After a decade as design director for a large accessories company, Francisca Pineda launched Bhava, a fashion-forward vegan and sustainably minded footwear line, for spring ’13.
“I always pretty much ate organic and was into yoga, like everybody in New York, but I never connected sustainability or ethics to what I wore,” she said. But after developing health issues from working with leathers, Pineda started looking into alternative materials, eventually completing the Sustainable Design Entrepreneurs certificate program through the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
“I made a commitment to myself to not go back. I just wanted to be part of a product that had a positive impact on the environment and people,” she said. “And there aren’t many eco-fashion companies that are hiring or even that exist yet, so we decided to do a launch.”
Designed and founded with industry veteran Rushali Sanghani, Bhavi was created to provide shoes that a socially conscious woman could wear every day. Launched with 10 styles, the line is sold in a number of eco-boutiques, including Kaight and Bhoomki in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Chevaliers des Pieds in Antwerp, Belgium; and Modavanti.com.
Bhava styles, all of which are vegan, use Japanese ultrasuede made of 100 percent recycled plastic, as well as handwoven fabrics, organic cotton footbeds and reclaimed wood for heels. Buying cotton and fabrics from local artisans and farmers is critical for the brand, Pineda said. “We want to support projects we believe in.”
For spring ’14, the loafers, booties, cut-out oxfords and sandals will range in price from $125 to $175.
Here, Pineda talks about the challenges of being green and her ultimate dream.
1. What challenges have you faced because of your commitment to vegan and sustainably produced materials?
FP: I would love to see more sustainable options for materials. Honestly, I’ve been trying to find a recycled faux leather, but suede is the only [option] that looks really nice. It’s hard to find materials that feel and look luxurious that are also responsibly manufactured.
2. What’s your goal for the line and for sustainable footwear in general?
FP: In the supermarket, you have an organic section. There should be a consciously made and organic section [in stores] for clothing as well. That’s my dream — that ethically made goods will be seen as the next evolution in luxury.
3. If you could see anyone in your shoes, who would it be?
FP: Natalie Portman. She’s definitely into animal rights, but she’s very classic and a little bit cool.