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    Journal

    Meet the Staff: Marley

    Meet the Staff: Marley

    MooShoes started and continues to exist as an intentionally small business. Yes, we've grown a lot since those early days in a defunct Gramercy Park butcher shop in 2001, moving more than once in NYC, expanding to Los Angeles in 2014, and growing our web presence and shipping worldwide, but we're still run by a small group of family and friends. So we thought we'd tell you about that small group of family and friends one by one, via seven-question interviews with each of our staff. We're starting with Marley from our Los Angeles store, who's actually on her way out the door in anticipation of answer number six!

    First off, what do you do when you're not slinging vegan shoes?
    I work as a behavioral interventionist at an elementary school. I also enjoy buying and selling vintage clothes.

    What first led you to lead a more animal-friendly lifestyle?
    When I was 10 years old, a chicken fell asleep on my lap at a farm and I decided to go vegetarian. Eight years later (for my year 2000 New Year's resolution) I went for a full-on vegan diet and never looked back!

    Tell us about a nonprofit or charity or cause you really dig that we maybe don't already know about?
    You probably already know about it, but I'm a big fan of what Physician's Committee is doing.

    Favorite vegan or vegan-friendly restaurant and favorite thing there?
    Little Pine—Tofu Piccata! (all the restaurant's profits are donated to animal organizations)

    Favorite shoes, past or present (ooh, or future!)?
    Still looking for the perfect 60's-inspired lace-up low heel go-go boot... But I'm partial to the quality and design of Ahimsa (great price too).

    Can you tell us something not a lot of people know about you?
    Preggo! Vegan baby girl due 1/1/19! 

    Favorite animal (or totem animal if you prefer)?
    Can't pick just one! Cats, dolphins, hummingbirds, and cows.

    Interview illustrations by raven + crow (you can see more via our Instagram feed)—more soon!

    Moon Honey

    Moon Honey

    Heeeeeeeeeey, you know how someone starts a blog and then they don't use it for literally over a year? So gauche. Who would do that?

    Anyway, we intend to start using these pages a bit more again because why not‽ 

    And to start, we really must tell you about our friends' band, Moon Honey. Moon Honey is really great psych-prog-rock-gotta-see-em-to-believe-em band based Los Angeles, CA. And the two mistress-/master-minds behind Moon Honey—Jess + Andrew, above—are both longtime vegans and all-around awesome people.

    Their new video for their song "Life Has No Meaning" features four former + current MooShoes LA employees, so we pretty much have to share it, right? Right.

    For locals, Moon Honey's throwing a big record release bash next weekend at one of our favorite venues in town, The Echo—get tickets while you can, it's sure to be party.

    We give you "Life Has No Meaning" (in a good way), directed by Rayana Chumthong and Jess Joy.

    Damn Good Food: Krimsey's Cajun Vegan Restaurant

    Damn Good Food: Krimsey's Cajun Vegan Restaurant

    As anyone who's been vegan for very long—and anyone who's been around vegans for very long—we tend to talk about vegan food a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. Too much, some might say, but what do those people know, right?

    One of our favorite more recent additions to the vegan restaurant scene here in Los Angeles is Krimsey's, an all-vegan cajun cafe in North Hollywood. They serve some of the best vegan cajun and creole fare we ever tasted and Baton Rouge native, owner, and the namesake of the restaurant is genuinely one of the nicest people we've ever been lucky enough to know.

    "I opened this restaurant to show people what it really means to be Cajun," Krimsey told us on a recent visit. "It's about treating everyone like family, taking the time to enjoy a meal and the company that comes with it, appreciating the bold and unique flavors of the south, and slowing down long enough to say 'DAMN this food is good!'

    For anyone not familiar with traditional cajun food, Krimsey's represents the culinary traditions of the bayou areas of southern Louisiana pretty thoroughly for such a modest + new restaurant, with a menu featuring an amazing fried heart of palm po boy (below), a hearty roux-based okra gumbo, veggie etouffee—a creamy, spicy stew of bell peppers, onions, garlic, and heart of palm on parboiled rice—and the traditional mainstay, jambalaya (above), in addition to a variety of mouth-watering house-made deserts. They also recently tested out house-made hushpuppies one weekend which—we're happy to report—have now found a permanent home on the Krimsey's menu.

    "We really wanted to get across the communal, welcoming aspect of Cajun culture," Krimsey told us, "putting this into practice by providing shared seating and cozy vibes, elevating it by leaving animals off the menu, and by pouring our souls into the creation of each dish so that it bursts with flavor and heart."

    In our minds (and mouths), they've succeeded and then some.

    LA local or planning to visit soon? See for yourself—Krimsey's is located at 12906 Victory Boulevard in North Hollywood, CA and is open every day except Monday (note that they open early Saturday so you can enjoy coffee and house-made vegan beignets). 

    Krimsey also recently published her first cookbook, which you can buy at MooShoes LA, where she'll also be holding a book party Saturday, July 29th with free tastes of some of the treats from her book.

    Photos of Krimsey by Jessica Ramsey; food and interior photos by raven + crow studio.

