This year 2021, I am delighted to announce that our entire collection at Po-Zu is 100% vegan. It is a milestone we have worked towards for some years now and I am very proud that we have finally achieved it.
We are 100% Vegan and 100% Cruelty Free.
When I launched Po-Zu, it was for ethical reasons more so than sustainability, and less so about animal welfare. As a young designer working in the footwear industry, I was shocked and appalled to discover the conditions in which factory workers existed. I became deeply concerned about their working environment, and daily exposure to toxic substances such as leather tanning chemicals and solvent based glues. There was little to no health & safety measures in place and this blissfully ignorant & unethical behaviour of factory owners seemed to be the norm. It upset me so much, I began researching to see if there was a better way to make shoes, without causing all this harm.
As my journey progressed, I experienced more and learned a great deal more about the negative impact of our choice of materials and manufacturing processes on our natural environment and the world around us. The cause and effect became very obvious and as a result my ‘shoes’ became a lot more eco-friendly.
Sourcing ecological and sustainable materials some 15 years ago was a bit like finding a needle in a haystack, with the internet in its infancy and hardly any eco focused directories or trade shows available. Synthetic alternatives to leather existed but were either PVC or solvent based so still quite toxic. Our choice of materials was driven by safety first, ensuring they were toxic free for the workers, and durability second, because the longer the shoes would last, the better for all and the more sustainable they were.
Sustainability is a journey - rather than a destination. My preference has always been towards natural and bio-based materials and to avoid any non-degradable compounds such as petroleum-based plastic and PTFE. The difficulty has been in finding materials as good as leather, that satisfy the requirements for shoemaking. Shoes are worn daily in all types of weather and are subject to abrasion and scuffing. Materials not only need to wear well but they need to be malleable and flexible to work with the foot movements, and breathable too. Over the years we have tried many different components, from Hemp, Raffia, and Banana fibre to even more exotic materials like Barkcloth and Treetap rubber.
A couple of years ago I remember reading an article on the front page of The Guardian, one of our national newspapers, that made a big impact on me, as if the penny finally dropped. The piece basically said that Veganism is the single biggest way to reduce our environmental impact - following a study by Oxford University, published in Science Magazine. The scientific evidence was conclusive and I instantly told myself that I must try harder to make this work – my shoes could become 100% vegan.
Thanks to recent advancements and the arrival of vegan bio-based materials, it’s now possible to work with incredible materials that tick both the vegan and sustainable boxes. Cork, Piñatex (a Pineapple leaf fibre), Apple skin and Cactus alternative leather are all great examples of innovative materials for shoes, that are vegan and cruelty free. We source carefully, making sure ‘vegan’ materials are sustainably produced too and not costing us the planet in a different way. All of these advancements have made it possible for Po-Zu to become 100% Vegan and our journey continues as new innovations come to market.
There are many other good reasons to be vegan, here are just a few:
You can find plenty more eye-opening stats concerning veganism on the Vegan Society website