In honor of World Vegan Day (Nov. 1), we round up five pioneering footwear brands from the Middle East and North Africa that champion sustainability. From ultra-cool sneakers crafted out of upcycled plastic to slippers handcrafted by female artisans from Moroccan cooperatives, read on to discover the best eco-friendly shoe labels from the region.
Founded in 2013 in Cairo by two Egyptian entrepreneurs, Up-Fuse takes disposed plastic and other waste in Egypt, including tires, and uses it to create unique upcycled footwear. The social conscious brand also empowers local artisans and women, providing them with the opportunity to support themselves and their families.
Thaely was launched in July 2021 by Dubai student Ashay Bhave, and is named after the Hindi word for plastic bags. Alarmed by the scale of plastic waste, Bhave wanted to create a shoe using only recycled plastic and in 2022, launched his line of vegan footwear. Each sneaker uses recycled components made from 10 waste plastic bags, 12 waste plastic bottles, and industrial rubber waste. Every single aspect of the shoe, including the glue, are Peta-certified vegan.
The Giving Movement
In August, the UAE-based charitable activewear brand launched a collection of colorful slides, made from bio-based EVA foam, which is derived from sugarcane. Called FiftyMade, the footwear comes in seven different colors, including fuschia pink, khaki green, and royal blue, and is produced in limited quantities to prevent waste.
Zineb Britel and Laura Pujol, the duo behind the Moroccan slippers support fair trade and sustainable practices to preserve local artisanal traditions. Women, who are offered lessons in embroidery and beading, produce every pair of Zyne slipper by hand. Each sandal, slipper, and mule is made out of eco-friendly materials, such as raffia, a natural fiber, which they tint using colors made from biodegradable vegetable scraps and spices.
In Tunisia alone, there are three to four million shoes thrown away each year, which is why the French-Tunisian family behind the footwear brand is on a mission to add value to old shoes by restoring them into kitschy, need-it-now slippers and bags. Handmade and upcycled, the family-owned brand uses the soles of upcycled shoes to give a new twist to traditional North African babouches.