When I started my slow fashion journey 1,5 years ago, Brave Soles was actually one of the very first accounts I’ve discovered through Instagram. I was looking for brands that have a different approach in their production process. This means a more ethical way of treating all people throughout the supply chain. But this also means reducing waste, whether this is by using recycled materials or by upcycling materials for other purposes. Brave Soles does both; they assure an ethical production and upcycle tires from old vehicles within their products. That’s why I am so super excited to introduce them to you.
This blog post is based on an interview with Christal, the founder of Brave Soles. It’s a very heartwarming, though emotional story. Take your time for it, I think you’ll love it.
Let me introduce you to Brave Soles!
What is the key value of Brave Soles?
Brave Soles is a lifestyle fashion brand, focussed on helping customers simply make better choices that they can be proud of. They value fairness for everyone in the sphere. This starts with their employees and their makers, as well as to the customers. Everyone should be treated with honesty and fairness, be paid fairly and pay a fair and honest price.
The story behind Brave Soles
The story starts with Christal. She was the co-founder of a youth humanitarian organisation (Live Different). Her work there led her to discovering the garbage dumps in the developing world. One of those places was the Dominican Republic. Christal and her team would help the people living and working in the garbage dumps. Together they would collect recyclables where they get paid for. However, their work is very dangerous and they make only between $1 and $3 per day.
As Christal spent more time with these people, they became her friends and their lives began to intertwine with her’s. So much so, that her relationships there led het to adopting her daughter.
However, her daughter is stateless, and that’s why she can’t leave the Dominican Republic. Even after 9 years. Christal then had to make a decision. She could no longer carry on with Live Different due to her difficult family situation. So she resigned and began to rebuild a new life as a single mom.
She started doing some consulting with NGO’s and started doing speaking in universities and conferences in North America. But every time she ended up bringing people to the garbage dumps to work with the community of her friends there. Not much people know, but these people live in very vulnerable circumstances. They are stateless and they are always scared of being deported from the country, because of their lack of citizenships. And because of their vulnerability they have to work in places like the huge garbage dumps. You can find everything imaginable in those garbage dumps, including enormous amounts of tires from old vehicles.
Tires, tires, tires everywhere
Many countries like the Dominican Republic don’t know what else to do with those tires and they often burn it, which then puts everyone at greater risk. When tires burn, they leach chemicals into the earth. But when they’re just sitting there, they also become a favoured breeding ground for mosquitoes with the standing water. Those mosquitoes carry diseases such as dengue. Christal saw friends of her dying from the dangers that the tires were creating.
She kept saying to herself, “Someone should really do something about all these tires.”
One day Christal walked out of her apartment in the Dominican Republic and her neighbour walked out of hers at the same time. She was wearing super cute sandals and Christal commented on them. And suddenly, it was like a little voice inside her head said: “Why can’t I make sandals like this from upcycled tires?” And there was the first idea.
Step one: idea. Step two: money?
But to let ideas grow, one needs money. Christal had some ideas but no money – like literally NO money. She was surviving, but there was never anything left over for the extras in life. She is a single mom who lives between two countries. Life was a struggle just to keep going at times.
That’s the moment she knew she had to make a decision: sitting on the idea without acting or push everything to see what’s possible? She decided to give it a go and karma listened.
Through an amazing series of events, she managed to get $250 together. She was then able to find a leather artisan in the Dominican Republic. He and Christal began to put ideas together and Christal started talking about those ideas on social media. And that was another step forward to success.
On June 7, 2017 Christal and her team launched Brave Soles via a Facebook post with a link. On the first day they sold 40 pairs. That was the sign to continue.
Christal had always loved shoes and accessories. But she wanted her love for fashion to authentically align with her love for people and planet. Within the Brave Soles business model they now have created a program to give back. This means giving the people in vulnerable communities access to micro financing. This will help them build businesses for themselves that align with the ethical and sustainable values of Brave Soles.
Christal says: “I am the result of people believing in me. Now I want to be able to provide that for others who may not have access to the same opportunities.”
Love for planet, people and fashion: sustainability
To Christal sustainability simply means living consciously. You have to recognise that you are 100% connected to your choices and to what you own. If you recognise this, you will also recognise that to live sustainably is to honour who we are. We have to honour the kind of world we want to live in and build that world together.
The materials at Brave Soles
At this point Brave Soles focusses on upcycling whatever they can. For example on all shoes the soles are made from upcycled tires. Other than that they try to use upcycled/reclaimed leather as much as possible. They have a whole collection dedicated to upcycling leather from airplane seats, which can be found here. However, for the shoes they can’t use upcycled leather, so they use a very specific tannery in the Dominican Republic. This tannery is a gold certified and monitored member of a sustainability governing body called the Tannery of the Future.
Christal’s message to consume more ethically
Christal emphasises that you have to love what you own. She says: “Love is the only thing that matters. Whether we want to admit it or not, our consumption is the truest picture of how we see our place in the world. By loving what we own, we will naturally consume less and want to be connected to the story behind how it is made and where it came from.”
Shop at Brave Soles
Brave Soles is definitely a feel good story. Everything within this brand says “honesty” and “love”. Supporting small ethical businesses, gives them the opportunity to continue and to grow. You vote with your money. What are you voting this time?
You can find sandals, as well as bags and accessories on Brave Soles.