Brands Causes Environment Reviews

No Fakin’ Vegan Shoes: The Sydney Brown Review

Written by Julia Eden

While browsing Instagram recently, I came across a shoe. An amazing rendering of an earthy purple/blue/brown high heel with a vegan label. I have a tendency to dismiss “vegan” brands pretty quickly. The term has been so overused as a marketing ploy to sell cheap plastic, that it is now diluted beyond recognition. But I’m a curious sloth and, pulled in by the pretty colors and sleek design, I clicked.

sydney brown shoes review

The shoe that I found in Instagram that led me to Sydney Brown Shoes

And oh how happy I am that I took the risk! The risk of yet another disappointment and hours of fuming about how “vegan-leather is not a real thing!!!” My poor puppy, the true victim, having to bear witness to my tirade. Sydney Brown Shoes is not that brand. Working in Portugal where her shoes are handcrafted, I am confident that Sydney Brown is in this fight with the rest of us, doing her best to do her best.

Inspired and guided by a minimalist Japanese aesthetic, the shoes are show-stopping events of simple pops of color, design by subtraction, and high-quality, innovative materials.

Sydney Brown Shoes Review

The Derby Marble is the perfect example of simple styling allowing for a focus on texture. With an upper made from cork bonded to organic cotton, and heels made from responsibly harvested wood, the few synthetic materials in Sydney Brown shoes tend to be of the recycled variety.

One Of Fashion’s Dirty Little Secrets…

Shhh…Don’t tell anyone what I’m about to tell you…but there is glue in almost everything you own. The amount of glue in the fashion industry, and especially within the design and manufacture of shoes, is quietly ubiquitous. Without going too far down the rabbit hole, you should know that the vast majority of the glues available are derived from either animal or toxic sources. They are also incredibly dangerous to the environment and the employees who make it, and are generally just yucky.

Sydney Brown Shoes Review

Harmful fumes intoxicate workers generated from latex, neoprene and adhesives used in shoe manufacturing.

This is where I really sat up and took notice of the Sydney Brown brand. Not only do they publicly acknowledge the use of glue, they are actively trying to do something to make it better. In Sydney’s own words:

“Since at least 90% of shoes contain pig fat glue, developing new glues was a major priority. As water-based glues are much harder to work with and take much longer to dry, these were not suitable alternatives. For almost five years, I worked with adhesive chemists in the US, Italy, Portugal and the UK to develop and perfect our glues. I’m proud to say that now they are non-toxic and have no animal ingredients!”

I have to admit, reading that put a little flutter in my belly! For many of the companies that I’ve spoken with, glue is an admitted issue, but one they have been unable to resolve or even properly address (in some cases). Sydney’s willingness to be so open about her materials and processes, and her obvious dedication to getting it right, are the elements that boost my shopping confidence. While so many businesses are simply donating money with no regard to manufacturing processes and the environmental contribution as a whole (aka “green-washing”), I can trust a Sydney Brown shoe was made with only the best intentions!

The iridescent purple may have sold out already, but fear not! Who needs crazy purple when you can have chic black on German beech wood? The languid lines of the heel lead to the faux-nappa upper, which, according to Ms. Brown herself, is made from “polymers derived from natural renewable sources and has CO2 emission at zero level”. I look at this clog and I see cold mornings with french press coffee in the backyard, days spent strolling botanical gardens and river banks, and cups of tea by the fireplace at night…

So if you find yourself needing a new work-appropriate heel or flat, or a funky new pair of something sporty, embrace your vegan lifestyle (or just your meat-free days), forget about the leather, and treat yourself to a little pared-back luxury and whispered statement.

About the author

Julia Eden

With a passion born in rivers, Julia Eden has spent the last decade crusading for the environment. Educated in fashion design and English Literature, and skilled in dance, she is dedicated to finding the information needed to live a new and better life. While not quite a Luddite, she would very much like to live in a cave with a wolf and an internet connection.

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