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These Luxe Eco-Friendly Shoes Are Inspired by Malibu

Photos: Sydney Brown
Photos: Sydney Brown

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From Reformation's eco-conscious cool-girl dresses to Hipsters for Sisters's vegan belt bags, it's clear LA loves eco-friendly fashion brands. When LA-based designer Sydney Brown introduced her eponymous label back in 2011 she proved that luxurious shoes can also be made in a sustainable, animal-friendly way.

Priced between $400 and $600 and sold at local boutiques including H.Lorenzo, Mona Moore, OAK, and TenOverSix, the Cali cool bold line of footwear is handmade in Brown's LA studio using environmentally friendly materials like coconut insoles, recycled uppers, and wooden soles. Having lived and worked in Japan for 10 years, Brown draws on her experience there for design inspiration, but for her latest spring/summer 2015 collection, her muse was none other than Malibu's beautiful El Matador State Beach. Below, get to know the veggie-loving designer and learn why sustainability is so important to her, what inspires her, and more.

What inspired you to start the line and why did you decide to take a sustainable approach?
I had been a vegetarian for over 20 years and I always felt conflicted about buying leather but not eating meat. I started the shoe line as a sort of reaction to there being no sustainably made, animal-friendly luxury footwear options on the market.

How does your time in Japan influence your designs?
I spent much of my life there so it permeates many aspects of my process. I was heavily influenced by the Shinto religion and the concept of all objects having a soul. I approach the design process with this in mind, imagining a little piece of my being is passed along in every shoe I work on.

Japanese design has also influenced me tremendously with the emphasis on the materials, lines and surfaces, rather than embellishment. We are now developing our cork upper material, for example, and I think it is a direct reflection of this.

How does LA inspire your designs?
The amazing nature and landscapes of both LA and California are the main inspirations for my collections. In the development process, I always first pinpoint a specific location and draw my inspiration from that. For spring/summer 2015, I used the incredible Malibu beach, El Matador, where I spend a lot of time. I then tried to capture this ethereal atmosphere of the rocks, sand, sun, and sea in the shapes and materials of the collection.

What's been your favorite creation so far?
My most intense creation, if not favorite, has actually been our entire atelier in Los Angeles. We are producing everything in house including many of the materials so this has been a massive undertaking. Working side by side with master artisans as well as working on high tech machines is incredibly exciting.
· Sydney Brown [Official Site]