical too, which is fantastic! In my case, I only design shoes I want to wear – some are rather classic, others more fun to wear. I’m very into detail and always spurned on by the idea of producing in a better way.
We’re currently working with new designs and materials from different suppliers. It’s taking a bit longer as we are going to produce them in Portugal, a country very well-known for its shoe industry. Last week we went to Portugal to visit the new manufacturer and their workplace. It’s a family-run business and they have a lot of expertise in synthetic materials, that’s why we’ve chosen them. Our second step will be a men’s line, as we have a lot of requests.
What’s exciting about By BLANCH is the wearability of the designs – the Offshore is a sleek and simple ankle boot that can be dressed up or down, making it suitable for daytime or evening.
The chunky heel adds height while never sacrificing comfort, the gold-toned buckles offer a polished touch. The perfect mix-and-match design, the Offshore ankle boot is breathable and lightweight yet resistant and reliable.