Although I’m a self-professed minimalist, when it comes to shoes, I honestly don’t think you can have enough. As long as they’re well-made, classic, or so over the top weird that they’ll never go out of style, a solid shoe collection is the perfect compliment to a minimal wardrobe. Why? Because changing shoes can literally change an entire look, resulting in the need fewer garments in your closet. That being said, when I was introduced to SOULiers Studio via Katie Hession from YOW City Style (thank you Katie!), I was intrigued and excited to discover a cruelty-free, vegan footwear online store based out of Ottawa! I’ve always wondered about the merits of a non-leather shoe, so I jumped at the opportunity to test drive a pair when the owner, Lise Beutel, kindly offered.
I chose a pair of Italian-made MINK red patent flats. As a minimalist dresser, these flats are the perfect punch of colour and polish to my normally neutral, relaxed looks. I love that they elevate any look with their shine and sleek design – allowing me to get my hustle on in style. AND they’re cruelty-free to boot. I wore them throughout my recent trips to Malta, Sicily, and Rome, and am happy to report that they wear just as comfortably as a pair of real leather shoes. The craftsmanship is impeccable and I always get a little spring in my step from wearing such a fun pop of colour.
SO – back to this awesome new online store and its very cool owner: Lise has created an online store that features a curated collection of cruelty free, vegan footwear that is stylish, sturdy, and comfortable. That’s a tall order to fill for footwear, but after wearing mine in crazy hot weather for long periods of time – these shoes deliver. So please trust me when I tell you this is a MUST-VISIT site for shoe lovers (ie; 90% of the female population, amiright?).
I couldn’t leave this blog post gushing over shoes, because in this important move towards stylish, sustainable fashion, the people behind it are the best part of the narrative. I had a chance to sit down with Lise and chat with her about her new store. Namely, I wanted to know; what made her start this initiative?
Although I hate the overuse of this word – Lise’s “journey” with living a vegan and more sustainable lifestyle started about five years ago when she decided she didn’t want to eat meat anymore. From there, a more conscious lifestyle followed at a slower pace. Consuming more literature and education around sustainability and cruelty free products, as well as understanding industrial agriculture and whats behind it, the majority of Lise’s lifestyle is plant based and foscuses on reducing her environmental footprint.
For someone who already had an educational background and career in sustainability, Lise became increasingly aware of what she was wearing and where it was coming from, and realized that in her search for stylish, current garments and accessories that were eco-friendly, the pickings were slim – especially in the footwear department. After dabbling in the online vegan fashion community, there were only mentions of low-cost, cheaply made footwear – which could technically carry the label “cruelty free”, couldn’t be counted on for long-lasting quality. And Lise, being a lady after my own slow-fashion heart – wanted something that offered the same durable, high standards as real leather.
Thinking she couldn’t be the only one with this conundrum (a correct assumption in my opinion; in my days as manager of a luxury footwear boutique, we received many people asking for expertly crafted, high quality shoes that weren’t leather), Lise went ahead and decided to fill the gap herself. She found several options to meet discerning tastes and eco-conscious values, but they weren’t readily available in Ottawa.
And so SOULiers Studio was born. Like any business, getting started and bringing her vision to life required a lot of planning, and rigorous due diligence. This is what I especially love about SOULiers Studio – Lise’s background in sustainability gives her a competitive edge when it comes to asking the right questions for sussing out high calibre suppliers and avoiding greenwashing. A lot of back and forth correspondence, charming persuasion (which she clearly has in addition to a great sense of style), and a solid business plan factored into bringing unique suppliers on board. In some cases, we are seeing some first to market brands – that means nobody else is carrying them in Canada – how cool is that?! In every case, Lise ensures each brand she takes on shares her values, ethos and sense of aesthetic. I love knowing that the person behind this new business has a wealth of knowledge on which she can draw to ask the right questions on her customers’ behalf.
Which sheds light on a secondary benefit to SOULiers Studio – educating consumers about cruelty-free and sustainable footwear. Since the “vegan” lifestyle can get a bad rap, Lise hopes that her curated collection of shoes show that consumers don’t have to compromise on values to have beautiful things.
After perusing the SOULiers Studio website, I think it’s safe to say that Lise has succeeded in her first foray into the vegan footwear world. Not only that, but the minimalist side of me is easily satisfied. The site’s selection isn’t overwhelming, yet there is clearly a shoe for every type of personal style out there. Gamine brogues for the androgynous, confetti-print pumps for the feminine maximalist, and a great block heel sandal (OMG ON SALE!) for the trend-setter round out a straightforward yet playful selection. In an online world where consumers are paralyzed by choice and volume, this is a refreshing and highly shoppable (yes, I just made that word up) site.
A huge thank you to Lise for making Ottawa cooler and more conscious, and for letting me be a part of it! Now get adding to that sustainable shoe collection and check. It. OUT!