Last Wednesday after work I picked up my new vegan casual shoes for the office. I ordered these vegan Princeton shoes from Alternative Outfitters, as the only non-leather options I could find in local stores were cheap Payless shoes made in China under unknown/questionable labour conditions. It is equally important for me to buy vegan products, so animals need not suffer and die for me, as it is to buy products made under fair labour conditions, so people need not slave away in sweat shops for me.
I had been wearing, when I had to be more dressed up for work, an old pair of leather dress shoes. They felt like a skeleton in my shoe closet. I had purchased them several years ago when already vegan because I had no dress shoes, had an interview for a job in two days (no time for mail order) and needed good looking shoes quickly. I could have bought a cheap pair of shoes at Payless that were man-made, but then I worried about the people who made the shoes (I could find nothing about fair labour conditions). I was in an ethical quandary.
When my workplace changed its dress policy to allow jeans and t-shirts, I bought a pair of black Converse running shoes that happened to be made of man-made materials. I don't know about the labour conditions at Converse. I used them until they were completely run down, with holes in their soles and missing eyelets. And then, while I was still trying to stretch the life of those, the office dress policy reverted back to business casual. I had to get new shoes and, having some time, but finding no decent local options for shoes that were both vegan and manufactured under fair labour conditions, I mail-ordered.
Speaking of local vegan options, I found a place in Toronto's Kensington Market called Left Feet. It turns out they had to close their doors Sept. 11, 2009 because they could not renew their lease. They are looking for a new location. I also found a shop called Vegans Love Lava out of Guelph, ON, just a 15 minute drive from my workplace, but they have no store front and their vegan dress shoes are expensive. Their cheapest vegan dress shoe for men was over a hundred dollars before shipping, while the shoes I ordered from Alternative Outfitters were still under a hundred after shipping & handling and duty.
I hope these last me a while - at least a couple of years. I'll keep you updated.