NAE VEGAN | ALFA VEGA
Here's presenting you another chat with one of the founder of the prestigious brand, Nae Vegan, Paula Perèz and the founder of Alfa Vega, Ieva Balciute. Nae Vegan is a brand that believes in no animal exploitation and all the products of the brand are very sustainable yet fashionable.
What inspired you to pursue building your brand and bringing it to life?
NAE stands for No Animal Exploitation
The name carries our mission: to propose an animal-friendly and ecological alternative against human exploitation. Our shoes and accessories are manufactured in certified and ethical factories in Portugal.
When NAE Vegan Shoes was created, our founders were driven by a personal need and duty to reduce the horrific impact on animal lives. This was way back in 2008. Today, we feel more grateful than ever for our community, clients, and friends.
We focus on natural and ecological materials along with the design, style, and quality that Portuguese footwear is recognized for. We work daily to create a tremendous positive impact that meets our cause: to make the world a more sustainable, animal-friendly, and free place to be.
Why do you think Sustainability in the Fashion industry is so important?
The term ‘sustainable fashion’ is best understood when ‘sustainability’ is firstly defined. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, sustainability refers to “the quality of being able to continue over a [long] period of time” while “causing little or no damage to the environment”. Therefore ‘sustainable fashion’ can be said to be a movement in the fashion industry where a long-term, eco-friendly approach is taken to the creation and consumption of products.
Starting by its meaning, the reason we think is a very important question is because the fashion industry is one big giant on what climate impact matters. The environment is at this moment on a huge crisis. Several people said we are already on a situation we thought will be next years if we don’t take action; namely: tomorrow was yesterday on environmental impact point of no return for several and main aspects (check the last International Panel on Climate Change).
In this context we don’t give up to try our best for reverse and care for the planet, and will keep doing our best to still live in this place plenty of beautiful live, changing the ways of traditional industry, promoting the sustainability, to some others able to reinforce and restore the great damage that soon could destroy all our living partners and home.
Can you share your greatest lesson you have learned while working in the fashion industry?
It is a big deal to deal with the giants, harm and unscrupulous of the fashion industry. To live in this environment need to learn with whom you shall be kind and with whom you are in the middle of a struggle, with whom you could become a partner and who are only, for the circumstances, simply “allies” at best.
And this, by the way, makes us spend more time on stand in the market (in marketing actions) than we would like. But are necessary to bring light to what we have done and what we are offering.
Can you tell us about the fabrics/materials that you use and why you chose them?
Well, there is a lot about this question. We always try to find and improve on quality and sustainability by this path, the path to find better materials. We first start only with some basics, with enough quality to make good shoes. By the time, we have launch ourselves in the adventure to try original and innovative materials which are more organic, environmental healthy, lasting, sustainable, in the circular economy and so on.
To give you some words, apart from the web category focused just on explain in a few words the several materials we already use, and its features, what follows could be useful to give you a general idea.
The textile is a key component of a fashion item since it forms the vast majority of the garment or accessories. All textiles are made up of fibres that are arranged in different ways to create the desired strength, durability, appearance, and texture. Fibres can come from many origins, with the four main categories being plant fibres, animal fibres, man-made fibres, and synthetic fibres.
Many consumers are totally unaware of which fibres make up most of their wardrobe, and this is hardly surprising when there is a lack of education surrounding the fibres which we wear day in, day out. For instance, the benefits of switching to organic, less chemically induced textiles are not common topics of conversation. Not only are certain fibres better for the planet and lifesaving to animals, but they can also be kinder on your skin and help you to avoid skin allergies and irritations.
Unfortunately, in the fast-fashion world, the fibre behind the fabric for a garment or accessory is not chosen for its ethics, but for its look and cost. This means the planet, animals, and people come last over monetary gain.
Sustainable fashion on the other hand aims to be kind by creating minimal negative impacts and taking nature, animals, and people into account, for instance by using plant-based fibres such as Pinatex to create cool vegan shoes made from pineapple leaves. Of course, by using alternatives, this does mean it has a greater price tag, but I think we can all agree it’s a fairer one.
What makes your products stand out?
Well, we will not say what is obvious: veganism. What makes us a little different, is that we put a lot of effort in the direction of design and quality/comfort whilst keeping the prices as low as the manufacturing and all labor costs allow us.
