It feels good to get by with less, especially when the items you're purchasing will likely last forever. This is just one of the many benefits of building an ethical closet. Fast-fashion not only moves quickly from the runway to the consumer, but it also ends up in your "I have nothing to wear pile" almost instantly. At the sake of adding gross amounts of pollution and toxicity to the planet as the synthetic, cheap-to-produce fabrics start to breakdown. Think low air quality, polluted soil, and up to 10% of Greenhouse gas emissions.
Fashion as a form of expression and creativity is something we hold dear here at Laka, and we are slowly making the shift to only supporting beauty, shoe, and clothing brands that stand for low-impact production and practice slow growth as a form of Wellness.
We personally have livedin ourMohinder’sHirachi’s since the day we got them at last year’s Mercado Sagrado festival held in Malibu Canyon. The brand believes in upholding leather shoemaking and perpetuating a low-impact on the environment by way of smart fashion. They are based in San Francisco, Mumbai, and Athani, India. Theirnew sandalis the perfect slip on and will mold, stretch, and cradle your every-size foot so that you can walk this earth in comfort and ease.
The earth delights to feel your feet, and we believe ethical shoe shopping should be your biggest investment. We took a deep dive in the ethics and production behind Mohinder Shoes and are so excited to share firsthand some of their mission and mantra - from conception, to production, to delivery. Non-toxic shoe lining and leather tanning are just a couple of reasons why we grant Mohinder an all-around gold star.
A little bit about Mohinder?
Mohinders is a shoe company based in San Francisco, Mumbai, and Athani, India. We showcase heirloom shoemaking and traditionally-tanned leather.Our collection of handmade footwear and its primary material, water buffalo leather, share a deep and rich history in northern Karnataka.
Mohinders are made by of 3rd-and 4th-generation families of shoemakers whose families of origin designed and made this style of shoe. We collaborate with the shoemaking cooperative on key design updates and new styles. We strive to uphold respectful design, fair business practices, and low environmental impact at every step of the process.
What makes your business model unique?
We work with families of 3rd- and 4th-generation master shoemakers in Athani, India, who are part of a cooperative working structure. This means: they work as a group of entrepreneurs, facilitated by a local NGO. We also work closely with the NGO. Through six years of frequent visits, we’ve come to understand and witness quality of their business training and the meaningful piece rate increases participating groups of shoemakers have experienced.
The shoemakers we work with participate in NGO-facilitated business education, which provides tools that enable the group to set prices that covers costs and earn profits in a sustainable way. With this shared training, the families of shoemakers determine the piece rate they’ll charge us for each pair of shoes.
Key features of our compensation structure: consistency, and pay up front. We pay the cooperative a portion up front, to cover costs associated with producing each order. Previously, a common practice in Athani was no payment up front. Therefore the artisans had to borrow money from local money lenders at exorbitant rates to cover costs of manufacturing, creating an unsustainable debt cycle.
Many in the cooperative, mostly women, also work in groups to plan and track contributions to personal savings accounts, another effort facilitated by the NGO in Athani.
Mohinders’ collection is rooted in traditional shoe designs that evolved—and are still made—in Athani. When we add design details for longevity and aesthetics, or come up with new styles, we do so in collaboration with and consideration for the shoemakers’ process.
Environmental Impact? With each material used to make and present Mohinders, we do our best to reduce waste and negative environmental impact. We also prioritize sourcing all materials from within India to reduce our carbon footprint and in an effort to direct our company’s resources toward supporting other businesses in this part of the global economy.
We’d like to do everything, all the time, with regards to reducing our environmental impact. But we acknowledge that this can become very expensive in the current global business environment.
In light of this, our top priority is sustainable, long term support for the shoemakers and producers we work with. So, efforts to reduce our environmental impact will never be at the expense of the financial viability of our business.
Some key features below.
Tell us about your bag-tanned buffalo leather....
Water buffalo leather is the primary materials used to make Mohinders. It’s created about an hour from where the shoes are made, using organic (in this case, meaning plant based), botanical tanning agents and no synthetic chemicals. These tanning agents are: acacia tree bark and the myrobalan nut, along with limestone and water as a pre-tanning solution.
This leather is tanned by multi-generational families in rural India who use a process called bag-tanning. It’s a slower, older tanning process than more modern, factory tanning methods.
To our knowledge, this type of process is hasn’t changed much since the ancient days of leather tanning. We perceive it to cleaner than conventionally-tanned leather—and by that, we mean more in balance with the surrounding ecology; as opposed to a larger-scale, factory processes (even those that are “vegetable-tanned”).
The soles, a feature we added, are made of crepe rubber—a plant-based and pretty much single-ingredient material. The crepe rubber soles can be replaced by a cobbler with successful results, to extend the life of a pair of shoes (we wear ours for years).
We also use another veg-tanned lining leather for the insoles, which adds an important level of long-term comfort. We spent a long time researching where this would be sourced, for minimum environmental impact. We work with a tannery that has a Leather Working Group gold star rating (a helpful international certification, for those interested!).
What we’re working on.....
Currently, our shoes include a foam insole. It’s another key design feature we find important for long-term comfort, but we’d like to replace this synthetic material with something either recycled or plant-based. We’re currently researching mycelium-grown leather, recycled foam, and recycled wetsuit neoprene as alternatives.
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