I founded Will's Vegan Shoes in 2012 with the aim of making it easier to make a positive choice and live a vegan lifestyle.
The first thing most people think about before choosing a vegan lifestyle is what they can eat (easy!). The second thing can often be what they can wear. By creating vegan options for people's favourite shoes, I wanted to help reduce one barrier to choosing vegan. If you could get vegan shoes at the same price, same style and same quality as a good high-street brand, why would you not go cruelty-free?
It took a lot of work to get started. A big challenge was convincing a shoe factory in Portugal of my concept. I chose the best quality vegan leather and vegan suede from Italy and paired it with the best quality vegan components. This resulted in vegan shoes that were better quality and cost more to make than a pair of leather shoes, something that had not been seen before by most factories I visited. Leather was the traditional material used to make good quality shoes; anything else was considered a lower quality option that sold for less. After a few trips, I had support from some great factories that manufactured for well-known brands to make high-quality vegan shoes. I could not wait to tell people!
I previewed the first six styles of the collection at Bristol Vegfest on May 24th 2013, and started taking down email addresses from people interested in the launch planned for later that year. Those six styles included the same Chelsea Boots and Work Boots you can see today (with a few tweaks along the way!).
The first stock arrived from Portugal just in time to launch at The Third Estate as part of the Brecknock Road Vegan Festival on November 9th (they still stock us, so if you're ever in the Camden area, check them out). www.wills-vegan-shoes.com also went live, and the first online orders started arriving!
I attended the Animal Aid Christmas Without Cruelty event in Kensington a month later. It was so busy that almost all the stock sold out. For most of the day, there was a long queue of people waiting to buy their pairs of Will's Vegan Shoes. I could not believe it!
Over the following years, I continued building the vegan shoe collection, launching new styles at vegan shows across the UK. Will's Vegan Shoes started getting international attention from the vegan community, so I travelled to Europe to attend the Veggie World events in Paris, Berlin, Munich and Cologne and to the US for New York Vegfest, LA Fashion Week, LA Vegfest, LA Street Faire, Eat Drink Vegan and SoCal Vegfest. I love vegan shows. It's fun meeting people and eating great food. I always leave inspired.
I got lots of helpful feedback during these shows, and following many requests, I expanded the collection into vegan belts, vegan wallets, vegan knitwear, vegan coats, vegan running trainers and vegan hiking boots. The name changed from Will's Vegan Shoes to Will's Vegan Store, as it was not just a vegan shoe company anymore!
I've kept my ethos of why I started Will's Vegan Store. If we all try to Make a Positive Choice, we can create positive change in the world.
Today's collection is still ethically made in Italy & Portugal under European Union employment, discrimination & health & safety law.
We are slow fashion. We plan for all our styles to be a permanent part of the collection, just like we design them to be a permanent part of your wardrobe. We don't make products for a season or fashion but to last. We don't discount or go on sale. We focus on creating high-quality vegan shoes, vegan accessories and vegan clothing, sold with good customer service for a reasonable price.
Since 2016 everything we make has been certified carbon neutral, from our vegan Chelsea Boots to vegan leather jackets, and everything we do is carbon neutral, from running our warehouses in the UK and Netherlands to shipping your order out to you.
Will's Vegan Store is here with the fantastic support of the vegan community, for which I am very grateful. I do this for you. It's great to help you live a positive life.
If you are unhappy with your purchase at any point, we will always refund, replace or try to repair it. Just let us know, and we'll take care of everything for you.
If you ever need any assistance or have any feedback or suggestions, you're always welcome to contact me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org