Centuries old footwear brand, Birkenstock, are introducing vegan options to the USA

Birkenstock’s. You love them, you hate them, or if you are a Vogue fan you may change your mind on a rhythmical basis that seems to span about a decade.

Admittedly we are all probably left questioning how cork could be so comfortable and whose idea it was to make shoes from the same material as champagne tops, but it worked.

Now, though, you can purchase them without the cow-based component, with a range of animal-free materials having been incorporated to make a vegan line in order to meet customer demand. Bet you’re starting to like them a little bit more now.

Love 'em or hate 'em, you've got to commend Birkenstock for introducing a vegan line to the USA

Love 'em or hate 'em, you've got to commend Birkenstock for introducing a vegan line to the USA

This is a pretty big deal as Birkenstock have been around for just over 240 years and so it doesn’t take much to recognise that their popularity has spanned several generations, becoming a globally recognised brand. Perhaps this is in part due to their ability to conform to the up-and-coming demands of their market and it seems the latest requirement is a cruelty-free, environmentally-friendly range of leather-free shoes. Makes sense. Such a range has been available in Europe for several seasons, but it seems to have hit the ground running and is now making its way to the USA.  

The history of Birkenstock

Birkenstock, a German brand, was founded in 1774 by Johann Adam Birkenstock and their comfort has survived centuries. In 1966 they had made their way to America and by the 70s anyone who identified as a hippy simply couldn’t be seen without them. They also enjoyed completing the grunge look of the 90’s, worn by the likes of Kate Moss, Madonna and Harrison Ford. More recently, Cara Delevingne, Zoe Kravitz and Rihanna have been seen sporting the brand and as of 2013 Vogue called them ‘stylish’ and ‘sexy’, remaining popular among teens and young adults. So, a contoured sandal that will shape to your feet and bag you heaps of street cred. The only problem left is your conscience.

Cara Delevingne is one of many celebs who've been sporting Birkenstock shoes.

Cara Delevingne is one of many celebs who've been sporting Birkenstock shoes.

Veganising a classic

Fear not, the masses have already spoken. “When our customers told us that they wanted vegan editions of Birkenstock’s classic sandals and clogs, we listened” says Jochen Gutzy, head of communications. “Birkenstock was always concerned about choosing the best raw materials from natural sources. With our selection of vegan styles, we can keep taking steps closer to an even more sustainable and compassionate future”.

Comfortable, guilt-free, ethical steps may we add? “This season, we are offering more styles to the U.S. market and marketing them as a true Vegan Collection” says the U.S. spokesperson Scott Radcliffe. “We decided to increase our product portfolio with vegan styles to cater to Birkenstock fans that look equally for animal-friendly products as well as comfort and style”.

Indeed, fashion is actually a fundamental part of the vegan lifestyle with the skin of the animal being the most economically important coproduct of meat. Many are unaware that animals are in fact often killed just for the leather. It isn’t animal-lovers alone who need avoid it though, with the tannery process being bad for the environment and the workers, making it an environmental and human-rights issue too.

Good job then that it has just got a little easier for Americans to speak against it with their wallet, with the vegan Birkenstock’s available online early January and in stores in February. The line will include ethical versions of the Arizona which is considered the classic two buckled-strap Birkenstock, the Gizeh, or the Boston clogs which offer full coverage of the toes. 30,000 pairs will hit the USA using materials such as microfiber, cork and ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), all allegedly 100% animal-friendly and sustainable.

With 20 million Birkenstock sales a year and Seattle being their biggest market, it is undoubtedly exciting that such a huge brand is moving towards a more ethical future.

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