Vegan shoes, style and fashion have come a long way from hemp and one of the designers who has paved the way is Elizabeth Olsen with her line of pure vegan, eco-friendly shoes. If you’re looking for a great gift for the holidays or you just need to update your look for the parties of the season, check out what Olsenhaus has to offer. For some picks we love click here: Olsenhaus vegan shoes.
I had a chance to visit with Elizabeth and learn a bit more about this fabulous vegan shoe designer. Here’s what she had to say.
Why did you start your own fashion line and why shoes?
I wanted to illustrate that you didn’t have to participate in cruelty to animals to maintain style, and that a company can be openly vegan, speak about the issues, get mainstream media/press, and be sold in mainstream high-end retailers. It hasn’t been easy and I have spent an enormous amount of energy, time, money, etc. working on this. I also have now realized that there was a part of me that wanted to see if I could do it, not in an ego way, but how truthful can you be about an issue that no one wants to hear about. There are lots of people on board with not eating animals, and some get into it for their health, but animal skins/leather is another issue.
How long have you been vegan and why did you go vegan?
I always knew from when I was a child there was something very strange about humans’ relationship to animals as food, although I was not able to articulate it. I was fed meat by my parents but seldom ate it. I “officially” went vegetarian when I was 15, so in 1987. I still ate cheese and wore leather, not really making the full connection. Also, vegetarian was still a pretty out there concept or word, but vegan, that was totally out there. I made the full connection in 2008 and stopped eating cheese and buying leather. I weeded out leather items in my closet and started Olsenhaus in 2008.
Most people don’t realize that you can make great shoes that are comfortable and fashionable without using leather or other animal materials. How do you do it? What kinds of materials do you use and what has been the biggest challenge?
The materials I use are varied. It’s not hard to find them if you are creative and resourceful. I design and apply the materials. It’s a pretty organic process. I have been designing for a very long time and when you are vegan you have more clarity of thought, a strong memory, and can think very fast. People sometimes ask me how I juggle all that I do. I reply I don’t know, but I do know that before going vegan my thoughts and intuition were not as clear.
What are some of the most interesting materials you’ve worked with?
Anything recycled, highly technical. I am excited to work with bioengineered faux leather.
Being one of the pioneers in vegan eco fashion, how have things changed since you started your line?
There’s overall more openness and kind curiosity to what Olsenhaus is doing and I think in eco-fashion in general there is still a lot of work to be done.
I am inspired by alot of different things, most of them not fashion actually. As far as design, furniture and architecture, anything post modern, clean lines, color blocking.
As far as a designer, I am most inspired by Maison Martin Margiela.
Tim Gunn spoke out about the use of fur in fashion this year, campaigning designers to not use fur. Do you see other encouraging signs in the fashion industry today towards cruelty-free?
The anti-fur campaign, I’d have to say, is the strongest. The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) has been working on it for some time.
There are spots here and there but not really anything super huge yet. The masses can pretty much get on board with not using cute fuzzy animals like dolphins and elephants, but the animal hides of cows, pigs, and snakes are what I really try to focus on. The brainwashing of leather as a luxury is so deep in the psyche. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to break it.
What do you say to those who think you have to compromise compassion for fashion?
I show them the shoes and ask what sacrifice they see. Most people don’t want to hurt animals. They just don’t have the information.
Where do you draw inspiration for your designs from season to season?
Everywhere. Usually what’s currently happening in my life and I do watch trends and have to follow them to a certain degree to stay in mainstream retail.
Do you remember the first shoe you designed?
For Olsenhaus, yes, a wooden wedge sandal, light faux green straps with solver paint splatter.
What’s up next for Olsenhaus?
Lots of top secret expansion.
Thanks Elizabeth! Psyched to see what’s in the top secret hopper. I’ll be sure to share with you as soon as I get the 411.
I don’t know about you but I’m always so inspired by people who have taken the risk to start a business and especially when that business goes against the grain. To take that leap is huge. Also, at such a young age, to have taken a stand to not eat meat, that takes great conviction and strength to be able to do. So grateful to Elizabeth for sharing her story about how she went vegan.
What about you? You can share your story here too: click share your story or drop a line below.
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