Converse sweatshop allegations: where can you buy more ethical trainers?
A week ago, the shoe world was rocked by the news that workers at a factory making Converse shoes (a subsidiary of Nike) were being subjected to some quite appalling treatment, including being 'kicked, slapped and verbally abused' by their superiors.Workers at one plant in Indonesia are even quoted as having said they had the shoes thrown at them when they failed to meet quotas.
Nike has now promised to take action against the individual factories concerned, which it has said do not in all cases meet the company's own ethical standards. We're sure that Nike will do all they can to eradicate the problem from the factories they work with, but it's easy to see how this problem is endemic in many large-scale production lines: companies seem unable to keep track on the conditions under which their goods are produced.
How can you get around this problem? In my opinion the best solution is to stick either to smaller-scale labels whose production is more traceable, or to buy from trusted labels that are built around strong ethical credentials. And fortunately, many of them make top quality and stylish shoes, too. Here is a quick run-down of our favourite:
1. TOMS shoes
You can't beat TOMS either in terms of their ethical credentials or their sheer usefulness! Not quite a trainer, not quite an espadrille, the classic style is a hybrid that will go with almost all your casual gear. They're available in loads of textures and colours, currently including metallic tweed, crochet, striped linen, glitter and leopard print. And for each pair you buy, a brand new pair of shoes will be provided for a needy child. How much more ethical can it get?
2. Simple Shoes
Simple Shoes are kind to the environment, often being made from recycled or otherwise earth-friendly material. But they have strongly ethical supply chain guidelines too, with workers' hours, health & safety, wages and benefits all clearly set out and policed. They have some of the most stylish trainers out there too: check out their hi-tops made from recycled tyres as well as the very cute Eco Sneaks range, including the shoe pictured above.
3. Ethletic Trainers
If you love the Converse hi-top look then you might want to check out the Ethletic range, which looks very similar but is made under explicitly ethical conditions. Ethletic trainers are all Fair Trade made, and use FSC rubber from sustainable forests, and with organic cotton uppers. They're also very reasonably priced, currently on sale at Fashion Conscience for just £38 a pair.
Veja is a French/Brazilian company making lightweight volleyball-style trainers out of eco-friendly materials under fair conditions. We love their simple styling, distinctive 'V' logo, all organic composition and the peace of mind of knowing that nobody suffered to make them. You can currently pick them up at Farfetch or Chemical UK.
5. Terrra Plana
Best known for its wonderfully bendy heels, Terra Plana also makes casual shoes under the same strict ethical and eco-friendly conditions. We love these ultra-lightweight Alma shoe, which costs £65 and is available in a range of colourways. It has the brand's trademark flexible sole, and is great for dressed-down days.