Veerah Founder Stacey Chang’s story is not unlike many of those in the footwear industry. The former Estée Lauder associate grew tired of traveling for work with just a single pair of shoes that didn’t meet her three wishes: comfort, versatility, and fashion.
Without a lick of shoe-making experience, Chang decided to make her own women’s shoe line—a move she admits to being naïve about—but along the way found her footing and the opportunity to make sustainable, vegan footwear. “In the very beginning I just wanted beautiful, comfortable, versatile shoes. I didn’t even think about vegan, but then I thought about what type of message I wanted to send to customers,” Chang said.
Veerah’s launch was three years in the making, a journey that led Chang to Italy to learn shoe-making and to multiple factories in Asia that debated whether her vision could be achieved with unconventional materials. “The concept of premium, high-quality vegan footwear was new to them,” Chang said, adding that she did her homework by networking and seeking out her own suppliers.
PETA-approved vegan materials (cork, microfiber vegan calf-hair and suede, PVC-free vegan patents) and fabric uppers made from 100 percent recycled and re-purposed bottles have become Veerah’s point of differentiation. Each shoe is made with GOTS certified 100 percent organic cotton sock linings, plant-based memory foam with pads of antimicrobial plant-based cushioning, Italian resin outsoles and waterproof TPU outsoles that are 20 percent more anti-slip than leather outsoles.
“I think there are more things we can do and do better, but I think that in the beginning the most important thing for sustainable fashion is to make it look right,” Chang shared. “It is waste if people don’t want to wear it. We think about aesthetics first and where it’s possible we substitute for more sustainable materials.”
Chang has spared no expense to ensure that the shoes look as good as they feel. Designs are based on timeless silhouettes that can be worn day-to-night and come with removable accessories, including reversible ankle straps that can be worn as bracelets.
Flirty tassels have become a Veerah signature, including an 80mm round toe pump can be worn with or without detachable lace-up tassels and a range of stiletto pumps with removable tassels on the heels. Up next? Removable fringe. “Accessories like tassels add a fun look to a serious style. Each accessory adds a different vibe,” Chang said.
Chang’s vision for Veerah includes vegan boots, sandals, flats and more heels. For now, most of the brand’s customers are women who want to have a vegan wardrobe and can’t find quality vegan footwear. However, like fellow vegan shoe-maker, Stella McCartney, Chang believes Veerah will find an audience with “metropolitan women who appreciate the aesthetic.”
As a direct-to-consumer brand, which retails for $248-$298, Chang says she feels obligated to offer good value to consumers. “Our shoes are made in China in a great factory, but cost is comparable to shoes made in Italy,” she said, adding, “As we grow and meet the [factory’s] minimums, our costs will come down.”
It’s a challenge that Chang is up to take on. “Factories tell me no one in the shoe industry would do this because it would be too much work. People are too jaded, but that’s when it helps to be naïve, to go in and do it,” she said. “It helps not having so much baggage.”