Fashion (Canada) - - The Draw Sustainability Reboot - —Jac­que­lyn Fran­cis

“You have to ask dif­fer­ent and dif­fi­cult ques­tions,” says Christal Earle when talk­ing about her nascent ac­ces­sories brand Brave Soles. She was in the process of adopt­ing Wi­d­lene, a Haitian child she met while do­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian work with state­less peo­ple in the garbage dumps of the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, when the 2010 Haitian earth­quake struck next door. More than 200,000 peo­ple died, 300,000 more were in­jured and 1.5 mil­lion were dis­placed. In the af­ter­math, Wi­d­lene’s Cana­dian visa was de­nied and Earle un­able to leave the DR with her daugh­ter. She con­tin­ued her work in the coun­try but was forced to re­sign from her job in 2014. While ex­haust­ing per­sonal fi­nances, she no­ticed car tires pil­ing up at the dump. Hav­ing learned about an old shoe fac­tory, Earle won­dered if there was a way to com­bine old tires with leather shoes, but she didn’t have the funds to pur­sue it.

In March 2017, a vis­it­ing Cana­dian friend left her with $1,000. “He said, ‘I feel like you will know what to do with this,’” re­calls Earle. She went to the shoe fac­tory, put in an or­der and sold 40 pairs on­line when it launched that June. Brave Soles’s strappy glad­i­a­tors and slides use up­cy­cled tires for soles, and all of the leather is sourced from tan­ner­ies in the United States and Brazil. Hand­bags use up­cy­cled leather with in­ner-tube de­tails, and Earle plans to in­clude ve­gan pineap­ple leather in fu­ture col­lec­tions.

Earle’s non-tra­di­tional back­ground helps ex­plain the way she runs her com­pany. Brave Soles’s prod­ucts are made eth­i­cally in the DR, where ar­ti­sans (mostly women) are paid a liv­ing wage. Plus, pulling tires out of the waste stream re­duces garbage. How­ever, pieces are also af­ford­able, with shoe prices hov­er­ing around $100.

“I wasn’t go­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on a re­ally great story to get an in­flated price for some­thing,” says Earle. “I can sleep know­ing ev­ery­one is be­ing treated eq­ui­tably along the way, in­clud­ing the end con­sumer.”

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