OPINIONS

Why Supporting Independent Brands Is More Important Than Ever

22nd March 2020

WORDS BY NATALIE YIASSOUMI | PHOTOGRAPHY BY MIKKO PUTTONEN

Our support during this global health crisis could determine whether independent designers make it through.

The spread of Covid-19 has spared nobody: No matter where you are based and your background, everyone has felt the hit – undeniably some a lot more than others – and shared the same feelings of fear and vulnerability. 

When it comes to our world of fashion, luxury footwear and retail, it’s independent businesses that are at most risk: Without getting too much into the math, indie labels will not necessarily have the cash flow to face a prolonged period of store closures, production delays and dwindling demand to keep paying their employees and keep their businesses afloat. 

There is no doubt that we will see bankruptcies and a lower amount of up-and-coming talent in the fashion arena, when we come out the other side. The footwear world, where producing collections is even more costly given all the sizing complications and which relies heavily on Italian manufacturers, who have currently shut operations, could be at even great risk. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. By being aware of the challenges small businesses are facing, we can make a conscious effort to support them and help keep them afloat — an approach that can apply to your favorite footwear label, as much as to your local butcher, bakery or gym now transitioning to online workouts. 

In many cases, people are seeing their own incomes compromised as life as we know it is put on pause to contain the spread of the virus. So it only makes sense that shoe shopping or fashion consumption in general is taking a back seat. But for those who are lucky enough to be able to work from home, retain their incomes and ability to treat themselves once in a while, especially during a time of quarantine, why not make considered purchases and support small, independent labels? 

You’ll most likely be the only one in the room wearing that style – when self isolation is over that is –  you’ll leave people wondering where your stylish shoes are from and at the same time you’ll be supporting a small-scale business during this challenging time. A win-win in all respects.

Sophia Webster is a London-based name worthy of our support: She built her business and following out of a love of all things girly and exuberant. Now, as her two London stores had to shut their doors, she has been working tirelessly to channel excitement and positivity on her social channels and e-commerce platform, with a new “SW Vault” section with archive pieces on her site and the debut of a collaboration of men’s and women’s loafers created with her “shoe hero” Patrick Cox. 

Webster has also pledged to donate 200 pairs of shoes to hospital workers in the U.K. “From the get go, my mission has been to create shoes that make people smile, so it is with this best intention that I [offer this gift] hoping to bring a little joy to the selfless medics going through these unprecedented time,” said Webster. 

If you want to try out the Velcro-strap sandal trend, why not look to the latest style by Midnight 00, a Milan-based label by Ada Kokosar that has had to put a lot of its plans and production on hold given the lockdown measures in Italy. Kokosar first became known for her dreamy satin and PVC embellished pumps but is now expanding her repertoire with sporty sandals, reworked with scrunched up tulle and satin straps. 

IMAGE COURTESTY OF @SOPHIAWEBSTER

IMAGE COURTESTY OF @WANDLER

There are also the sexy, block-heel Mary Janes by Nodaleto, a label designed between Paris and Los Angeles by Julia Toledano and made in Venice, as well as countless options by hip label Staud, which offers trendy styles like wedge mules or thong sandals at highly competitive prices. 

If you still can’t get over the square-toe trend, look no further than Istanbul-based Manu Atelier, whose newly-launched square-toe strappy sandals were spotted all over the streets of Paris, on campaign posters featuring model Lara Stone, casually hanging them over her neck. 

Or if you have a soft spot for boots, why not get a trendy bi-color pair from Dutch indie label Wandler or a cowboy style that can be worn post-quarantine in the warmer months by Paris Texas, an Italian label whose manufacturers have also been hit by the crisis. The brand has also been working to support the intensive care unit at the San Gerardo Hospital in Monza, the city where the brand was founded. 

“As the situation continues to develop and evolve, it is absolutely vital fo us as an Italian brand to support our community,” wrote the brands’ founders Annamaria and Margherita Brivio. “Now more than ever we feel the need to stay connected, even at a social distance.”

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