Sleek pumps, disco platforms, dainty sandals, and chic ballerinas in a plethora of colors and even exotic skins—you don’t have to read the small print to see that they are vegan. That’s because brand Aera displays it proudly. “100% luxury and 110% sustainable” is its modus operandi. Handmade by local artisans in Italy and conceived in New York, these luxury vegan shoes offer a new solution for the growing number of ethically-minded consumers and have already been spotted on the likes of actors Saoirse Ronan and Emma Roberts, and models Ashley Graham and Constance Jablonski.
Speaking to Vogue Arabia, co-founders Tina Bhojwani, Jean-Michel Cazabat, and Alvertos Revach dispel some myths on vegan versus leather.
Do you consider that by imitating exotic prints (albeit vegan) this perpetuates exotic prints staying in fashion?
Exotic prints have always been in fashion and for us, the goal was to offer a vegan alternative. Our creative director Jean-Michel Cazabat designed with a lot of exotics in the past and the inspiration for our launch collection was a patchwork python pump he created many years ago. We had the ability to recreate it in an eco-conscious way thanks to all the innovation currently taking place with vegan materials.
The desire to make a positive impact on our planet and prove that luxury quality and design do not have to be compromised in the name of sustainability was the basis for starting Aera.
What is your answer to those who say that “vegan is not as good as leather?”
Thanks to innovation and technology, the materials we are using today are no less beautiful, comfortable, or durable than leather, but are cruelty-free and minimize the environmental impact on our planet.
When it comes to the environment, our materials have on average 1/3 of the impact of leather because they are created with less chemicals and fresh water and also produce less waste. Animal leather is one of the most toxic textiles and while faux alternatives are not perfect, they are far less harmful.
In fact, many of our materials even have qualities that are superior to leather in that they don’t crack and are extremely resilient. For example, our soles which are made of Thunit, a material which closely resembles leather, are water repellent and have superior performance in terms of flexibility and abrasion resistance.
We know that leather gets even better with age. How does vegan age over time?
I would say that our vegan materials don’t really change with time. Even though the brand is still quite new to the market, my co-founders and I have been wearing first prototypes for two years now and are extremely pleased with the quality, comfort, and durability.
We are a young company that recently launched but what I can say is we work with an incredible Italian material supplier, which has been pioneering leather alternatives since the late 1960s. Their focus is on high quality with a consciousness towards the planet.
Can you explain the meaning behind the name Aera?
The name Aera comes from Ancient Greek and means to lift or to raise up. We embrace this meaning because we are holding ourselves and the industry to a higher standard where people and the planet are considered when making product. In fact, our brand’s tagline is “Luxury footwear without a footprint” and our campaign shows powerful images in which our models do not leave a footprint on the sand.
Everything is made in Italy. Is it also a hub for quality vegan textiles?
Our company was founded in NYC, which is where our corporate team including our creative director and myself are based. We chose Italy for materials and manufacturing for several reasons around social and environmental sustainability and specifically Veneto due to the excellence in luxury shoe making. Shop Aera at Bloomingdales Dubai and Ounass