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reviews: the shoes blues

For the past couple years, I've relied on thrifting for most of my shoe purchases. It's challenging to find a good pair of shoes and it's even worse when you've spent a lot of money on a pair just to realize they aren't meeting your expectations. But I want to support ethical brands when I can, so when I got a new job, I saved up some money and bought a few new pairs of shoes for the first time in a long time.

Unfortunately, I wasn't pleased with the results.

The Sseko Designs Flats - so beautiful, so disappointing

Item 1: TOMS Flats


I actually found these secondhand online and thought it was the perfect opportunity to get a pair of TOMS. The brand is still working out kinks with production standards and transparency, but I consider them a better option than your standard department store brand. I bought these in a size 7, my usual size, and found them to be both unusually wide and shallow at the heel. As a result, my feet are constantly flopping out of the back and getting shoved to one side or the other.

Item 2: Sseko Designs Lalibella Flats


The website suggests sizing down one size, so I opted for a 6.5 instead of my usual 7. When I got them, I found them to be too small, with the left shoe feeling slightly tighter than the right (my right foot is a bit bigger, so it's not a matter of foot inconsistency). I ordered the next size up and found that the left shoe fit the same if not tighter than the 6.5 and the right shoe fit fine. What?! To their credit, they have incredible customer service and free returns.

I'm terribly disappointed that the Sseko flats are a no-go because I love the style and the company. It sucks because fair trade and small scale are the best ways to ensure fair labor and greater sustainability, but the quality control is (often) lacking. I take my time on making more expensive ethical purchases because, on my budget, these things are investment pieces. They've got to hold up.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the necessary price differences between fast fashion items and ethical/artisanal ones. I get it, but it's hard not to hold items you've spent more than a day's wages on to a high standard. It's a struggle with every new purchase and it makes ethical fashion blogging a bit more challenging because I can't feature tons of ethical brands in personal style posts. Still, important things are often the hardest things to achieve and it's worth it to keep having these discussions, to keep saving up, and to keep discovering and featuring brands that change the industry for the better.

5 comments

  1. I feel you so hard right now. Finding ethical alternatives that have prices that compete with their non-ethical counterpart is so difficult, and as ethical fashion bloggers, it's difficult to preach one thing and not be able to follow through yourself. I've just been spending a little extra time searching for cheaper ethical brands (but then that raises suspicions as to how they were able to get the prices so cheap, but regardless...) and trying to share those on my blog, but there are only so many (let alone fine cheap AND well-designed (and in your case, high quality) ethical brands)! I usually just resort to, for the brands I don't have the extra cash to spurge on, contacting and collaborating with them (hosting a giveaway, etc) to make them more accessible to me and my readers.
    But yeah, solidarity big time right here <3

    <(') Hoda | JooJoo Azad

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    1. Thanks for chiming in so I know I'm not alone! I'm definitely looking into more ways to collaborate, but I want my approach to be appropriate and polite, so I've hesitated contacting any of them so far. I'd be interested in knowing how you do it!

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  2. Ahh, the shoe issue always drives me insane. I tried TOMS, but they were too narrow so I sent them back. I love the Sseko designs, but I know they won't fit me comfortably. Vintage shoes are normally too small for me, so I'm stuck. I try to buy shoes that are made in Italy or Spain, which I hope makes them a bit more ethical, but it's so hard. I could never buy another item of clothing again and be just fine, but I have to have comfortable shoes.

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    1. I agree. Thrifting and Ebay have worked, but I so badly want to support ethical shoe brands; it's just way way out of my budget and a lot of fair trade stuff, for all the good it does, isn't actually high quality. I am seriously considering buying Everlane's loafers, but I think 165.00 is probably the limit of what I could spend on a pair of shoes.

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  3. Thanks for this honest review! I agree that this is often the case. It's why I haven't ordered anything else from Mata Traders—I love the dress I have from them, but it took so much tailoring that I'm not anxious to start that process over again. Shoes are even harder to get right because you can't tailor those! I'm glad to hear Sseko is offering free returns though. That makes me much more willing to give one of their new styles a try, just to see how they are.

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