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Meet the Designer: Alicia Lai of Bourgeois Boheme

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Meet the Designer: Alicia Lai of Bourgeois Boheme

If you haven’t seen Bourgeois Boheme on the feet of Emma Watson on the Press Tour for ‘Beauty and the Beast’, Natalie Portman or Torrey Devitto you might have seen them featured alongside Stella McCartney in British Vogue for winning ‘Best Cruelty-Free Shoes’ Award from the PETA Fashion Awards. If not they have been published in ELLE UK, Cosmopolitan UK, The Independent, and InStyle. Bourgeois Boheme has been a pioneer in sustainable footwear and vegan leather, using techniques like Piñatex and apple leather. Alicia started Bourgeois Boheme in 2005 after she turned her frustration with finding limited vegan and sustainable footwear into an innovative and stylish footwear brand. Bourgeois Boheme's mix of Chelsea boots and heels can be found on Ethi. With just joining Ethi, Alicia gave us a bit more insight into what made her start her brand and what continues to drive her passion.

 1. Why and when did Alicia start?

Bourgeois Boheme was created back in 2005 by myself Alicia, a qualified podiatrist whom couldn’t find any quality and style-led vegan accessories and footwear on the market at that time. I began selling online vegan accessories and footwear based on my ethics as a vegan- that no animals should be harmed for anything, even fashion. I had 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 our ethics of doing things more sustainably and fair.

2. Where are the shoes made? And which material do you use?

Our shoes are ethically made by two factories in Portugal where I visit 2-3 times a year. Our shoes are lovingly crafted without any animal-derived materials such as fur, leather, wool, silk and animal-based glues. There’s absolutely no PVC either.

Utilising the newest eco material creations is our thing, so we have amped up our offering for SS18 with the introduction of apple leather and increased use of pineapple leather, recycled suede, natural cork, and slate stone. The materials we use play a key role in our responsibility and creativity as a footwear brand and are a bonus style factor. All our shoes are lined with Bio-polyoils based on natural and renewable resources derived from NOFOOD cereal crops. These plant-based polymers, grains and seeds have exquisite properties and are superior to leather. They are absorbable, breathable, and biodegradable.

 This result is sophisticated, innovative collections that are long-lasting, super-comfortable, waterproof, and animal- and eco-friendly.

3. Is it comfortable to wear?

Our first priority when designing our shoes is for them to be comfortable and easy to wear from day to evening. We ensure this through our design, soft and breathable linings and a natural latex insole which acts like a soft cushion for your feet!

4. Isn't it hard to start a shoe company that doesn't use leather?

Indeed, starting any business has its challenges and we make our lives very hard here at BB as we aim high regarding fulfilling our strict criteria regarding ethical production, sustainability, non-animal based materials and great quality. Finding factories to work with us with non-leather materials was a mission. Any partner we work with must understand our company ethos.  We sampled with many factories before we chose our final two partners. Working with faux leather is very different to leather and we then throw into the equation Piñatex, cork, eco-stone, and other innovative materials, which need extra attention and handling. Our two partner factories are patient and willing to experiment with us which is amazing to produce the great quality footwear for BB.

5. Why should more companies look into different materials than leather for shoes?

Leather used for fashion unfortunately is not very natural and far from being a by-product of the food industry. Toxic chemicals such as zinc, lead, dyes, cyanide and formaldehyde are used to treat it, which makes it decompose very slowly, producing a greater quantity of refuse which has an obvious negative environmental impact. In addition, tanneries consume a lot of energy and are very polluting; and the carcinogenic chemicals used negatively affect the health of workers, too.

6. Where does your love for animals come from?

My family has always had a love for animals and growing up we always had a pet of some sort and at one time I had 10! I became vegetarian when I was at university, and vegan in 2005 due to the realities of the cruelty of the dairy and egg industries. There is absolutely no need to exploit animals for human use and I together with my family, my two girls being vegan from birth, live a happy, fulfilled and healthy plant based lifestyle!

7. What are the future plans?

We are always trying to make our ranges as sustainable as possible with extensive research in eco-friendlier materials which will differentiate our collections. As an exclusive sneak peek, we can reveal that we are sampling apple leather for our future SS18 collections and re-gigging to offer more urban and casual styles! Exciting times!

8. Do you deliver worldwide?

Yes, we do and we have recently launched our exclusive site for the US and Canadian market!

Check out Alicia's awesome Bourgeois Boheme on Ethi!


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