For any brand to launch during the pandemic this year was a brave quest yet there is particular praise for a fashion brand choosing not to take the easy route of fast fashion and stay true to its ethos of ethical and sustainable production.
Enter Allkind. Launched in March 2020 (so, literally, just as Covid-19 came about in full swing), the non-animal origin, vegan footwear brand is the style baby from co-founders Kate Barrett and Hayley McCardle. Both passionate about sustainability and style, the brand uses eco-materials to ethically create handmade designs without compromising its place in the fashion world.
The entire collection is 100 per cent vegan, with alternatives to leather, such as microfiber, cotton, recycled rubber and other upcycled materials, being used to create the shoes. It's not just the footwear that's made from recycled materials; Allkind is a fashion brand which is committed to being a carbon negative business, partnering with Offset Earth on rainforest protection, renewable energy and major tree planting programmes. Oh and five per cent of the brand's profits are donated to charities such as PETA and The Rainforest Trust. How's that for a conscience? As if launching mid-pandemic wasn't enough of a challenge...
We're all about supporting and shining a light on small businesses, particularly those surfacing during these unprecedented times so we spoke to Allkind's founders, Kate and Hayley to learn more about these new sustainable footwear styles.
What makes Allkind sustainable?
Hayley: As a brand we strive to be as sustainable as possible and have implemented this from day one. We make timeless, classic styles and we do not and never will contribute to poor quality, throw away fashion. We use recycled materials wherever possible and absolutely no animal products which further benefits from the associated environmental impact this would incur. Our factories are based in Europe and our materials are sourced locally to them which contributes to minimising our carbon footprint. They are also crucially sweatshop free with a high regard for workers welfare which is very important to us. I think it can become easy as a consumer to get excited and hunt for a bargain whilst perhaps forgetting why that product might be so cheaply priced and the wider consequences of that purchase.
Kate: What makes a business sustainable is a widely debated topic, with many different opinions of what is actually sustainable. For us sustainability firstly comes from choosing products not made from leather, as the production of leather itself is an environmentally polluting and taxing process. This also makes a contribution to the overall reduction in the usage of animal products and the associated environmental impact of animal farming. Secondly, we source materials with as many eco credentials as possible, whilst still being fit for purpose. These eco credentials include, made from recycled materials, non-solvent aqua based processing method and made within local proximity to our manufacturing sites.
You launched the business during the COVID-19 pandemic, how was that?
Hayley: It was interesting, that’s for sure! As our collections are handmade in Spain, the launch collection was delayed by two months and as the UK went into lockdown, some of the shoes did make it through, so we went ahead with our launch as we had planned. As you can imagine we have had to modify our business plan and change our original goals as have so many brands right now and working from home with the children wasn’t quite what I had envisaged either that’s for sure. It was hard to strike a balance between what was going on in the world and launching Allkind but it was also a great distraction. A lot of our consumers were at home and spending more time online, so we played to our strengths and used the time to promote our launch collection, although sales were ultimately slower at the start. Excitingly we have had lots of positive feedback from our first customers.
Kate: Let’s just say launching in January, as originally planned, would have been preferable! The timings have unquestionably had a negative impact on sales, as luxury footwear purchases with nowhere to wear them too, was not high up most consumers priority lists. However, like many business’s we quickly adapted and readjusted our expectations and focused, as Hayley said, on building brand awareness and on developing some exciting new additions for the collection that are continuing to slowly drop.
What or who inspires you?
Hayley: Inspiration for me comes from many places and many people. I like to take a little bit of what I find intriguing from a person or a brand every day, something that I admire, it can be something very small but to then use that to remind myself to be kind and considerate and to try to be the best version of myself that I can. For example, I love just being in nature, walking my dogs and being inspired by the natural beauty of the Chilterns where I live. We live such crazy, hectic life’s these days it’s very easy to get caught up in it all and just forget to breathe. The current pandemic has really given us all a time to reflect which will be a positive result in the long term.
Kate: I love being around positive and passionate energetic people, who just go straight in and make ideas happen. I am definitely a ‘why put it off until tomorrow when you can do it today’ kind of girl!
What can we expect from the first collection?
Hayley: We have 15 different styles which together aim to cover every classic shoe you could need. You can expect beautifully cut, hand stitched designs that are stylish and comfortable with something for everyone.
Kate: To be surprised and impressed! Most people are shocked when we tell them that the shoes are vegan and not made from leather. Many say they expect vegan shoes to be hippy or cheap and plastic looking - they are very impressed by the luxury look, feel and craftsmanship of Allkind shoes.
What has been the most popular shoe style so far?
Hayley: Our ankle boot that we named Juliet, has actually been very popular considering we are in the warmer months, although it’s such a statement style, I can understand why! Our loafers have also been selling well, they are so versatile and can be dressed up or down and worn for almost any occasion.
Kate: Not forgetting your favourite Lucy trainers too. These have been a great seller for us as we anticipated – who doesn’t love a classic, stylish trainer!
How to you ensure the fabrics you use are sustainable?
Hayley: When Kate and I first developed the idea of Allkind, sustainable fabrics were high on our priority list. We attended a number of trade shows and found a selection of really amazing materials and excitingly we were able to use these in some of our shoes. In particular we found a beautifully, soft but hard-wearing recycled rubber which we used across the range for the soles of our shoes. The supplier works endlessly towards absolutely no waste or pollution from their production, which sits well with our values and brand DNA.
Kate: The number one priority for the launch collection was to offer vegan, high quality shoes whilst being as sustainable with our material sourcing as possible. Our materials are made in Spain and Italy and we never use PVC or Viscose, as these are also environmentally polluting to produce. In our view, to achieve maximum sustainability, materials should be non-GM, bio-oil based, made from recycled materials (ideally from plastics out the ocean!), use no DMF and processed with water-based solvents only and be manufactured locally. Currently we use materials which are a combination of these criteria’s, depending on the style. We are transparent in saying all our materials do not achieve our ideal, highest sustainability criteria, as quality would be compromised to do so, however we are most certainly working towards this goal.
I have to ask – what shoes are you wearing today?
Hayley: I’m wearing our Lucy trainers in white. I love a casual shoe and they really are so comfortable and go with everything! They have definitely become a firm favourite of mine.
Kate: I’m wearing our Stone Elle slip on. This style in particular has made me fall in love with flats!
Check out Allkind's first collection of luxury vegan footwear.