Saturday, November 17th, 2018

Beyond Skin Fabulosity

Published on March 19, 2009 by   ·   9 Comments Pin It

With glamorous, wearable, and affordable “green” shoe lines abounding like Olsen Haus, Neuaura, Mohop, Charmone, and Mink – it’s no longer a shlep and a search to find eco-friendly and cruelty-free shoes!   Rejoice vegan fashionistas! Ethical shoes are no longer the property of plastic Payless (sweatshops!) or luxe Stella McCartney (who can afford ’em?).   These shoes feel luxurious and have special little “extras” like cool soles and colorful insoles. And… these shoes are all scary PVC free! Here Natalie from one of our favorite lines “Beyond Skin”   talks about the growing eco-friendly, vegan shoe trend!   (see our full list of eco garb we heart here)

Wear these to a Speakeasy and sip a Manhattan.

Wear these to a Speakeasy and sip a Manhattan.

GIRLIEGIRL ARMY: How did you begin designing shoes?   What was your inspiration to make sure your shoes were both eco and cruelty free?

Beyond Skin was created in 2001, and has been an extremely personal endeavor and a manifestation of a transition from long time vegetarian to vegan.   This life change opened my eyes to a magnitude of issues that before, I was either ignorant of or like many of us, chose not to acknowledge. I slowly began to realize that choosing a vegan lifestyle was not just an animal issue, but also a human and environmental one.   Many people are already aware that the meat, fish, dairy, leather, exotic skin and fur industry are usually shunned for their cruelty something that sadly isn’t always an issue for everyone.   But slowly awareness is increasing and people are beginning to learn about the human and environmental costs of these industries that often exploit people and the planet. Essentially Beyond Skin was born from a combination of frustration and vanity.  In the past, attempts to combine fashion and ethics generally resulted in one side of the equation being sacrificed. I became aware that everything I did had a consequence and reached a point in my life where I could no longer ignore the impact I have on the planet, even as an individual.   It was empowering to know that the choices I made both as a consumer and how I ran my business could and did make a difference.    I realized that looking after our world may be a choice but was also our responsibility. Over the past few years we have seen green issues move further and faster up the agenda as more and more people choose to adopt greener and more ethical lifestyles.   Media support has been paramount to this new sense of social responsibility and I feel is one of the main contributors to this massive growth of ethical consumerism. I think there is still a residual amount of stigma of what ‘being green’ implies but this is fast changing.    There is a vast array of talented, pioneering new businesses exploiting this new untapped market and talented new designers leaving Uni with a greater awareness of environmental issues.   These are all contributing to breaking the stereotypes and expectations of what this earnest demographic usually looks like and prove fashion and ethics are not mutually exclusive.

How important is comfort vs fabulosity to you?   I’ve been known to suffer for beauty, but just broke my foot barefoot (after years of entirely impractically sky high heels!)   – go figures!

It is paramount that our shoes do not compromise their comfort or style in any way for us to forge ahead as a premium fashion footwear brand.   We do our best to design with eco issues continually in mind and try to make all our decisions as consciously as possible as human rights, animal rights and the environment are things we feel extremely passionate about but quality and style is what will make us stay the distance.

Have you felt that the recent outpouring of positive mainstream response to eco-fashion gave your business a big boost in the last few years?   If so, how?  Reversely; do you sometimes feel like if your shoes weren’t eco or vegan that they would have been picked up by more stores?   Do you feel like overall having the eco slant has brought you more acclaim than the average new shoe line, or caused you more hassle?

Ethical consumerism is currently the biggest growth market.   There are new businesses starting up each week who are taking responsibility for the impact their products have on both people and the planet and who are using their ethical policy to encourage the sale of their products.   Although there will probably always be a certain market for extremely cheap mass produced goods, once we, as consumers, can no longer ignore our contribution to global poverty and exploitation, big business will have to change.   More and more of us will demand transparency so we can feel good about how we spend our well earned cash.   This is already taking place and slowly everyone will start jumping on the ethical bandwagon and hopefully it is only a matter of time before all big business is competing to be the most ethical. There is an interesting parallel going on right now as large retailers churn out products on mass at extremely low prices by exploiting overseas workers whilst at the same time the media educates us on the consequences of our bargain purchases.   It will be interesting to see how this continues and what affect one will have on the other.   I believe the day will finally come when the majority of businesses have a strong ethical policy in place. I believe that having an ethical policy has only helped improve our sales as at the end of the day if you have two incredible products and one just happens to be ethical it’s a no brainer! We were fortunate enough to have been on the crest of a wave and were already established when ‘eco’ and ‘green’ hit the headlines.   This has helped us tremendously and been a massive contributor to our brands awareness.   However, both us and other ethical businesses cannot survive on their ethical merits alone.   Like any other business, we will have to continue to produce goods that are well designed, good quality and competitive within our market – that’s capitalism.

Do any celebrities wear your shoes?

Chrissie Hynde, Anne Hathaway, Emily Deschanel, Leona Lewis, plus Natalie Portman who has worn Beyond Skin for both the Oscars and the Golden Globes.

Do you ever get tired of explaining why you create non-leather shoes?

