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This Sustainable Footwear Brand Is Turning Shoe Dust Bags Into Face Masks

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout, the businesses of young, emerging and independent designers and retailers are likely to be the most vulnerable. In Supporting Independents, FN will spotlight these creatives to learn how they are adjusting to a new way of working and living.

As the pandemic has shifted priorities in the fashion industry, many have predicted a slowdown of the sustainable practices that were just starting to ramp up. But Casey Dworkin is continuing apace.

The creative director and founder of Sylven New York is taking the unexpected downtime to figure out how she can continue to make sustainable footwear, such as her signature apple leather heels that feature a recycled plastic heel. She is also coming up with new ways to be simultaneously eco-friendly and helpful in the effort to fight the pandemic by recycling dust bags and turning them into face masks.

sylven new york, sustainable shoes, apple leather boots
ALMASI white vegan apple leather boots by Sylven New York.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Sylven New York

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To buy: ALMASI white vegan apple leather boots, $495

“I had this whole stack of dust bags and I was trying to figure out what can I do right now with the resources I have with available to me and it just sort of clicked,” said Dworkin.

The brand will be teaming up with Masks for Humanity, a network organization of mask makers and distributors who are throughout the country, for the project. While many in the fashion and footwear industry have contributed to making protective gear since March, Dworkin’s project allows everyone to be involved.

“It’s a great way to take what you already have,” said the creative director of Sylven New York, who is encouraging both individuals and the footwear industry to participate by filling out a form here.

In addition to Sylven New York making protective gear, the brand has also directed 25% of all purchases to a series of garment worker Covid relief funds through supportgarmentworkers.org.

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The sustainable fashion movement exists to help propel change, and in order to work towards more sustainable solutions, we need to revamp this industry from the ground up. Garment workers are our backbone and right now they need our help. My dear, dear friend @benita_robledo along with 3 sustainable champions @rachaelwangstudio @laurenbfay and @elizabethlcline have crafted a phenomenal resource to support garment workers and I encourage you to take a look. [www.supportgarmentworkers.org] There are brands you can shop that have all pledged to put funds towards 1 of 4 organizations (including yours truly.) And in addition to shopping (because while small brands can use support, we certainly don’t believe commerce is the key to change) you can sign petitions, donate funds directly, and learn more about the cause. @benita_robledo will also be doing an IGlive with us on Monday to talk more about supporting garment workers. And knowing the two of us, we will probably get to whole host of topics we can’t even predict! For more info you can also head to my stories!

A post shared by Sylven New York (@sylvennewyork) on

Sylven New York is continuing to sell shoes online, operating on what Dworkin likes to call a “seasonless” cycle. Like many of her peers, she had to cease manufacturing because of the lockdown, but through constant contact with her footwear factories in Italy over the past few months. The designer said she expects some of her production to begin soon, as facilities start to reopen.

“They are taking a lot of precautions and its not at full capacity by any means but everyone is putting themselves first,” said Dworkin.

Have dust bags to spare? Click here to participate in Sylven New York’s Dust Bag Drive.

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CASS blush vegan nappa mule by Sylven New York.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Sylven New York.

To buy: CASS blush vegan nappa mule, $350

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