Take 5 with... Paula Perez from NAE Vegan Shoes!
When we think about vegan shoes, we often consider them to be a matter of using leather or not. As it occurs, running a vegan shoe brand is not only about replacing one material, but also about the whole philosophy of the business. There are plenty of incredible alternatives to natural leather, but also to glues (which, very often, are not vegan) and NAE Vegan Shoes is definitely one of the brands on the forefront of innovation and promotion of cruelty-free shoe shopping. Wanna know more? Read on to check our short interview with the marvellous Paula Perez, the co-founder of the brand!
1. You probably hate this question at this point, but may we ask again: what made you go vegan? What was the catalyst?
I had a traditional education, so I ate meat and fish as most of traditional families in Portugal, but I always loved animals and nature, so when I got older it was kind of inconsistent for me to love animals and eat them. In 2002 I traveled to New York and I went to this touristic place 'Hard Rock Cafe' and ordered a burger. That was the day when i decided not to eat meat anymore. The burger was so big that I was shocked. It was a gradual process but I would say that the trigger was that day in New York.
2. What materials do NAE works with as substitutes for leather and which one is your personal favourite?
Nae works with several materials, depending on the concept of the shoe, but usually we work with OEKO Tex certified micro-fibres, organic cotton, pineapple leaves fabric, cork, recycled materials such as recycled airbags or a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. For the soles we use the ones that have a percentage of recycled rubber, car tires or soles made 100% natural rubber. We are also starting to work with vegan leather made from the waste of food (like cereals) and see how it works. In shoe business, it's a real challenge to have sustainable materials but what I can see is that things are really changing in this market.
3. Where do you see the biggest obstacles about leading your own vegan brand?
I would say definitely the materials are a big big challenge. Vegan does not mean sustainable and to join these two principles in a shoe it's very difficult, so we have to develop our creativity every day and do our job better and better each day. Also I think customers must be informed about the benefits of buying products from small brands that aggregate these principles. We cannot continue to feed fast fashion, it's not sustainable anymore.
4. How important for you is collaboration in the realm of sustainability and how much of it do you see around?
I think it's really important to collaborate, because this means that I may be helping other brands to succeed and move forward, and if we have more brands, it means that the market is growing, so it's good for everybody. Of course people tend to defend their businesses and are afraid of sharing, which is understandable, but despite this there is a lot of things that we can share. I believe in Karma, so if I do good, I believe it will come back to me.
5. Who are some of your personal heroes?
My dad and my mum :)