For three years I searched for second hand leather boots to wear on the farm. Three years I searched eBay, Gumtree and op shops hoping that I’d find a used pair of women’s size 5 boots so that I could go hiking on my own property in comfort.
Three years I failed to find a pair of stylish second hand boots to fit my tiny feet.
So instead I wore gumboots. Although my gumboots poorly support my ankles, the sole is at least made of rubber, unlike my pair of RM Williams pull up boots which has a slippery leather sole and not ideal for hiking.
I didn’t consider purchasing a pair of new vegan boots because the little research I did failed to bring up a stylish pair that I liked and plus, I’m suss on some ‘vegan’ materials. Although some claim to be ‘cruelty-free’ many are cruel to the environment. I prioritise natural fabrics and materials for this reason.
Related Post: Vegan Leather Options & Alternatives to Animal Leather
Now when Mamahuhu – known for handcrafted ethically-made animal leather shoes – got in touch wanting to collaborate I felt stuck.
Early this year I turned vegan. I don’t consider myself a militant vegan but vegan enough to think long and hard about the decision to collaborate with this brand.
After a couple of days mulling it over, I decided to go ahead with the ad collaboration.
Here’s why I’m giving this brand my support…
Positive social impact.
We’ve featured Mamahuhu twice already on the blog and I’m familiar with the brand’s mission to ‘do good.’
Mamahuhu shoes are currently made in ethical workshops in Colombia. The leather industry in this part of the world has suffered as a result of globalisation. Where the industry was once thriving, many of the leather workshops struggle to remain open in the face of stiff competition from cheap shoe manufacturers in Vietnam, India and China.
The social enterprise is helping highly skilled leather artisans set up workshops so they can run fully-fledged independent businesses, work with other shoe brands, and employ others in their community. In addition, Mamahuhu is investing in online marketing activities and opening bricks and mortar stores to help drive global demand for its shoes so there is stable stream of work for the Colombian workshops.
The shoe brand has seven bricks and mortar stores in Colombia and two stores in Spain and currently supports 120 artisans but there are plans to expand into other communities so as to help struggling leather artisans and make a greater positive impact.
The shoes are stylish.
As part of our ad campaign collaboration, I was required to choose a pair of Mamahuhu shoes to wear for the style shoot. It didn’t take me long to decide on the pair of boots that I wanted. I chose Mamahuhu’s signature style Colorines in the Silky Blueberry colour perfect for the farm. Instead of red laces I asked for black laces so I could match the boots with more outfits.
When the parcel arrived and I opened the box, to say that I was ecstatic with the shoes is a complete understatement. I fell in love right then and there, and I’m not the type who falls in love easily. The shoes are exquisite, with a leather insole and lining. But beyond how it looks, after inspecting the shoes I could see how beautifully made they were. It had ‘quality’ written all over it.
I turned to Ben my fiance to show him my new boots. He grabbed one to inspect it more closely. Ben has had a run of bad luck with thongs (flip flops) with none surviving past the 6 month mark so his current pet peeve is poorly made footwear. After carefully running his eyes and fingers over my new pair of boots, Ben looked up and asked me if the brand made men’s boots. I assured him Mamahuhu did.
“I’m going to get a pair as well,” Ben said. He received no arguments from me.
“It takes around 24 hours to finish each shoe. That’s because it rests on a shoe tree for something like 16 hours and that’s what retains it shape,” shares Henrik Sætre “Chief Online Officer” of Mamahuhu Online (the online division of Mamahuhu) during our Skype call.
With the level of skill involved and the amount of time an artisan spends creating a pair of shoes, I’m surprised at how affordable these shoes are for such a quality product (AUD $188.00). Knowing that someone took the time to cut the leather by hand, sew it and nail it to a shoe tree means that these aren’t just another pair of boots, this is really someone’s work of art.
Its leather is a byproduct of the meat industry.
“Colombia has a huge meat industry and the leather used is a byproduct of the industry. We’re not killing any animals to get the leather,” clarifies Henrik.
To know that an animal wasn’t killed just for its hide brings me some comfort, although I still feel a few pangs of guilt knowing that an animal’s life had been taken for its meat. However as a non-purist vegan and sustainability advocate, I rationalise that it’s improbable that the entire world population will become vegan so using the byproduct instead of wasting it is the right thing to do.
Plus “the leather is ‘eco certified'” Henrik tells me. “Of course we pay extra for that.”
So what does being ‘eco certified’ mean? Essentially it means that each piece of leather is tanned chromium-free making it more sustainable and non-toxic to those handling it.
We source our leather directly from Itagui, the best tanneries in Colombia, where Italy imports its leather from. As opposed to low quality production, each piece of leather we use is certified as Chromium Free and tinted thoroughly with ink.” – Mamahuhu
Henrik also tells me if the boots get scratched it will retain its colour because the leather has been dyed throughout. I’m happy to learn this. Hiking on our farm inevitably means the boots will get scratched and I’d like the boots to look as new as possible for as long as possible.
Honest and open.
I expect ethical brands to be transparent and forthcoming with information when I ask, and Effy and Henrik didn’t disappoint. But I particularly liked that Henrik didn’t hold back on their personal lives too. To me it signifies that they are comfortable with their story and have nothing to hide.
“I was working for a Fortune 50 company and Effy was working with Fortune 50 companies and it didn’t give us that much,” admits Henrik. So he and his fiance and business partner Effy Yu sought to look for more meaningful work and something that was location-independent so that they would have greater freedom to move between Norway and China, where Henrik’s and Effy’s families are based.
Where there lives take a turn is when their friends, social entrepreneurs Carolina Rodrigues and Luis Moreno, founders of Mamahuhu, give them the chance to take on the brand’s e-commerce responsibilities. Henrik and Effy decided that it was exactly the opportunity they were looking for. The couple could utilise their online business and marketing skills and satisfy their craving for work that is purposeful.
But like with all start-up businesses, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. The couple has faced a few challenges. The biggest of which is competing with fashion brands who don’t pay workers a living wage. “I’d say we pay at least two or three times more for our product compared to normal shoe brands.”
Then there’s the marketing battle. “The budget that we have to play with is miniscule compared to fast fashion brands. For every shoe they sell, they spend way more on marketing than they do on the actual shoe. We can’t outspend them, there’s no way we can do that. So we have to do PR and get the Mamahuhu story out there. That’s why we have to work with bloggers like you – because you have the reach to the right people.”
Pure honesty. Love it.
To shop Mamahuhu’s ethically-made shoes, visit www.mamahuhu.online
Photography – Ben McGuire
Styling – Jennifer Nini
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Mamahuhu. The boots were gifted as part of this collaboration. Specific product information is checked with the company. Opinions are that of the writer’s only. Eco Warrior Princess strives to only work with brands that meet our high ethical standards. For more information about our ad policies, click here.