Trust the guidance of your intuition.
Leave everything better than you found it.
Always choose kindness.
There are many leather alternatives on the market, from pineapple leather to mushroom leather. Why did Voes and Co choose to use cactus leather, what are the benefits to using cactus Leather?
When I first had the idea for this brand in 2016, there weren’t really any commercially used plant-based leathers on the market. A year or two later, when I began designing my first pair of chelsea boots, cactus Leather was the best, most viable option in terms of being comparable with animal leather and providing the designer look and feel I was looking for. Not only does cactus leather look and feel like animal leather, it is incredibly soft, breathable, and durable, which are all very important features for Voes. We are certainly open to using other plant and bio materials and would love to have multiple types of plant materials included in our collection as we continue to grow, innovate and launch new designs!
On social media there seems to be a micro movement happening touting the benefits of barefoot shoes, wide toe box, and allowing the feet natural movement in a shoe. Are barefoot shoes an area Voes and Co would explore why or why not?
We absolutely love to be on the forefront of leading change, of course we will explore this and if the barefoot movement seems like a permanent new way of wearing shoes we will certainly add it into product development innovation. Our primary intention is to create beautiful, designer footwear that provides consumers with ethically made, sustainable options so they can choose kindness over animal cruelty without sacrificing fashion or design.
What are some future projects and/or collaborations we can look forward to from Voes and Co?
We are working on a collaboration with Montreal based vegan company Aiya Aiya for a luxury handbag and we’re currently working on developing a men’s line along with two other footwear staples for women.. a classic flat and a stiletto.
Can you share with us how cactus leather is processed and made to become a usable material for your shoes?
The Cactus leather we use is from Desserto, a company with a 14 acre cactus farm in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico. For production of cactus leather, Desserto selects and cuts only the mature leaves of the plant without damaging the cactus itself. There’s a new harvest every 6-8 months and the cactus plant is perennial which means that one plant lasts for about 8 years. The leaves are then dried under the sun for three days until achieving the exact humidity levels required. One thing to note is that there’s no additional energy used in the drying process. Desserto has a patented formula for processing the organic raw material from the cactus to make it into the soft, breathable, durability leather material it becomes. Desserto’s ranch is fully organic, so there’s no herbicides or pesticides used. Furthermore, all of the remaining organic cactus material that is not used in production is exported and sold nationally to the food industry.
In comparison why is using cactus superior to say using bamboo or hemp?
In terms of sustainability, in my opinion, cactus, hemp and bamboo are all in the same league as regenerative plants that require very little water and have a very low negative environmental impact. Cactus grows in the dry heat and quenches any thirst it has naturally with rain water. Cactus naturally regenerates soil and is a tough and resilient species, adaptable to extreme conditions and able to survive in areas where nothing else will grow. Beyond this, cactus is a natural carbon sink, it has a great CO2 sequestering capacity - Desserto’s cactus ranch absorbs 8,100 tons of CO2/year while it only generates 15.30 tons of CO2 annually. As mentioned, the leaves are dried under the sun for 3 days, so there’s no additional energy used in the drying process. Lastly, Desserto doesn’t use an irrigation system for the cactus, it grows with rain water and the earth’s natural minerals. Using cactus, hemp, or bamboo as material is a much healthier option for the planet, in comparison to animal leather which requires 17,100L of water per kg of leather in addition to the chromium and sulphide concentrations and the pesticides which are often added to keep mould growth down during transportation.
How and why did you start your vegan journey?
It was completely unintentional, the year was 2008 and I picked up a book called Skinny Bitch as I was interested in the nutritional information that a friend had mentioned the book contained. I had no idea the book was written by two vegans and contained graphic information about the animal agriculture industry. Once I became aware of the truth of where my meat and dairy comes from, I was outraged and appalled; my brain switched and converted to a vegan lifestyle instantaneously. I love animals like they are my friends, I care about their safety and well-being and it hurts my heart to think about all the cruelty they face.
Who are some of your favorite vegan celebrities?
Joaquin Phoenix is my favourite vegan celebrity for sure, I love that he takes such a powerful stance and uses his platform to educate and promote awareness. He is also such a gifted and talented actor. A few of my other favourites are Alicia Silverstone and Mayim Bialik, both of whom give away my age - Mayim because I loved Blossom and Alicia because my fellow vegan best friend and I must have watched Clueless 20 times together, it was our favourite movie back in the day! I admire Bryan Adams as a fellow Vancouverite who has also taken his veganism to the next level by joining forces with Vancouver-based vegan dairy startup bettermoo(d) to help motivate change in the global food system, starting with dairy. Finally, I have to mention Elliot Page for everything he stands for.