Sustainability Manifesto - Putting Ethics and Quality First•
Posted on October 02 2019
At Miss L Fire, right from our first ever season back in 2005, our mission has always been to make superior quality, beautiful, comfortable shoes which our entire , six person, all female team love, and feel proud of.
We have only ever worked with small factories whom we know well, and who ensure that each person involved in the production process receives a fair wage and a safe place in which to work. Our shoes are only as good as the people who make them, and we are very proud of our manufacturing partners and we feel that their attention to detail and commitment to quality over quantity is very clear in the finished Miss L Fire product.
We have always been committed to socially and environmentally responsible manufacturing. Second to oil, the clothing and textile industry is the largest polluter worldwide. According to the Global Fashion Agenda, a recent Pulse Of The Fashion Industry report stated that fashion creates 4% of the Earth’s waste each year - 92 million tons of it- which is frightening to say the least. Much of this ends up on the cutting room floor, pieces of material that are remnants from the production process itself. As a solely “small batch production” business, we have this constantly in mind when we consider our materials as well as scalability.
By supporting a small brand like ours , you are saying 'yes' to small batch manufacturing, attention to detail, making to order, no stockpiling, no over-runs, no cheap labor, and no land-fill, and for that, we thank you.
However, we can always do better.
Our shoe boxes have always been fully recyclable, (and still are), but we have been using plastic web bags since we had previously been unable to find a non-plastic alternative which was sufficiently tough to withstand sometimes less than careful couriers!
After lots and lots of testing and research (and a BIG thank you to those customers who helped us with testing and gave us some great feedback), we have found an AMAZING compostable, biodegradable and tough web order bag which we will be rolling out for our AW19 season. This bag also doesn't use any chemical nasties in the printing of the text on it. In the US we will be using cardboard boxes which again can be re-used and recycled making this a much better alternative than plastic bags and allowing your shoes to make it in one piece to their final destination.
In-store shopping bags.
Now you can take your shoes away in style. We are phasing out the single-use paper shopping bags which we use at our San Marino, California boutique and are replacing these with cotton, re-usable totes. These will be given free to anyone making a purchase in-store. In our San Marino boutique, we are also offering an in-store only discount to anyone using their own bag, or better still, re-using their L FIRE tote at checkout.
Our business manifesto has always been to make beautiful, comfortable shoes to a high quality and ethical standard, for the best possible price. We know, from customer feedback, that if looked after and maintained to a high standard, our shoes routinely last 10+ years. Read our blog on how to love and care for your L Fires here.
We strive to create shoes which are timeless, joyful, 'heirloom pieces', which can be enjoyed year after year, rather than throwaway fast fashion items. We know that re-selling and swapping L FIRE styles is common and we very much encourage this (look out for our in-store 'swap & sale events' planned for later this year). We love to see our customers bringing out their most cherished pieces to show us now and then.
Each shoe we make involves more than 20 people and processes from concept to production, and shoes can often have more than 40 pieces and components.
Our aim is to use only the best quality elements, with the lowest possible environmental impact both in the production of those components, and the durability / longevity of them. We’ve also taken this further to consider how well these components decompose once the shoes are finally at the end of their life. Where slow fashion and sustainability is concerned, we hope to give the coming generations of the world the best chance possible with less waste.
Leather vs Vegan 'leather'.
Our customers contact us almost every week asking us about the possibility of a Vegan line, and because we care very much about how our customers feel about us, we want to answer this question officially once and for all. The merits of leather vs Vegan leather is a debate which we have internally, and whilst we never have been, nor intend to be, a Vegan shoe brand, we are also listening to requests we have had to offer a Vegan option on some of our most popular styles.
There is no secret to why leather has been the go-to material for shoes for literally centuries ; it is durable, breathable, comfortable and from a sustainable source (we ONLY use leather which is a bi-product of the food industry - you will never see any L FIRE shoes made in exotic , farmed leather).
