A driving force in the ethical footwear market, Alicia Lai strives to create stylish shoes for both men and women, made of the best innovative, eco-friendly and vegan materials. I was first introduced to her brand “Bourgeois Boheme” three years ago by one of favourite vegan and minimalist YouTuber and I am thrilled to be able to feature her work on my Blog!
The extensive shoe collection covers any occasion from stunning and comfortable workwear to pumps, boots, trainers and the EcoStone – the natural stone slate covering heels. Alicia is a bold designer eager to try new eco-friendly materials like the pineapple skin (Pinatex) and the breathable seed-based Bio-polyoils for the lining.
Here is what she tells me about the brand and her values.
How did you come up with the idea to create Bourgeois Boheme?
“I created Bourgeois Boheme in 2005 because as a qualified podiatrist I couldn’t find any quality and style-led vegan accessories and footwear on the market at that time. I began selling the products online based on my ethics as a vegan- that no animals should be harmed for anything, even fashion. I then took a sabbatical for two years to spend time with my two young children and re-launched Bourgeois Boheme in 2014 as an exclusively vegan footwear brand. It was a desire to show that there was a better way to produce fashion for the environment, factory workers, and animals. As a sustainable and vegan company, this extended to showing the best alternatives to animal-derived materials as well as keeping true to my ethics of doing things more sustainably and fair.”
What drives the consumer demand for vegan brands like Bboheme and the rise in vegan shoe sales?
“There is an increasing consciousness about veganism and eco-friendly/sustainable products. At BB, we believe that a good vegan shoe should be about more than just excluding animal materials, so we are passionate about championing slow fashion and challenging the stereotype of leather-free footwear. We create the perfect vegan shoes without compromise of quality, finish, or design. All BB shoes are Vegan Society trademarked and PETA approved.
Large brands often find it impossible to know where their product is made, but we make it our business to personally control our supply chain and visit our factories regularly. “
What makes the brand to stand out from the competition?
“We ensure our footwear is style led so that it appeals as a fashion item (our increasing fan base includes vegan celebs such as Natalie Portman, Bryan Adams and Torrey DeVitto). The use of innovative materials is also important to us and we use Pinatex, cork, bio-polyoils, EcoStone and recycled materials. Transparency and being an approachable and honest company.”
Do you consciously make shoes that will appeal to a wider market (eg. the eco-conscious consumer who is not necessarily vegan) and what are the challenges you face penetrating this market – if any?
“Yes. It is the perception of vegan footwear being unfashionable and that leather is a natural luxury material which it is not. We need to provide more information on what vegan and sustainable fashion is and that vegan shoes are not plastic shoes.”
Where do you see Bourgeois Boheme in the future? Are you tempted to design a clothing line or accessories in alignment with your sophisticated shoe collection?
“We are always trying to make our ranges as sustainable as possible with extensive research in eco-friendlier materials which will differentiate our collections. We would love to produce a few accessories to complement our footwear.”
“In Bboheme we believe that a good vegan shoe should be about more than just excluding animal materials. From seeds to cork to recycled rubber, we continuously seek out for new material innovations to ensure we stay on top of the environmental game.”
Alicia Lai, Founder
You can find more about Bourgeois Boheme on their website: bboheme.com
On social media: Facebook (bboheme), Instagram (boboheme) and Twitter (b_Boheme)