In our line styles, you could find, more or less, some featuring models with a timeless and versatile design, shaping up with the planet and the comfort in mind, and you could have confidence and trust in the outcome of our efforts and tests.
It is one of the things our work has reached after a lot of time keeping together those compromises.
How do you think the fashion industry can be improved?
1. IN CARBON FOOTPRINT :
As The New York Times reports, you can calculate your carbon footprint by tallying up a yearly average of how many miles you travel, how much you spend on your shopping, the level of energy usage in your home, and the composition of your diet. Working this out may surprise you, but it will be the first step to cutting it down and give you a benchmark to measure your progress.
The most commonly emitted gas by humans is carbon dioxide, but other harmful gases such as methane will also be included in the count. Globally, the average individual carbon footprint is 4 tons, which needs to drop to under 2 tons by 2050 to avoid a 2℃ rise in global temperatures. Making small changes such as buying from environmentally friendly fashion brands and switching to a vegan diet can help you reduce your impact on the planet. We all must act now.
2. IN LESS CONSUMPTION :
Fast fashion runs on overconsumption, by making people believe constant consumption will make them happy, and God forbid they wear the same outfit twice. But this overconsumption fuels a throw-away society, and the costs to the planet are endless.
As the UNDP reports, “it is estimated that the amount of garments produced annually has doubled since the early 2000s reaching up to 100 billion pieces per year in 2014” . The more clothes that are produced and transported unsustainably, the higher the carbon footprint of the industry. This is particularly an issue when you consider that fast fashion garments have to travel thousands of miles just to reach their destination.
Try your best to shop with minimalism in mind. As a general rule, this means if you do not NEED it, do not buy it.
3. ETHICAL :
Social responsibility, particularly supporting those working along the supply chain. It ensures a better outcome all-round for the planet, and those involved both in the making of the garment, and those purchasing it. For a brand to prove its ethics in the fashion world, transparency is essential.
100% free from animal products and animal by-products. Whether it’s shoes, clothing, or accessories, to be vegan they need to be made without using any animals. When it comes to materials, this means avoiding leather, wool, down, fur, silk, suede, and other materials . But especially with shoes, it is not just the material to watch out for, but also the glue. Unless it states otherwise, the glue used is unlikely to be vegan.
Our circular economy is “based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems”. Since currently, our economy functions on a take-make-waste system - which is not sustainable – a circular economy could be part of the solution.
Is there a specific type of style you aim for when designing your products or do you experiment with different styles throughout the whole process of creating an item?
We use to focus on minimalist casual styles that could match on so many occasions, from working on desk to even running outdoors. So, our styles are, more or less, split in this ways: some comfortable fashion designs that suits with jeans, walking, office, holidays, dress, elegant… and some sportswear that could work fine for their purposes or also for daily use. We think on minimizing the consume of so many different products for each occasion, and try to offer some items that fit for the most. So, this is one of the main questions we have on mind when we are designing our collections (or some occasional products launched/released after or before the season collections).
In times of tough challenges how do you overcome them?
Always strong in difficult times. We start in the beginning of a crisis, and we recently passed through the pandemic and lockdowns. In the middle there was a lot of times to deal with other issues. But we hold on, we put our greater efforts, and we receive a lot of people support that know how we work and how we do what we do, giving us a positive feedback which have been a giant help.
So, we keep doing the same, in the same terms, with fair terms inside and outside. Only adapting to the circumstances and its limitations, to solve and keep moving forward.
In what ways does your brand interact with the consumer?
On the customer care, we try to be transparent without compromising the capability of using all the possible tools available to make easy for them.
From some events where customers can find us personally, to instant chat on several channels where we sell our products, we try to offer our best comprehension, learn from the difficulties the customers could have in several aspects, and improve in give them the best experience.
Which aspects of your production process have changed over time and why?
As time marches on, and the shoewear, and other kind of wear that people need is larger than we could offer when we start, we have evolved in designs and types of products in order to meet more consumer needs. So, this is the thing that changed over this years: from making a few limited kind of shoes, to bring here wallets, hiking bags, running sneakers, fashion belts. And no need to be said, we have used more and more biodegradable, organic and recycled materials, adapting the manufactures to use them.
Discover their trendy yet environmentally friendly shoe selection by clicking the link, and incorporate them into your everyday routine to look fashionable!