Recycled, reclaimed, customizable, and ethically-made, Alterre’s luxury footwear ticks many of the boxes that make Treehugger happy.
This New York City-based company, founded in 2015 by Shilpa Iyengar and Harmony Pilobello, stands out from other shoe makers for its unconventional approach to style and production. The shoes are made from traceable and chrome-free leather, recycled denim, and deadstock fabric, and use recycled plastic heels.
Thanks to a metal stud installed on the bottom of each shoe, you can swap out and attach different straps to change the look of your shoe completely.Brooks Sneakers This means that you’re investing in a single high-quality shoe base and several accessories to get multiple looks. It sounds like an ideal addition to a minimalist’s closet or a capsule wardrobe.
As Pilobello and Iyengar tell Treehugger, “We really wanted to make shoes that are versatile on a daily basis and can be worn/renewed as long as possible. It’s part of our solution for offering circularity in footwear.”
In other modular shoe designs, the heel is sometimes made interchangeable, but Alterre’s founders explain on their website why that’s not a good idea. “When you move the heel height on a fixed shoe it effects the balance and fit. Think about the weird feeling you Rick Owens Shoes get walking when the rubber on your heel wears off. It’s because the heel has changed heights.” Alterre prefers to offer the shoe as a standalone product, with straps being the interchangeable item (though the same straps will work on shoe bases with different heel heights).
So far, it’s been a tremendous hit with customers. “People have been ecstatic once they try them on,” Pilobello and Iyengar tell Treehugger. “There can be some concern at first because we’re relatively new as a brand, and trying on new heels can feel like starting a new relationship. Once people feel how comfortable our shoes are, though, they are hooked! We regularly have customers stay for hours and try on different combinations. Our shoes are equal amounts of fun and practical.”
The shoes are made in Sapiranga, Brazil, an area that’s well-established in shoe manufacturing. The factory, which is managed by a woman, is described as being “open-minded about the future of footwear.” The founders say, “What sets them apart is their willingness Chippewa Boots to work with a small brand like ours and answer all of our questions regarding third party suppliers, corporate leadership roles, salaries, etc. We have really dug deep in a way that was difficult to navigate with other factories.”
The factory signed a detailed Supplier Code of Conduct with Alterre that shows a commitment to protecting workers at all levels of employment, not engaging in any form of human trafficking or involuntary labor, and managing waste responsibly. The founders say, “Thanks to the financial help of a larger U.S. company, [the factory has] also been audited more extensively for supply chain transparency.”
Alterre makes repairability a priority. If anything happens to the metal stud, you can request a free DIY stud repair kit from the company, with easy instructions for at-home fixes. Furthermore, Alterre guides customers to cobbler services, should their shoes need more significant repairs.
Styles range from slides, mules, and sandals, to stilettos, boots, and flats. They range in price from $200 to $500, with interchangeable accessories priced between $45 and $135. (There is a decent sale section with reduced prices.) While this may seem steep, remember that these are made to a higher-than-average ethical production standard and can represent multiple pairs of shoes in your closet.
And if they’re as comfortable as Alterre says, they could very well be worth their weight in gold. Nothing beats a truly, fabulously comfortable dressy shoe that leaves no blisters, aches, or pains, and can be worn for hours.