    Luxury + Ethics: Our Interview with Sydney Brown

    Luxury + Ethics:  Our Interview with Sydney Brown

    Sydney Brown is a recent addition for us at MooShoes. Over the years, at our shops in NYC + LA and here online, we've been making a conscious effort to carry fewer brands with opaque or unclear production practices. On the other side of that coin, we've also been working to carry more lines that tout transparency in their production and hold on high humane working conditions and eco-friendly manufacturing and materials.

    Luxury vegan shoe company Sydney Brown most definitely fits that bill. As they state on their web site: "Sydney Brown, an American-born designer, founded her eponymous label due to her conviction that luxury could be produced in an environmentally-friendly way. The brand aesthetic is pared down and understated with the focus on luxurious materials, sculptural lines and unusual detailing."

    Co-creative director + Los Angeles store-runner Troy Farmer took some time to talk with the company's namesake to talk about how her brand was born and why ethics beyond veganism are so important to her work.

    Feature photo by Joseph Cultice.

    Troy: So, for anyone not familiar with the brand, can you give us the mission or vision or elevator pitch or whatever you want to call it for Sydney Brown (the company...not you....)?

    Sydney: Sydney Brown is a design-driven, sustainable luxury brand. It’s ideals revolve around the concept of “reverence for life.” This respect for life is extended to three spheres: human, animal, environment. It celebrates the inter-connectedness and inter-dependence on other forms of life. The rights of one species is linked to the rights of others, meaning that recognition, acknowledgement and respect for the life of all things are essential to the brand.

    Most excellent. I read that you studied + worked in Japan for a number of years—we actually just got back from our first visit to Japan and absolutely loved it. Where were you there and what were you doing in terms of work and schooling?

    Yes, it has been 17 years I’ve now worked in Japan! I initially moved there to do a masters program in sound design. I barely began the program before I shifted gears and instead began an electronic music promotion company. I grew up in Detroit and knew many of the techno artists touring in Japan, so this was a natural fit and wonderful opportunity for me. Although I sold my half of the company in 2008, I had co-founded the Taico Club music festival, based in Nagano, Japan, which I still curate and host annually. It has become Japan’s largest charity festival, supporting local environmental NGOs. We just had our 14th edition a couple weeks ago!

    Japanese design and aesthetic is a major influence on me. The national religion of Japan is Shintoism, in which people believe—in extremely simplified terms—that objects have a soul. If you create something, part of your soul is embedded into the object. This concept is extremely important for me, which is why I work on the shoes myself. There is a small part of me in every pair! I love to have time with the shoes before they embark on their adventures all over the world!

    Wow, that festival looks excellent—I hope you caught Little Simz yourself. We love her live show. (IF YOU'RE IN THE HOUSE MAKE SOME NOISE!)

    How did the sound design + music lead you to the shoe biz then (note the total avoidance of any and all 'show biz' puns here)?

    After selling my music company, I moved to Los Angeles and contemplated my next steps. I enrolled in a Spiritual Psychology masters program in 2008 and as part of the program, I began to examine all aspects of my consciousness and my consumption as well—what I ate, what I wore, which companies I supported, etc. I had always been conflicted about wearing leather as I had been a vegetarian since the age of 16, so my New Year’s resolution of 2010 was to stop buying leather.

    After about two weeks into this, I had a big event in LA and needed shoes. I realized that there were no luxury vegan options on the market except for Stella McCartney. Her price point was too high for me and my aesthetic was quite different. I realized that there was a huge hole in the market for people like me, who wanted design-driven, sustainably-made, luxury vegan shoes. I then sought out a shoemaker in LA with whom I apprenticed for one year and learned the craft from pattern-making, through lasting and heel-development. I began making shoes for friends and weddings and the brand grew from there. I then moved to Europe and worked in shoe factories in the UK, Portugal, and Italy.


    Nice. Why was it important to you to create a company and product that was more holistically ethical, concerned not only with the lack of animal-derived materials but also made in fair working working conditions while minimizing environmental impact?

    The fashion industry is the second largest global polluter after big oil! The environmental and human ramifications of this are unconscionable. To create more “stuff” in the world in itself is so loaded. I would never embark on producing anything if it weren’t as environmentally and socially sound as possible.

    So glad to hear that from you and just see more demand for this kind of production and thinking in the marketplace too.

    One of the...challenges for us a MooShoes is explaining to some customers the added financial cost to them for accounting for responsible business practices. Have you hut many roadblocks along those lines as you built Sydney Brown the brand and how have you dealt with those?

    When I began, I had never worked in fashion and had to simply figure out everything myself. I never did and still don’t have any partners, so I am responsible for every aspect of the company. The learning curve has been overwhelming much of the time!

    Many people assume that if the shoes aren’t made of leather, then they are made with cheap, toxic alternatives. The truth is that the development of our materials takes years. I had to basically re-engineer the shoe! I had my own factory in Los Angeles for three years that was primarily dedicated to research and development. There are 15 components in a simple shoe, for example, so if I couldn’t find sustainable or organic options, I had to develop them myself. To trace the supply chain of every single component is incredibly challenging. From the beginnings of the cotton seed being planted, how it is grown, who harvests it—the whole life cycle before it is even developed into fabric—I was chasing this. For example, just imagine tracing the metals in snaps or buckles! Where is the original ore mined, what are the social and political conditions of the workers, etc.

