Monday, December 5, 2022

Vegan Shoe Label Aera Is the First Luxury Footwear Brand to Earn B Corp Status

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New York-based vegan footwear brand Aera joins a growing roster of luxury labels including Chloé, Good American, and secondhand platform Vestiaire Collective, in earning its B Corporation Certification.

“When we first founded Aera in 2019, we challenged ourselves to create a footwear brand that sets a new standard by proving that luxury design and quality do not have to be compromised in the name of sustainability,” Tina Bhojwani, co-founder and CEO of Aera, said in a statement. The company meets the B Corp verified standards for social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.

“In building Aera, we’ve been methodical in our approach, measuring every environmental and social impact. Becoming a B Corporation is a key part of our journey in producing luxury vegan footwear that’s manufactured with a sense of responsibility for human, animal and environmental welfare,” Bhojwani said.

Certified B Corp Status

The third-party B Corp certification process involves more than 300 questions about business practices in both social and environmental areas. Certification is based on a points ranking system. Companies need at least 80 to earn B Corp status. Out of more than 100,000 applicants, fewer than 4,000 have achieved the prestigious recognition.

Achieving B Corp status is a laborious process, but it’s fast becoming the norm for brands committed to ethical and sustainable business models. French luxury house Chloé, which has been steadily increasing its sustainable offerings, became the first luxury label to take up the task, earning its status in October.

That same week, Khloe Kardashian earned B Corp status for Good American, the sustainable, size-inclusive denim brand she co-founded.

The status also came to French peer-to-peer secondhand platform The Vestiaire Collective.

The B Corp status is opening up new opportunities and areas to improve, according to Bhojwani.

“There is great innovation in material science right now, I’d love to improve some of our materials,” she says. “We also would love to give back more to our community as we grow with intention and address how we can make some of our internal processes more efficient.

The footwear brand only launched in 2019, but it has taken big steps all along the way, first with the design help from veteran French shoe designer Jean-Michael Cazabat.

‘Lifting up’ sustainable luxury

Aera, which is Greek for “to lift up,” has launched several collections since 2019, despite the pandemic stalling events that call for luxury heels.

Now, the self-funded company is turning its attention toward funding. “We’ve been self-funded up until this point and have had a little help from friends and family,” Bhojwani says. “We also launched a crowdfunding campaign during the height of the pandemic, which was a good way to get the brand out there, but we weren’t there yet. We didn’t have our certification, we didn’t have our distribution. Now that we are in a better place, it’s time to fundraise as we move into next year.”

Aera started out as a sustainable brand, eschewing traditional leather that’s a leading contributor to climate change and an ethics issue for a growing number of people. Vegan leather is poised to be the top sustainable fashion trend in 2022 with luxury brands embracing alternatives like pineapple and mushroom-based leather. But that wasn’t the case just three years ago when Aera started out. It shows just how quickly the industry is changing.

One of the ways Aera is showcasing the shift is with the sustainable New York pop-up Figure Eight. Bhojwani partnered with Nicole Marra, founder and CEO of the boutique consulting firm, Fixer Advisory Group for the pop-up, running through December. It features a number of sustainable brands and artwork.

“The message I really want to put out there is that luxury and sustainability can coexist,” Bhojwani said. “That’s really why I started this company. We’re lucky that we work in an industry that inspires so many others. So, my personal goal is to move the needle forward and inspire others to do the same.”

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