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Love leather and the environment? 5 things to look for in vegan leather alternatives

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I’m Niki, the founder and designer of Enji Studio Jewelry. We’re a sustainable luxury jewelry brand based in beautiful north county San Diego.

at Enji we’re on a mission to bring you meaningful, modern, ethical design that shows off your style, honors the journey of your life, and reflects your values. We craft each piece for you in our Carlsbad studio bringing new life to recycled gold and silver and using only FairTrade and ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones.

Enji was founded in 2014. We take steps toward positive change in our industry by practicing ethical sourcing and manufacturing and giving back to the local and global community. We create our pieces for everyday wear.

Enji is about modern, minimal design that is made ethically and sustainably and gives back to the community. As creators and consumers, our choices now have a global impact. This is why we consider how things are made to be important and this to be part of our responsibility as a business and global citizen. As a designer and jeweler, I only work with suppliers that share this view. This is why we make all of my pieces using only recycled gold and silver, ethically sourced and fairtrade stones, chains and findings that are made in the USA and Italy, and packaging and marketing materials made using recycled paper and clothing.

Niki is a GIA Graduate Jeweler. She was awarded the 2016 Halstead Grant Award and 2014 Windgate Fellowship Award by the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design. She has exhibited in galleries throughout the United States and Europe and her work can be seen in the pages of Glamour UK, Basic, Evening Standard, National Jeweler, and more. To see her one of a kind art pieces and CV check out nikigrandics.com

Enji is about modern, minimal design that is made ethically and sustainably and gives back to the community. As a designer and jeweler, I only work with suppliers that share this view. We make all of my pieces using only recycled gold and silver, ethically sourced and fair mined stones, chains and findings that are made in the USA and Italy, and packaging and marketing materials made using recycled paper.

As a member of Ethical Metalsmiths, we hope to be among the first movers bringing transparency and sustainable practices into the luxury fashion jewelry world. Ethical Metalsmiths and Fairmined gold and gems.  All our pieces are made in our studio in San Diego and we use low-impact, environmentally conscious studio practices to lessen our footprint. 

We take steps toward positive change in our industry by practicing ethical sourcing and manufacturing, because it’s important. To us, to you, to the women and men who mined the stones we use to create our pieces. We also donate a portion of each sale to organizations that help empower women locally and globally and work to end domestic violence and human trafficking because that’s part of the future we want to see.

Ethical sustainable jewelry fairtrade fair trade fair-trade jewelry recycled gold recycled sterling silver San Diego Carlsbad ethical gemstones ethically sourced sustainable

Love leather and the environment? 5 things to look for in vegan leather alternatives

Niki Grandics

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(Me wearing a leather jacket I bought in 2013)

Can I tell you a secret? I’ve been vegetarian/vegan for about three years, but only gave up leather this year. While giving up meat and dairy was a breeze (I wasn’t really a fan, to begin with), my weakness for luxe leather shoes and bags, has made giving up leather way more of a challenge. But I can’t ignore the impacts of leather on animals, the environment, and the workers in the supply chain, so this year when boot season came around, I decided to do some homework and look for vegan alternatives that feel just as luxurious as the real thing.

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One of the first surprising things I learned was that there are quite a few brands out there making high-end vegan shoes and purses like Matt and Nat, Beyond Skin, and Alexandra K to name a few. While it seems like you’re narrowing your choices, there is a lot out there to choose from that doesn’t sacrifice style for ethics.

However, not all vegan leather alternatives are environmentally friendly and sustainable. Some plastics are petroleum based and made with fossil fuels. Look for pieces made from natural and sustainable materials, like Pinatex, which is made from the waste of pineapple leaves and husks and has a unique look and feel. Luxury designers like Stella McCartney are all about this material right now.

Look for info on the brand's site to back up claims about being vegan, sustainable, or fair trade such as third-party certifications. There are brands out there that are eager to jump on the greenwashing bandwagon. If it sounds like they’re just using marketing words and not backing up their claims with any substance, trust your gut.

Even high-end retailers like Nordstrom carry a decent selection of vegan options and you can search for vegan shoes right on their site. If you prefer the in-person shopping experience, their staff can point you in the direction of luxury and cruelty-free options.

The selection is only going to get bigger. If plant-based lifestyles continue to grow in popularity like they have, with vegans now being 6% of the US population, more companies will have to respond and offer vegan alternatives. I mean, even KFC offers vegan meals now.

While I’ve just started my journey into the shoes and purses supply chain, I’m hoping this info offers someone else the info to start with. Also, I can’t wait to get my new vegan boots in the mail and wear them this fall.