“Big companies will never be able to compete if someone is making shoes using repurposed materials, using nontoxic cement, and making them locally.” Sharon Raymond on Sustainable Shoemaking.
In this episode of EnvironMental Podcast, we spoke with Sharon Raymond about her vision for the future of footwear. She wants to share what she knows about simple shoemaking, and bring shoemaking into every town and village around the world. Not only is she touting the importance of using repurposed materials and nontoxic cements and sourcing leather for upcycling, Sharon is asking all of us to consider: what message do your feet send? Why are you buying the best, latest shoes, full of plastic and treated as a throw-away good? How can we change it?
Why Shoemaking is Important
Look at your feet. And in the bottom of your closet. When you leave the house, how do you protect yourself from the elements? Shoes, of course!
Protect Your Feet
Your shoes protect your feet. While that is their true purpose and function, our shoes share more about us than we think. They share our social status and values and they communicate our style… for some people.
There are many – many people in the world that have one pair of shoes and Sharon was blunt when she talked about being sick of making shoes for people who wouldn’t go barefoot without them. She doesn’t She was on cloud nine after a conversation with a woman from Kenya about her local women’s maker’s group making shoes for the village children.
But ask yourself – is protecting your feet worth harming the environment?
Protect the Environment
Shoemaking is a lost sustainable art, with designs sent to mega-polluting factories and products made from plastics. But Sharon makes it clear that you can make your own shoes sitting leisurely in front of the television at night with leathers and upcycled materials! We talked a lot about leather in this episode because leather is more than available. Cow leather in particular is part of the meat industry.There are literally stacks of salted hides sitting unused in shipping containers. From where we sit, the meat industry is ugly, but it isn’t going anywhere. One way to make it more sustainable? Using every part of the animal.
Helping to protect the environment doesn’t come from removing a single plastic-shoe consumer from the market. It comes from creating a conversation around simple shoemaking that the big name brands can’t compete with BECAUSE they are big. It comes from teaching a generation of people how to repair/make their own footwear and proudly march through the streets – their feet sending a new kind of message.
Sharon’s Vision for the Future of Footwear
Sharon’s vision for the future of footwear is an idyllic one. It starts from a simple truth: large manufacturers cannot be sustainable. Nike cannot simultaneously pioneer the sustainable transition in the shoe industry AND increase production in their factories.
So, we start by supporting local shoemakers. These village cobblers repair old shoes and make new ones from nontoxic glues and repurposed materials. They look to indigenous folks for safe tanning practices with the leftover leather used from the meat industry.
Does this seem simple? That’s because it is. The whole point is to remove the complicated supply chains, the under-paid labor, the plastics, and all the shipping.
Where to Learn Simple Shoemaking
If you’re interested in learning this new skill, taking on an act of rebellion by removing yourself and others from the consumer supply chain, get in touch with Sharon.
You find her patterns and get her book on her website: simpleshoemaking.com and follow her on instagram: @simpleshoemaking