    Sounds like it could be overwhelming at times, but, again, even the fact that there is this demand in the marketplace and that it can be met—understandably, with much more work involved—is a huge gain, I think. Can you go into your materials a little bit? I know you seek out the higher-end, more luxurious materials—how do some of them differ from your run-of-the-mill vegan (or non-vegan) shoe?

    The main material that we use is bonded cork. Every summer we harvest the cork in southern Portugal, then shave, press, dye it and then bond it to organic cotton. This is an incredibly labor-intensive process and takes time. We can only harvest the cork of one tree every nine years, as that is duration of the regrowth process. If we sustainably harvest the cork like this, it is a renewable resource that will last hundreds of years. 

    The wood for our heels and platforms comes from PEFC-certified German beech wood. Our soles are made from natural rubber, supporting indigenous tribes of the Amazon.

    90% of shoes generally are made with pig-fat glue. It took us over four years, working with adhesive chemists in Italy, the USA, and Portugal to finally develop a suitable alternative.

    How is the iridescent material constructed? It's so impressive visually.

    Like all of our materials, we developed our iridescent materials in-house over the years. This material is made from polymers derived from natural renewable sources and is an extremely high-tech, future fabric. To develop and produce this is incredibly involved and much more expensive to produce than leather. We are still working on improving this. We are far from perfect, but we try to refine it with every collection. The creation of 100% solvent-free, petroleum-free products, with zero environmental impact, is the near-future goal for our R&D.

    Was there a conscious decision to elevate ethical/sustainable fashion a bit from your end; battle the misconception that all vegan or ethical fashion is stunted in terms of fashion-forward-ness?

    Yes! Many people still think of vegan footwear as being granola, hippy, clown-shoes. We have aimed to be on the shelves next to luxury brands, so that if customers see two pairs of well-designed, beautiful shoes, ideally they will choose the consciously-constructed option!

    We were just discussing this at an event for EcoSessions recently. I feel like that's the ultimate goal; creating this product (be it shoes or whatever) that can stand next to its rival that uses animal leather and look just as stylish, be just as well-made in worker-friendly conditions, just as or more eco-friendly, and cost no more than the non-cruelty-free product; eliminating the barriers to shop cruelty-free in all aspects of life. Then what kind of asshole would actually chose the product that does hurt animals/people/the earth?

    Switching gears though, we love what you've got so far, but any plans to expand the men's offerings in the future?

    Yes! For SS18 we are adding a chukka style and we will slowly grow from there. This is a new market for me and I want to be as thoughtful and prudent in the development as possible.

    Personally, I have to say I'm very much looking forward to that. Anything else lined up for future release that you're excited about and can talk to now?

    For SS18, we are launching a new material made from the vegetable, fennel!

    WHAAAAAT‽

    We are constantly experimenting and after a couple years of development, this is finally ready for production. It almost looks like a psychedelic print, so we are very excited about this!

    That's absolutely rad. Also rad—I really dig your site design; love the video loops for the men's + women's collection. Who designed all of that for you, if you don't mind my asking?

    I designed the website myself and the video is a collaboration between myself and a wonderful filmmaker in Porto, Marcelo Graf Reis.

    Awesome again! Well, we can't wait to see what else is to come from you. Thanks again for taking the time to talk, Sydney.

     

     

     

    Brand Spotlight: Ahimsa

    Brand Spotlight: Ahimsa

    Today, we're highlighting a brand we carry in the store—Brazilian vegan shoe-maker, Ahimsa. Though the company's only been around a few years, they immediately became a favorite in both our New York store and our Los Angeles one.

    Ahimsa's truly a family affair, having been started in 2013 by Gabriel Silva and his father, Cisso Silva. Before he got in the vegan shoe biz, Gabriel was an airplane pilot. But, after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, he had to hang up his wings.

    The diagnosis also led to some bigger life changes for Gabriel, moving him to a vegetarian—and eventually vegan—lifestyle. As he began to make these lifestyle changes, he returned home to work with his father—a 30+ year veteran in Brazil's footwear industry. As he started to eliminate animals from his diet, Gabriel came to the realization that most vegan footwear available to him wasn't up to the standards of the traditional, hand-made, high-quality footwear .

    From there, the rest is history. The father-and-son duo started Ahimsa by outsourcing production for a small line-up of products in their first 6 months. But after that initial run and the positive reaction to the products, they decided to step up their game, starting their own, all-vegan shoe factory.

    Today, Ahimsa continues to produce high-quality, stylish shoes using durable, sustainable materials while employing old-world tradition. They family-run factory pays fair wages to their workers and has brought a thriving industry to the region, keeping cruelty to animals out of the mix at every step.

    If you're in the area, come by our New York or Los Angeles stores to see the shoes for yourself; or you can always check out their brand page her online.

    All photos: raven + crow studio.

    Ahimsa

    Ahimsa

    Ahimsa

    Ahimsa