Meet Aera, a new luxury brand that combines the time-honored art of Italian cordwaining with contemporary social and environmental sensibilities. To wit? The shoes are vegan, eco-friendly and transparent.
They’re also carbon negative, which means they reportedly remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they generate.
Achieving this, though no easy feat, sets an “important precedent for this industry given our current global climate challenge,” according to Keith Killpack, technical director for SCS Global Services, which Aera commissioned to conduct an independent life-cycle assessment for its shoes.
To offset its carbon and water footprints by 110 percent, Aera invested in an accredited reforestation project in the southeastern United States and purchased water-restoration certificates through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.
“And we’re not stopping there,” Tina Bhojwani, the company’s co-founder and CEO, said in a statement. “Our next objective is to find ways to offset other key impacts.”
Aera produces its shoes in partnership with two multigenerational family-owned factories in the Veneto region of Italy, where it also sources 95 percent of its materials. Bhojwani notes that the company is committed to living wages, not only for its direct employees but also for the employees of its suppliers. Since it sells its shoes directly to the consumer, it can afford to pass on those savings, she said.
“We are working to set a new normal, one in which style, design and quality are analogous with sustainability,” Bhojwani added.
Aera’s inaugural, “seasonless” collection comprises 10 women’s styles and five men’s styles with a selection of “gender-fluid” boots and loafers. Sold online at www.aeranewyork.com, the shoes range in price from $245 to $445.
The popularity of vegan shoes and apparel has been growing alongside the upward tick in people switching from meat-heavy diets to plant-based ones. Both the Economist and the Guardian have proclaimed 2019 the year of the vegan. Retail analysts at Edited have also observed a “considerable shift” in vegan-friendly shoes, which accounted for 32 percent of the U.S. market in January 2019 compared with 16 percent in January 2018. Similarly, Edited found a “significant” 75 percent increase in products described as vegan in the United Kingdom year over year.