Sarah J Coleman Leigh Adams

About Sarah J Coleman & Leigh Adams

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By |July 23rd, 2013|Uncategorized|

I was asked recently for some pointers on buying vegan shoes. After a few minutes' conversation, it dawned on me that there is a much longer reply than just handing out a couple of vegan shoe contacts.

In fact, we've realised that after 16 years of being vegan we have come to the (initially awkward) conclusion that with our footwear, it really does have to be about the wider picture. We make no secret that we are vegan and live our lives as ethically as possible, with the smallest footprint (er, pun, soz) that we can manage practically and economically, but the place we have arrived at is one that has formed gradually from a mid-90s fug of confusion, severely limited options and no internet, to one of well-stewed consideration, thought and rationalising, as time-served shoppers.

Our criteria, for every purchase we make, covers the source of the object, its manufacture (location and process), transit, and ingredients. For shoes - the topic I was originally consulted on - we can no longer make 'but is it made of animal parts?' our only consideration.

So in compiling my response, I thought it might be helpful to others vegans, or potentials, to share it. Here goes.

A shoe-buying decision ends up being almost mathematical, for example using these scenarios. It's a X or a √.
They're all based on personal experience.

Recycled Plastic + Made In Taiwan = x
(Why? Recycled plastic better for environment, but cancelled out by exploited workers earning 1p a day with no wee breaks + cost to the environment of shipping)

Plastic + Made in the UK = √
(Why? Plastic is environmentally unsound, but supporting a British-based company outweighs this. No air freight. Recycled plastic + Made in the UK would obviously be ideal, but doesn't yet exist)

Chrome-tanned Leather + Made in the UK = x
(Why? leather = unappealing for us as vegans + chrome tanning is catastrophic for the environment, regardless of where shoes are constructed)

Vegetable-tanned Leather + Made in an Ethically-approved Chinese Factory = √
(Why? Unappealing for us as vegans BUT veg tanning is virtually harmless to the environment, and ethically-approved factories in China are acceptable, though cost to the environment of shipping must be thought about too)

Vegetable-tanned Leather + Made in the EU - √√ (
Why? unappealing for us as vegans BUT veg tanning is virtually harmless to the environment + EU manufacturing is safe + shipping most likely by sea or land)

Second-hand shoes = always a √√√

Once you also factor in the durability of non-leathers, like Pleather, plastic, PVC, nuede, fabric and nylon, you can see there is more to working this out than first thought.
Here are some examples.

Example 1:
£150 vegan shoes which last 2 years = x (expensive, should last but rarely do in my experience, and thus uneconomical)

Example 2:
Second-hand leather shoes = animal copped it years ago. The shoes are likely to last - they have done so far. If they don't though, you've only spent a few quid, all of which went to charity = √√√

Example 3:
Nice £70 Tom's brand shoes = vegan, every pair you buy the company donates one pair to someone in a third world country.
Thus, your £70 actually pays for two pairs. Great ethics.
However, they are fabric and are thus strictly dry weather summer shoes - a good investment? Could last many summers? Only you can decide this for yourself!
Made in China...but they are working to maintain standards. Make of those kinds of statements what you will - some will be genuine.

Example 4:
£10 non-leather shoes from the High Street = x (will be made in the Far East where at least one human if not several in the chain are being exploited - leave well alone. ANYTHING AT ALL from Primark is poison, non-leather or not. I care not how skint you are - you can make better choices with that hard earned fiver.)

Example 5:
£60 leather shoes from Clarks = traditionally, they will last a long time, but they are a) leather b) made now in the Far East! and c) definitely not vegetable-tanned

Example 6:
£50 shoes from Vegetarian Shoes = not, in our experience, built to last = x
Thus you will most likely end up buying another pair in a year = 200% more synthetic materials used to make shoes in a period which one pair of properly-made shoes should have covered.
Consider instead the possibility of ONE pair of well-made properly sourced leather shoes which will last for many more years.
Total toll on humans and environment is therefore much lower, though animals skins HAVE been used.

You can begin to see why it really isn't that simple. And only you can decide what feels right.

Hot tip: I do a LOT of phoning companies ahead to find out where things are really made. Sometimes they are hostile towards you, or defensive. Don't be put off. Companies need to get used to answering such queries. If they have nothing to hide, they'll answer you.

I do not eat or use animals in ANY part of my life and haven't done for 16 years - this extends to cosmetics, all bathroom stuff, food, drink, materials, clothing, shoes - everything - with the first pair of leather shoes bought earlier this year, after much research and reading and thinking. So I do not take the decision to buy them lightly. I DO put human suffering above animal suffering, since the reality is I feel I have more control over that, but my entire lifestyle is built to cut out my part in any and all animal suffering, and has been for a very long time.

