NAE (No Animal Exploitation) is a Portuguese vegan footwear brand. It’s goal is to promote a fair and animal-friendly alternative to fashion and to respect the environment. A main focus of NAE Vegan is not only the natural and ecological materials, but also the design, style and quality that are already recognised in Portuguese footwear. All of the products are manufactured locally and designed for the consumer and their daily comfort.
Why did you choose to become a sustainable brand and to make vegan shoes?
We started this project 10 years ago as a vegan brand. At that time the materials that we used to produce our shoes were already environmentally certified. Nevertheless, we thought that was not enough; we felt that we needed to move on in a more sustainable way. We decided to find more sustainable and natural materials like cork, pineapple leaves and recycled materials such as plastic bottles or airbags. It is a continuous search because these materials are constantly evolving as the fashion industry shifts to be more sustainable.
Do you frequently visit the factories where your shoes are made? What do they do to ensure ethical labour practices?
Our shoes are produced in Portugal. One of the greatest advantages of having local production is that it allows us to visit the factories and to closely observe the production and manufacturing process. The factories we work with are certified and we know that they respect Portuguese labour legislation.
You make all types of shoe styles. What was the first type of shoe you ever designed? Which one is your favourite?
So far, we have produced a very wide range of models and we consider this to be one of our strengths. The reason is that we want to fill different styles for the different types of people and markets that we sell to.
Our first model was a vegan ballerina flat style called ‘Nash’. It was a very basic model that sold very well. Regarding our favourites, we have many, but if we had to choose I would pick ‘Zipme’ boot.
You use pineapple leaf fibres for your shoes. How did you come across this sustainable material?
Four years ago, in our ongoing search for alternative materials, we found the company which was founded by a Spanish woman named Carmen Hijosa. At the time the company was developing the process to produce the fabric which is made with the pineapple leaves. Today this material is known as Pinatex. When they managed to produce the material we were the first shoe company to use the Pinatex in our shoes. We were also very pleased to know that the harvesting of the pineapples was a sustainable practice supporting a community in the Philippines.
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing about starting a business, what would it be?
Enjoy the journey with tons of patience and perseverance!
How do you want someone to feel when they wear your shoes?
It is very satisfying for us to know that we are selling a vegan product that has been ethically produced. We also pride ourselves on our production process which leaves a minimal impact on the environment.
The fashion industry is very competitive. What is your advice to designers who are just starting out?
The fashion industry is competitive, but we believe that there is always space for those who want to work with truth, fairness and love. Our advice is, if someone really believes in a project, don’t stop and work your hardest. When we started Nae Vegan, it was very difficult to find a factory that believed in us. But, here we are celebrating 10 years later. However cliche it is, anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
Why did you choose to join an online platform like Modafirma that focuses on independent brands and sustainability?
We want to reach as many people as possible and so it is important not to forget that people are starting to look for more ethical and sustainable goods which are also fashionable. We believe Modafirma is the right place to promote our brand because it brings the fashion and ethical side together.