FASHION | A question of quinoa, and other winter boots

20.1.13

After Stacy and I engaged in a riveting debate about the sustainability of quinoa the other night via whatsapp (we're hoping to conduct discussion live so look out for that), I was reminded of the sometimes mind-numbing frustrations I felt as an 'ethical consumer'. You stop buying one thing (in my case meat) in favour of another, only to find that the sudden demand for the 'other' (in this case protein alternative quinoa) has inflated prices in its native Bolivia to a point where locals can no longer afford this dietary staple. I am yet to get to the bottom of my feelings on that particular subject but felt compelled to share a similar struggle I faced when looking for new winter boots a couple of years ago and documented on my now defunct blog Musings á la Mode.

"Since taking this vow of abstinence from the highstreet I feel like I am constantly in a state of searching. Searching for that battered desk, for a snug black winter coat, for that perfectly printed leopard jumper, searching for those flawlessly formed ankle boots that will carry me from outfit to outfit through the darkest, snowiest of winter days.

With shoes, this whole not buying from the highstreet thing poses a bit of a conundrum. I need shoes I can wear all day, they need to keep me warm, match most of my wardrobe and magically elongate my stumpy legs, all for the smallest price possible. And, I have to like 'em too.

Ethical shoes, in any capacity of the word, that meet the above criteria are hard to find and so I set about creating new parameters that allowed shoe purchasing from the highstreet. This involved discerning the place of origin, Portugal, Italy and Spain being preferable due to disappearing culture of shoemaking, and noting the materials used.

After dragging round the shops for five hours, mother in tow, I came home with two candidates.

 Candidate 1: ElNaturalista Ambar Boots in Ebano featuring vegetable dyed leather, recycled rubber (and porridge) soles and a whole lot of heart

Candidate 2: Jones Bootmakers Ollie in Black Suede, origin unknown (most Jones' boots are made in Spain and I went with it mostly cus I was desperate, freezing and hungry)

After much in-house wearing ... and a whole lot of soul searching (no pun intended) El Naturalista won hands down (the Ollies have been returned).

There's so much to say about my new boots that I'm going to have to give them a post of their own but it was satisfying to know that I didn't have to abandon my values to find the winter shoes I'd been searching for."

I have to say that unfortunately El Naturalista, although a wonderful brand, do not have many shoes that I would buy now - except maybe walking boots - but I realise I am not their target market and how I wish I was. It is also funny to read this and realise that all those pieces I spent so much time searching for, the battered desk, the black coat, the leopard print jumper, I eventually found, in charity shops in Brighton, and I love them and feel a thousand times more satisfied knowing once again that I didn't abandon my values to find the pieces I'd been coveting. Now to tackle that question of quinoa ...

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