Do you know the name of the cobbler who made your shoes? Was it an Italian artisan contracted by one of your favorite labels? Or was it a young girl from Uzbekistan who's being forced into child labor? 

We've all been there before. You want new shoes. No, you need new shoes. But you have absolutely no more than $50 to spend on them. I've been a full-time college student for almost five years now. Trust me, I know the struggle. Just because I know a lot about expensive clothing and can spot a Celine bag from forty yards away doesn't mean I can afford one. 

I'd be lying to you if I said half my closet wasn't made possible by the outsourced jobs of Forever 21 factories. It's definitely not something I'm advertising, and expensive brands certainly aren't exempt from questionable labor practices

The fashion industry is a business after all. It's littered with some of the most artistic and creative people who have ever lived, but it's also helmed by CEOs with business degrees who make decisions about how the product you want to buy from them is made.

I am deeply committed to the idea that personal style and clothing choices are an integral part of the way we communicate to people around us. It's the physical manifestation of what we tell ourselves we are. It's so important, and anyone who discounts "fashion" as simply a shallow clique for rich white girls isn't taking even one second to think critically about it. 

Luxury is a big part of fashion, and the stereotypical definition of the word "luxury" evokes images of exotic handbags made out of crocodile, or floor-length fur coats. Aesthetically and theoretically, I admire and understand these things. But I'm not shy about the fact that I make every effort to avoid animal exploitation when I purchase things. (I do still have some leather boots and wool coats that I am praying last forever, or at least almost ever.) But I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't make an equal effort to avoid human cruelty as well.  Humans are animals too, after all!

Enter shoemaker Stephanie Nicora, founder of the Nicora Johns brand. She used Kickstarter to fund her dream of making stylish shoes that are cruelty-free to both animals and humans while remaining eco-friendly and keeping the labor here in America instead of outsourcing. 

Pictured on the left it Giisha, one of the master shoemakers working for Nicora Johns and actually being paid a fair wage for his craft. The company runs an Instagram and Tumblr where they post photos of new products, as well as photos of their shoemakers working. 

They have everything from dainty brogues to platform boots, and the best part is, since every pair is handcrafted, you can customize EVERYTHING. Davey Havok ordered a pair of custom, black lace-up boots and they are fucking cool.  

The idea for starting the company began with both nostalgia for an old American craft lost, and a genuine empathy for all the unemployed American artisans, who could be benefiting from having full-time fulfilling work as craftspeople making shoes. Currently only 1% of the shoes Americans buy are made in America, and this number decreases by 7% every year. 

Today, the shoe industry is one of the highest polluting industries in the world. Between the chemicals required to treat leather or make synthetic materials, the agricultural destruction caused by overgrazing livestock, shoe materials make the top ten list of world’s most polluting industry every year.

The number one thing on my Christmas wish list this year is a pair of black on black Priscilla wedges. Priced at an absurdly reasonable $198, I'm sure my parents will be stoked to tuck these under the tree for me. (Right, parents?!) When you consider that no humans, animals, or planets were harmed in the production, and that you can email their customer service department for special sizing at no charge, less than $200 for a pair starts to sound cheap! 

Bonus: They won't fall apart after two months like the cheap, factory-made shoes you're used to!


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