But I would always, always say, however, that it is worth it. Always. My conscience is tortured by many things, but playing a part in inflicting damage on any other living creature is not one of them.

My entire shopping archive is below, male and female, organised by type - and not just shoes!

Enjoy the freedom.



John Partidge
Smedley (BEAUTIFUL knitwear)
Oliver Spencer (some things made in England)
Nudie Jeans
(Japanese/English/Swedish made, organic denim, no sinister finishes)
Vivienne Westwood
Dries Van Noten
Edwin Sen jeans on Liberty website
J Lindeberg (navy trousers etc. made in Croatia)
(has an actual UK factory shop near Derby too)

Beavers of Bolton! 'Country attire' - fitted coats and Tweed

Thundercrackers, smalls etc.:

Philip James Hinckley: Socks, Pantherella
Co-op: Socks,
Socks by HJ Hall, made in Hinckley
Howies: Long Johns
Underwear: look for handmade on eBay



General: (you'll LOVE THESE - clothes manufactured in Leicester!)

Great Plains
(check both of these first - a lot of things still made in China, but a lot in the EU - based in Leicester) (coats) (good) (tights, stay-ups etc.) > Bernard wedding outfit! (accessories) - they're particularly good (sportswear) (underwear) - SUPERB coats and shirts (nice tops) (general)

Cardies and cute dresses:

Arm warmers!

Lace/crochet collars and things:

REAL NICE Dresses:

We live across the road from an enormous tights and stockings factory, Pamela Mann.
We watch tights being made in hundreds of colours and styles.
You can't get much more ethical than that.

For legwear a little more sturdy, try (German engineering, incredibly hardwearing)
and the Austrian wonder that is
with is AWESOME near-porn photography. Everyone's a winner!
These till will probably outline you. My peacock-feather-topped stockings and winter tights are testament.


+ Your creative mates!
Most of my jewellery is either second hand, inherited, my own but decades old, or made by chums as pressies etc.


Some Co-op bags are vegan and not made in China - check the labels.

Handmade hemp/nylon bags ACE!

SHOES: (beautiful and very hardwearing/practical) (USA)
Loints of Holland
Hotter (British company, but check the things you like for manufacturing) (USA)


Actual physical shops:

Junky Styling, Dray Walk, off Brick Lane, London

Equa Clothing Limited
28 Camden Passage (just off Upper Street)
(market stall nearby)

Ekyoga 186 Kings Road SW3 5XP

Oxfam Boutique 123a Shawfield Street SW3 4PL

Viv Westwood! 430 Kings Road SW3

Top Shop's basement, Oxford Circus has local designers and very small independant makers
78 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002 USA

A Case in Point.

By |June 18th, 2013|Uncategorized|

My Mum had my original iPhone (the one with the silver back) and she didn't like any of the cases available. So, just as she did with her Kindle she got her needles out and made one herself.Resourceful, elegant and delicate, it has a soft felt lining a...

To Have And To Hold.

By |April 28th, 2013|Uncategorized|

My terribly efficient agent and friend Aaron and his wife-to-be Chris are getting married in July. How could I not offer to do their invitations for them?

Our copy was received in the post this morning. They’ve done the right thing and foil-stamped these expertly in white on a nice stiff manila board, replete with brown envelopes, round postage stamps and the cute little RSVP cards I put together to go with them. Hand-written addresses of course…

The type was created with black ink on paper (what else, I hear you sigh?). The original artwork is travelling over to NYC with our friends Kama and Dave in May, who will hand-deliver it to Aaron.

It’s going to be a beautiful wedding!

Bernard & Desarae.

By |January 22nd, 2013|Uncategorized|

2012 was a good year, for all sorts of reasons. One of them was the wedding of our dear friends Bernard and Desarae, in the beautiful setting of the hills of Spencer, Massachussetts.We've known Bernard a long time. Poet, writer, activist, musician a...

It’s written all over your…

By |July 3rd, 2012|Uncategorized|

This was a job that never made it to press. I'm not sure why. But it happens, and you have to get used to it! I like to post the rejects from time to time, since they can often include some of the most challenging, successful or less commercial pieces ...


By |March 28th, 2012|Uncategorized|

Ages ago I drew on this pair of shoes owned by Leigh, because a) we could, and b) I'd been to asked to draw on shoes before, but only for shoe companies I wasn't keen to embellish. Leigh's No-Sweat trainers however came with all the ethics and of cours...

Old Faithful.

By |November 25th, 2011|Uncategorized|

We had a happy but sad event in the house last week.Happy, because our new studio desk, which runs the entire length of it and is made of reclaimed wood, finally got slotted into place and covered in our gear.Sad, because my first ever work desk, bo...