That said, it is no secret that the leather tanning process uses lots of water, and many potentially harmful chemicals (though it is interesting to note that denim production uses far more water and a similar level of chemicals when compared with the leather tanning process).
We are very careful in choosing the tanneries we work with in both Asia and Europe; all must conform to international 'eco mark' standards for leather quality, chemical use, pollution control and waste treatment.
Wherever possible, we choose Vegetable tanned leathers (rather than chrome tanned leathers), which reduces chemical waste significantly.
However, this is not always possible on some brighter colors, or leathers with special finishes (such as metallics). Vegetable tanned leathers, as one would expect, have a more 'natural' finish and the colors available tend to be a little more muted.
We continually weigh up and assess our choices material wise to make sure that we give you the shoes and colors that you want, in the most environmentally conscious way possible.
Why leather outsoles?
We have recently introduced leather outsoles to many of our styles - this was a conscious decision to reduce the amount of plastic used in our shoes. Again, we know that leather production is far from perfect, but we are even less comfortable with the environmental impact of plastic.
We have looked carefully at the lifespan of our shoes; we make sure that our shoes are very well made, and last for years if cared for properly.
However, when our shoes come to the end of their life, where our uppers and outsoles are leather, or cotton, they will take an average of 35 years to decompose in landfill (aside from the heels, which are plastic inside).
Compare this with most non-leather 'Vegan' or 'Vegetarian' shoes on the market at the moment. Most are made using polyurethane, or PU, whose base material come from fossil fuels, the production of which is higher on the list of pollution offenders than animal agriculture.
Many cheaper non-leather shoes are made of PVC, which is hugely toxic to produce.
Add to this the fact that even the BEST quality, higher end PU shoes will last less than 50% as long as a pair of leather shoes, AND can take up to 1000 years to decompose. Think about that for a moment - 1000 years! We are not OK with that!
That said, there are some leather-alternative materials starting to come onto the market which we ARE looking into. At the moment, these are twice the price of leather, and are extremely limited in usage, and color...but we are hoping that improvements are made on this soon. Watch this space!
Small batch production.
As anyone who has ever missed out on a style they've had their eye on for a while will tell you, L FIRE is known for only EVER producing styles in small, limited edition, largely made-to-order batches. We will never, ever produce our styles in huge volumes, and we never hold giant stock mountains.
In our 14 year history, we have NEVER sent even a single pair of shoes to landfill.
We do not throw away our samples - we either sell them at a fraction of the cost at one of our (now becoming legendary) sample sales, or donate them to charity.
We are very proud of the fact that every single pair of L FIRE styles we have ever produced has been worn and loved.
Can we do better?
The answer of course is yes, we always can. We are not perfect, but we are constantly seeking to improve. One thing we can do however, is encourage our customers to re-evaluate the relationship they have with their shoes – we want to do everything we can in helping you to prolong the life of your Miss L Fires.
Luckily, as a small scale business, we have the ability to be flexible, which is essential in order to take the time to invent and produce hand crafted, unique and exclusive shoes. We’re also very glad to see other small scale brands bringing traditional craftsmanship back into the scene, and, like us, are more eager to take creative risks in order to create a legacy that will last. We’re delighted to see a growth in acknowledgement for our visible creative work and the skill that goes into our factories’ production.
We’ve also noticed how unlike before, there is now a flourishing network in the design community that focuses on the sharing of knowledge and techniques on how to find the most eco-friendly materials, to encourage mindfulness in consumption rather than focusing solely on profit. Thanks to social media, we have been able to find a fantastic platform so we can interact directly with you, our customers - about this. Together we can all promote the importance of caring for your shoes. In doing so we can help our customers see the emotional value of our shoes, in the sense that whenever you wear them, you can feel that you belong to our family.
We have opened up the comments section on this blog post and we welcome and feedback or suggestions on how we might improve further. We will read and respond to every comment, since we are nice, and we do care. In that spirit, please keep your comments positive and kind!
Love, Lynsey x
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