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Startup Brand Della Terra Aims to Prove Eco-Friendly Vegan Shoes Can Be Fashionable — and Affordable

After nearly two decades as an in-house designer and consultant for brands like Via Spiga, Alice + Olivia and Diane von Furstenberg, Emily Landsman Archila launched her own label, Della Terra Shoes, last spring to make eco-friendly footwear for the contemporary market.

Now she’s getting an assist from an experienced retail veteran, David Jassem, who joined as acting COO in November to help build the wholesale business.

Jassem told FN that after closing his Davids boutiques in Southern California in 2018, he and his wife became engaged in issues around climate change. So he was intrigued when an unexpected solicitation came his way.

“I still had my old email, and I got an invitation to look at Della Terra Shoes,” Jassem recalled. “I went to the website and was very impressed. These were sustainable shoes, but they were fashionable. So I reached out to congratulate Emily and to offer my help.”

Archila said Della Terra (Italian for “of the earth”) is committed to being both ethical and sustainable. “The overarching theme is about transparency. We’re communicating what we’re doing and we’re always going to do more,” she said.

Della Terra Shoes Emily Landsman Archila
Emily Landsman Archila, founder of Della Terra Shoes.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Della Terra Shoes

That starts with its product ingredients. Archila sources vegan leather and suede from Italy made with a bamboo fiber base mixed with recycled and plant-based materials such as castor and grapeseed oil. “We haven’t yet used a pure apple leather, cactus leather or pineapple leather because it hasn’t passed our testing yet,” she said. “We’re really rigorous [in our selection].”

At the same time, the brand is focused on ethical practices, producing with a factory in Brazil that Archila said is fair wage and 100% carbon neutral. “We’re all on the same mission where we want to figure out how to improve upon this journey every single day. But we’re not asking to compromise fashion in the meantime. If we’re doing that, it’s too big of a compromise to be effective,” she said.

The line currently includes fashion sandals and heeled boots, and will add slippers, loafers and sneakers for fall. Prices range from $74 to $284.

Della Terra Vegan Leather Sandal
The Darya gladiator sandal is made with vegan leather and biodegradable rubber.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Della Terra Shoes

To grow the business, Jassem developed a low-risk retail program that allows boutiques to test the collection with a 50% guaranteed margin. “The sustainability aspect comes in where our model is to send retailers single pairs,” said Jassem. “We’ll fill in one pair at a time at our cost and drop-ship to your customer.”

Becca Porter, owner of An Unlikely Pear in Jacksonville, Fla., picked up the brand at The Atlanta Shoe Market in February because it ticked multiple boxes for her. “I liked Emily and I liked the shoes. I even liked that they had a little higher price point that what I typically carry,” said Porter, whose boutique stocks lines like Chinese Laundry, Marc Fisher LTD and Matisse. “I also appreciated that it was female founded and that Emily came from the industry, so she knows what she’s doing. And the sustainability was a huge draw. It’s the way of the world now and it’s nice to bring awareness to my customers.”

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