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.