Terra Plana, recipient of the Observer's Ethical Fashion Product 2007, blends high style with sustainable materials and manufacturing. The U.K.-based brand has developed a collection using recycled and low-impact materials such as vegetable-tanned leather, E-leather (a textile and leather scrap composite which mimics leather), and natural latex soles. To develop greater transparency as a company, Terra Plana created a series of icons which help customers learn more about how the shoes are constructed, from "handmade" to "minimum glue" to "locally sourced." It broaches the question: how are other shoes made? As the Worn Again site notes, "making shoes is one of the most toxic, polluting, resource intensive industries there is."
Terra Plana teamed up with Anti Apathy, an eco-awareness organization, to create the Worn Again sub-brand. Shoes from this collection are made from 100% recycled materials whose first lives ranged from surplus army jackets and coffee bags to car seat scrap leather and recycled rubber, among others. The website details their ethical policies and practices, and takes viewers inside the design process, from protoypes to construction at the shoe factory. It's a fascinating view of the design process from a sustainable perspective.
Simple Shoes, based in California, takes a similar approach to its marketing, taking care to educate the customer about all of the materials that come together to make their products. This level of sharing is rarely found in the fashion industry - eco-friendly or not - and it is a refreshingly honest model. It also makes the consumer feel empowered and informed, leading to a happier purchase.
Simple rates its footwear as “good,” “better,” and “best,” by taking into account the materials used in construction. The shoes range from organic cotton sneakers with car tire outsoles to jute slip-ons with bamboo linings. All of their products utilize water-based cements and they use 100% recycled paper pulp for their boxes and foot forms. Their charming website shows how each material is harvested and used in Simple products.
Brands like Terra Plana and Simple are really pushing the boundaries of the eco-friendly market. They are creating websites that are fun and exciting to visit, and the information on the sites is engaging, helping visitors know exactly how products are made. Consumers value this knowledge, and it leads to a greater overall desire for the product. When an item is desired and cherished for its background as much as its aesthetic, it holds a higher personal value. Additionally, Terra Plana and Simple are using innovative imagery in their graphic marketing campaigns. In Terra Plana’s 2008 graphics, models bear the heads of wild animals, almost suggesting a customer who is not the average consumer. Simple’s laid-back web banter and cheerful graphics again suggest a certain target market rather than a generic eco-warrior. One of their ads includes the tagline: “You care about the planet but don’t want to look like a hippie. Got it.” These brands understand that within the growing area of eco-conscious fashion, there are distinct personalities with an interest in both style and substance.