We don’t always hammer home the fact we are a leather-free label, as we have found that it tends to turn non vegetarians off before you have even introduced them to the product.   We prefer to approach our sales with the aesthetic of the product first and the leather and cruelty-free element comes later.   It is however, incredibly important to open dialogue about why we do not use certain materials and educate people on the impact and the how’s and why’s.   Plus most importantly we are passionate about it which often has an important affect when people witness the sincerity of what we are saying.

There are so many advancements in fabrics every day (see our recent eco-fabrics blog) like Seaweed and Corn derivative fabrics; what are some of the new fabrics you have been experimenting with?   What do you see as the future for green fabrics?

Thankfully due to increased awareness, more and more eco friendly fabrics are beginning to  enter the marketplace and become more accessible to smaller businesses.   We began to introduce a selection of organic cottons and hemp fabrics to  our range a few seasons ago and we endeavour to continue using more eco friendly, sustainable textiles as they become more available.   As advancements in this area increase and more research is put into sustainable textiles, we will hopefully all have more access to them.   We then hope to  reduce and perhaps eventually phase out our use of PU and petroleum based fabrics completely.     This will however inevitably take time as currently there are simply not enough varied suitable fabrics for footwear available in smaller quantities without us sacrificing and reducing our choice and variety. One of the problems up and coming ethical brands face is being able to buy eco-friendly fabrics and components in smaller quantities.   Last season we found an incredible fabric produced from recycled plastic bottle tops but we had to get on the back of a large corporate brand in order to purchase it.   We also had the added dilemma that we could only source it from Taiwan.  We were faced with having to ship it all the way from the Far East whereas all of our other fabrics are sourced as locally to our factories as possible.   We have had since, lots of discussions as to whether it makes sense to ship such long distances for an eco-friendly fabric – the debate continues as there are obviously many fors and against so the jury is still out but it’s good to keep the discussion open.

What is your personal favorite shoe you have ever designed?   Why?

One of my personal favourites from our line is the Cherub shoe.   It is comfortable, quirky and has a retro feel with a contemporary shape.   I have them in red faux felt and everyone always asked about them whenever I trot about in them.

Do you have design aspirations and plans outside of the shoe realm?

We have many ideas about the direction we want the brand to be heading and we hope to launch a larger accessories range next season.

Who are your favorite designers?   Who/ what inspires you?

I have tremendous admiration and respect for Katharine Hamnett who is a pioneer within the ethical fashion arena.   She has been trying to educate the industry and consumer to take responsibility for the impact their products and choices have on the planet for as long as I can remember.   Katharine and Body Shop creator Dame Anita Roddick are both incredible examples of successful women in ethical businesses who are have used their ethical policies to sell their products and have been a great inspiration on my journey.

The Beyond Skin Gals

The "Beyond Skin" Gals

Do you live green at home?

I do my best to live a green lifestyle and try not to fall off the ethical wagon too often, but still sometimes have to grapple with my purchasing decisions.   Running an ethical label I tend to expose myself to many of the dichotomies of a green lifestyle and try to stay as informed as I have time for of the consequences of my purchasing power but like many of us I am aware of my failings and where I need to improve.   Our new slogan for Beyond Skin for our rebrand has been taken from the Mahatma Ghandi quote and used time and time again but I would say sums up really well how I feel about the world.   ‘Be the Change’ is our new slogan which is attached to our logo and next season will be on the sole of our shoes although the full quote is the lovely ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’.   I couldn’t have put it more eloquently.

What are three things or beauty products you couldn’t live without?

Essentials for me – outside the house: dogs, ipod, Pete Murray.   Inside: couch, cup of tea (has known to be of the green variety, but always fair trade), Booja Booja  (vegan chocs) – particularly crunchy hazelnut, adore Natural Magic candles (light them for five minutes and you can smell them for hours), The Ecologist (an informative read, takes me out of my own bubble and stirs the activist in me) and a duvet!


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Readers Comments (9)

  1. Emily says:

    i met natalie at a party and this woman exudes light. she was so friendly and warm. what she is doing for fashion is amazing! thanks for posting this GGA! great pictures. thanks natalie and GGA for making a difference and seeing the future before others are even aware of the direction it’s going in! xo

  2. themessenger says:

    Thumbs up for a great line and a great interview. Thanks for the info!!

  3. […] LVPC ENCOURAGING WORD put an intriguing blog post on Beyond Skin FabulosityHere’s a quick excerpt…that choosing a vegan lifestyle was not just an animal issue, but also … costs of these industries that often exploit people and the planet. […]

  4. Jeanie says:

    Yay! Beyond Skin is awesome. Any word on when their website will be updated to show the spring 09 collection?

  5. brook says:

    as always, this interview was informative, fun, and fantastic! well done, chloe!

  6. Michelle says:

    Great post!

    I haven’t checked otu Beyonf Skin,but clearly,I’ll have to.

    I HAVE however, fell in love with beautiful line of vegan shoes @

    Again, thanks for a great article!

  7. Bella says:

    Another great vegan site to check out is

    Not only do they have great looking and AFFORDABLE vegan shoes for the whole family, but they also carry handbags and accessories.

    This is definitely one of my favorite sites!

  8. Awesome! Will def me getting a pair of these!

    Thanks girlie! xx

  9. HBK says:

    Have you seen “King Corn”? Corn is not an eco-friendly product in any way, you should do a blog on this!

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