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Eco-Footwear: A Holiday Must-Have Essential


Candice Martini

SAN FRANCISCO, United StatesSydney Brown is a must-have luxury footwear this holiday season. The label is earning great eco-credentials for its feel-good footwear that is sexy on your feet, yet extremely gentle on the environment. Therefore, we are delighted to get an intimate look at the shoe brand, the person behind the creativity, and why you should add a pair to your holiday wish list.

Sydney Brown A Pioneer in Eco-conscious Footwear

Sydney Brown is a pioneer in eco-conscious footwear. Every collection is made of sustainable and recyclable uppers with eco-friendly materials including faux-nappa, cork bonded to organic cotton, recycled plastic bottles, sustainably-harvested Alder, reclaimed wood, eco-copper, coconut insoles, fibre and natural rubber. And, for all animal lovers, it is also consciously constructed free of animal products like leather and fur! Each pair is an investment because of its timeless design, thoughtfully handcrafted by artisans in its atelier based in Los Angeles to outlast many seasonal trends.

In its 6th season, the collection is every bit as amazing as it sounds. The 2015 Spring/Summer Collection is greatly influenced by Japanese aesthetics, giving off simplistic elegance that is essential to any wardrobe. The brand combines dynamic designs with stylish comfort, and features a variety of styles from classic wooden heels to more casual-chic wedges. The collection is inspired by “El Matador Beach” in Malibu. With landscape textures, subtle shapes and a striking palette of muted shades to emphasise sculptural lines, surfaces and detailing, over embellishments. Accents of metallic, metal heels, slide sandals and flatforms add just the right hint of shine to glam up any holiday outfit.

Sydney Brown, an American-born designer based in Los Angeles defines luxury by the goods being made consciously and with sustainability. It is inspiring to know that her creativity is in part an effort to reduce animal cruelty and methods that negatively impact the environment. The distinct perimeters in which she abides by for her label — to respect the workers, animals and earth — is something that the whole fashion industry should follow. Her approach is unique in that she draws influence from the Shinto religion of Japan, where all objects have a soul, and uses that concept as the foundation for her designs. As Sydney comments:

It takes about 20 hours to create a pair of shoes. I imagine a little piece of me being passed along, and aim to create a ‘cradle to cradle’ life cycle on every single pair I work on.

Sydney Brown Eco-footwear
Sydney Brown

Sydney Brown Interview

Below is our exclusive interview with Sydney Brown. An intimate look on Brown’s journey to becoming an eco-friendly footwear designer, her recent 2015 collection, and the essential pair of shoes from her collection for this holiday season.

What steered you towards designing eco-friendly shoes?

I had been a vegetarian for over 20 years and I always felt conflicted about buying leather but not eating meat. I started the shoe line as a sort of reaction to there being no sustainable, animal-friendly luxury footwear options on the market.

Why are your shoes considered eco-conscious?

Along with Dr. Kate Fletcher, my sustainability advisor, we have developed the core tenets of the brand to revolve around the concept of “reverence for life”. This respect for life is extended to three spheres: human — working conditions, fair labour practices, foot health and shoe comfort for wearers; animal — no materials derived from animal products; and environment — minimum use of hazardous substances and non-renewable resources, low energy and water consuming materials and processes, and minimum waste production.

Sydney Brown Eco-footwear
Sydney Brown 2015 Spring Summer Collection Ankle Boot

How did you come to use these materials?

Leather is an amazing material because it is so malleable and durable. To find alternatives has been extremely challenging and a learning process. We are now in the stage of developing many of the materials in-house, but still source some of the technical fabrics in Italy.

Why is the Japanese culture a predominant inspiration in your collections?

I lived in Japan for ten years. I initially went there to do a masters programme in sound design. I was working on sound architecture for a specific venue and ended up apprenticing and partnering with an incredible Japanese designer. He worked with me for over 10 years on all aspects of formal design and Japanese aesthetics.

Can you explain how Japanese aesthetics is different from the American one?

Fashion in Japan, as everything in Japan, comes from a completely different place. For example the primary elements of Japanese design focus on materials, textures and surfaces rather than embellishments. This creates a minimal effect for which many of the major Japanese designers (Rei Kawakubo, Yoji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake) are recognised. In Japanese street fashion, from my experience, the looks are much more deliberated upon – every aspect of an outfit is really thought out. It is always fascinating to me that the combinations that would look totally ridiculous on me, look amazing on many of them. I still do most of my shopping in Japan as the subtle elements – from the beautiful salmon colour of a kitchen knife, to the incredibly soft indigo hemp of a bathrobe – are so amazing.

Aside from designing shoes, what other passions do you have?

My other biggest passion is my music festival. I organise and curate an annual electronic music festival in Nagano, Japan called Taico Club. It is a charity festival with all proceeds going to the tsunami relief. In 2015, we will have our 10th anniversary, which is very exciting!

Is your SS15 collection available now and how do we get our hands on a pair?

The SS15 collection will begin shipment in December. Custom orders are available now through the website. The shoes range in price from $400 – $600. It is sold in upscale boutiques throughout the world.
Mona Moore and H. Lorenzo in Los Angeles, Gimme Shoes in San Francisco, Assembly NY in NYC, The Acey in the UK, Umasan in Berlin, and many more. Please check our Stockists list for a full listing.

What future plans do you have for the brand?

We will soon be launching sneakers for both men and women and a men’s collection is in the works.

Which pair of Sydney Brown shoes from your 2015 Spring/Summer collection would you say is an essential this season?

The Heeled Clogs and Open Toe Heels would be the most fitting. The texture of the cork paired with the stained wood on the Heeled Clogs adds an element of luxury. The metal on the Open Toe Heels creates a bit of flash for the holidays.

Which style in your collection would you say is your favourite and why?

I wear the Clogs on a daily basis. They are low enough to run around in and high enough to be somewhat sculptural.

That said, subtlety is the new glitz! Ditch seasonal embellishments and opt for edgy, metal block-heels and wooden platform shoes in soft hues of beige, sand, nude and metallic in place of winter whites. This is the season’s new minimalistic, holiday-chic look without being overly flashy. In fact, the sleek architectural designs offset the busyness of seasonal festivities. Not to mention, any efforts to reduce negative environmental impacts of fashion would be applauded by the green community. Thus, you are doing your part in keeping the earth green, and look fashionable at the same time!

Eco-fashion could not be more glamorous. Go ahead and indulge in your shoe fetish without feeling guilty. Celebrate the season by giving the gift of stylish, fashion-forward shoes from the Sydney Brown collection: a chic alternative to leather shoes for the style-savvy individuals. The animals and environment will thank you for it!

Sydney Brown Eco-footwear
Sydney Brown 2015 Spring Summer Collection Wedge Clog
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