My Life In Stellas by Kathryn Knox proves that leading a sustainable, animal-friendly lifestyle can be fashionable – not just granola! Click to read Part One and Part Two of DFW Style Daily’s new series. Hi again! In honor of this special Earth Day week, I’m opening up my closet of shoes and sharing my favorite sustainable, animal-free go-to brands. I’m fully aware of what you’re thinking - Fashion forward, sustainable vegan shoes? Can't happen! I used to think that, too, and it’s time I defended my favorite accessory. Back in 2006, when transitioning from 100% vegetarian to a sustainable vegan lifestyle, the lack of fashion-forward alternatives made giving up my leather shoe addiction almost the hardest part. And I certainly wasn't giving them up overnight, or exchanging them for eco-unfriendly cheap plastic knock-offs. Today, many years and innovations later, animal-free shoes have come a long way. I’m quite certain that my current shoe collection could give my previous leather version some fierce competition! But before I share some of my current favorites, I want to clarify a few things. 1. Let’s knock it off with the knock-offs. People say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but original designs seem to be going the way of the dodo bird. These days, we can walk into certain retailers and virtually trip over more than our fair share of footwear knock-offs. Those high-low capsule collections are only slightly better, at least having the designers' stamps of approval. When shopping in the sustainable category, let's keep design integrity in mind. 2. Slow down and learn the facts. Everyone loves a good deal, and in our demand for fashion equality, we’ve given rise to billion dollar fashion empires. We may live in a fast-paced society, however, I recommend we slow down a minute to consider where and how our new shoes (and other items of clothing) are made. You want to work under fair conditions and be paid accordingly, so shouldn’t we expect the same for everyone? Paying artisans for the actual cost it takes to produce something sustainably may mean more for you, but in the big picture, it really means more for all. 3. Leather-free isn’t always better. What’s worse, exploiting animals or people? I will spare you the details of leather production here. While it’s true that foregoing leather has a positive environmental impact and limits your exposure to chemicals like formaldehyde, arsenic, and mercury (all used in its production), a lot of petroleum-based alternatives aren’t any better. A closer look at some leather-free shoes can uncover hidden animal by-products in both glues and dyes. What’s more, plastics like PVC, sometimes used in shoe production, release toxins during manufacturing which have been linked to cancer and birth defects. Not to mention, they leave quite an environmental impact in their wake. With these thoughts in mind, you can rest assured there are animal-free shoe companies that offer fantastic, sustainable, and fashion-forward alternatives. Here are some of my favorites: She revolutionized fashion, proving that compassion is the ultimate luxury and it does not mean sacrificing style. My current fave from Stella McCartney are these Valerie faux suede and plexi wedges. Not relegated to only special occasions, Cri de Coeur features everyday fashion with a kick. Here, I’m showing the Dove ankle strap platform sandal in grey. Because heels don’t always work, but flip-flops and running shoes shouldn’t be the answer, I like Neuaura’s Ozora in white. Made from repurposed and recycled material, the same used for FedEx paks, Unstitched Utilities won’t necessarily help you arrive on time. They are, however, comfortable and offer both men's and women's styles. Men, those burlap and canvas shoes are no longer your only option. These are all for you, by Brave Gentleman + Novacas. So, hang in there. Rebuilding your shoe wardrobe, while daunting at first and more expensive up-front, is totally worth the effort. A few years down the road, you’ll have amassed a nice collection that you’re actually proud to wear! If you have any specific questions, or want to suggest a sustainable, animal- free shoe line, email me through our Contact Page. All text herein represents the informed opinion of DFW Style Daily contributor Kathryn Knox. All product images via individual retailer websites. Kathryn wears a tee shirt by Threads for Thought, leggings by Pact, and shoes by Stella McCartney. Photos of Kathryn Knox by Rochelle Brodin Photography.