March 09, 2019 at 12:00PM by CWC
If “made in America” brings to mind one of those obnoxious beer commercials with fire and bulls and bald eagles—same. But as I began to be a more conscious consumer, I realized the impact domestic craftsmanship can have, from an ecological and sustainability standpoint. Brands are also taking note of this. Shoemakers like Astara Collective and Zuzii are creating high-quality shoes here in the US—offering up new, chic options for anyone who values earth-friendliness as much as style.
“Shoes are hard because when you’re shipping overseas, they take up a lot of space because they’re being shipped in shoe boxes,” says Mariah K. Lyons, the founder of Astara Collective, who says environmental impact was a key concern as she designed her line. “So the cargo is that much heavier, which obviously makes the plane or ship that much heavier.” AKA it creates a bigger carbon footprint to ship boxes of shoes overseas.
By offering her shoes direct to the consumer, and manufacturing in downtown Los Angeles, she’s able to bypass that wasted energy. “I also love having a personal relationship with my team, both on the production and the artisan side,” she says.
For your (sustainable) shoe-shopping pleasure: Here are five brands that are made in America. That’s right, it’s a shoe party in the USA.
Astara Collective, $422-$435
Each sandal is designed in Venice, CA, and handcrafted in downtown Los Angeles out of vegetable-tanned leather. The minimalist design of the slide is given a high-vibe treatment with a gorgeous array of reiki-charged crystals. The brand also focuses on sustainability in every aspect of production, including using packaging that is biodegradable (did you know most shoe boxes use a lot of chemicals and glue that take a long time to decompose?) and donating a portion of proceeds go to grassroots organizations promoting conservation. Did I also mention that these shoes are incredibly beautiful and exactly the kind of thing my family likes to roll their eyes at me for being into? (Watch out, fam—I just got my mom hooked on astrology. Reiki-charged crystals are next.)
Zuzii shoes are made to order in the brand’s Los Angeles footwear factory, which means they create very little waste because they only craft what is needed. They offer shoes from sandals to boots, but I’m partial to their low-top sneakers because they’re simple and well-made. Also, any brand that can get me to want a brown shoe (I notoriously abhor brown for anything fashion-related) is doing something right.
Honestly, if you do a Google search for animal-free, made-in-the-USA shoes, there are a lot of decidedly—how to put it nicely—not cute options that pop up. Luckily, Rafa is here and they make chic shoes, from delightfully chunky mules to minimalist sandals. Oh, and they also make their shoes with a double-lined orthopedic foam insole, another descriptive set of words that would usually connote a “not cute” shoe, but in this case actually just make really cute shoes really comfortable.
No. 6, $275-$450
A sentence I never thought I would type: Clogs are making a comeback. You can thank No. 6’s domestically made designs for that. If you get a pair of clogs, this is the brand to get—just ask Park Slope, Brooklyn, moms or New York freelance writers. The clogs and—here’s another thing I never thought I would type—clog boots (!) are made by hand.
The Palatines, $260-$515
The designer behind these California-made shoes, Jessica Taft Langdon, worked at the likes of Alexander Wang and Everlane before starting her own line. Standouts of the line include non-basic booties and Mary Janes with a curved heel, and simple, elegant slide sandals with origami detailing that I will probably be living in come summer.