Australian made shoes are highly sought after. Once a roaring trade out of Victoria, there are only a few manufacturers left in the country, and for this reason, the products are not cheap. On top of that, making shoes is a loooong process that takes dedicated tools and skills that are being lost due to offshoring and shortcuts that swap quality for quantity. Despite the difficulty, there are a few brands who are dedicated to keeping the quality craftsmanship alive, here and around the world. What’s better? They’re working with quality leathers or sustainable alternatives to help reduce environmental impact and impact to animals. These are my picks.
Note: All of these brands are available in Australia, but they aren’t all Australian brands. I’ve noted where each brand is based in the listings for your information and where you can buy them from.
Designed and assembled in Melbourne, Nelson Made makes slips and sandals with leathers, linens and rubber soles. The brand says it aims to make shoes with a small environmental impact, with a commitment to making sustainable pieces in a slow fashion, small batch model. Nelson Made sources materials with the “lowest possible environmental and human impact while still being suitable for footwear production.” They say they use vegetable tanned leathers that are dyed with less harmful chemicals than chromium tanned hides. While the designs are simple, the fabrics are often bold, making the shoes a funky addition to any outfit. You can design your own leather sandals, too. Prices range between $159-$189.
Founded in 2013 by Brand Director Kerryn Moscicki, this Melbourne-based brand produces the cutest ballet flats, lace ups and boots to bridge your day between work and play. Radical Yes is know for its bright colours, tassels and prints, and absolute comfort. Radical Yes sticks with small runs, often producing less than 100 pairs in each style in each range, so it’s first in, best dressed – literally. Shoes are ethically produced in Australia and in China, see the website for manufacturer details. Prices range between $79-$279.
This Melbourne-based footwear factory makes its shoes in-house as well as producing shoes for other local and international labels. The locally made P.S.S label is a range of simple boots, loafers and sandals, made with sustainably sourced leathers including vegetable tanned kangaroo leather. If you find a shoe you love but want it in a different colour, you can get it custom made. Prices range between $349-$499.
Melbourne-based fashion brand Kuwaii keeps a select range of shoes to complement its wonderful womenswear, made right here in Australia. The range includes leather and vegan platform sandals, lace ups and boots in classic Kuwaii colours. Kuwaii has a genuine focus on sustainability and transparency in its business, and goes into detail on its website with information about how products are made, what goes into them and the costs involved too. You can read about the brand’s shoe production process here. Prices range from $375-$449.
Melbourne-based brand Obus Clothing produces 80% of its products in Australia, but its shoes are mostly produced in Spain. Saying that, the brand is wholly committed to sustainable production and manufacturing and takes the necessary steps to make sure that its offshore suppliers are too. The shoes are a range of boots and classic block heels that are perfect for work and fun (just like the Obus clothing range). Prices range between $229-$289.
This Sunshine Coast designer makes colourful and classic leather sandals and brogues for your everyday wear. All of her shoes are ethically produced in the Sunshine Coast and Melbourne and materials (including the kangaroo leather) are sustainably sourced. Sandals start at $275.
Fresh out of South Australia, Adelaide-based shoemaker Beccy Bromilow is driven to create simple, practical designs with a sustainable focus – which is evident in the brand’s design stage, materials used and waste management. BB Shoemaker’s footwear and leather accessories are assembled by hand at Ensemble Studios, a collective retail, studio and hire space located in Adelaide. The shoes are a range of slip ons, lace ups, boots and sandals, in vegetable tanned kangaroo leather.
Zette Shoes is the in-house brand by Melbourne shoe retailer Vegan Style. Zette Shoes are made fairly in Europe (Spain, Italy & Portugal) from luxurious, cruelty free materials. Each shoe style is named after a rescue cat they’ve fostered at Vegan Style HQ. The brand launched in 2014 with a women’s collection and has since grown to include classic dress shoes and also boots for men.
R.M Williams is no longer an Australian-owned company, but the majority of the brand’s footwear is still handmade in Adelaide. The classic R.M leather boots are known for their quality and the brand offers repairs on worn and damaged shoes for a fraction of the cost – replacing the heel and sole after years of use. It’s worth investing in a pair of these classic kicks.
‘The world’s most comfortable shoes’ are made in New Zealand, so it’s only fitting that they’re made from the finest Merino wool. The Allbirds’ founders say they have created an entirely new category of shoes inspired by natural materials, simplicity in design and extreme comfort. The brand is B-Corp certified, and uses 90% post-consumer recycled cardboard that for its packaging.
Environmentally friendly sneakers, made with raw materials sourced from organic farming and ecological agriculture, without chemicals or polluting processes. These babies are ethically designed and produced in southern Brazil (unlike 95% of the world’s sneakers which are made in Southeast Asia), and made to last with quality cotton, rubber and leathers. Read more about this brand’s epic commitment to sustainable production here. Australians can buy VEJAS from the Well Made Clothes online store. Prices range between $125-$195.
EKN’s shoes are hand made by experienced Portugese craftsmen, using natural materials from high quality suppliers. The German shoemaker promotes walking clean in a dirty world, which it does through its quality footwear in leather, cotton and vegan options for men and women. Boasting all organic materials, EKN says there are zero harmful chemicals used in its manufacturing process. All of its footwear is produced in limited quantities to ensure minimal environmental impact and maximum attention to detail.
Read more about Australia’s fading footwear industry in this article by The Guardian.