This week we are so excited to bring you our interview with our favourite vegan shoe brand of the moment: By BLANCH. The brand was founded by Mireia when she was looking for vegan shoe options and really felt there was a gap in the market for stylish, vegan shoes that she would really love to wear. Mireia talks us through the reason she went vegan and why ethics are so integral to by BLANCH and everything it stands for…
Hi Mireia! Tell us a bit about your childhood and background and how you feel that has influenced you today?
I was born and raised in Barcelona and studied a degree in Tourism & Hotel Management. I think I chose it because I always felt I wanted to discover the world and see new places and I thought it would be a good working field to do that…
The first time I left Barcelona, for longer than a vacation time was when I was 20 years old. I spent a whole Summer between Edinburgh and London, as I wanted to improve my English. Straight after that Summer, I got an Erasmus exchange course with my university and I spent 7 months studying in Utrecht, The Netherlands. After that, my life continued in Barcelona for few more years. It wasn’t until 2009 that I felt the urge to explore a different continent, somewhere far from Europe. I chose Australia because of its location (close to idyllic Pacific Islands) and wildlife. I spent a year there and it was one of the best! I met my love (who is actually French and that’s the reason why I now live here), I found one of my passions which is scuba-diving and I had the opportunity to see some of the best beach places in the world (Fiji Islands, Tonga, New Caledonia, Indonesia..). Once the year in Australia was gone I jumped at the idea of another adventure and spent a year in New Zealand where I collected many more great memories. After all these travels, my boyfriend and I decided to come back to France. He has a family business in Strasbourg and it was the easiest place to settle down.
Can you tell us a bit more about why you decided to go vegan?
Sometimes I think if my parents didn’t force me to eat meat I wouldn’t have chosen to eat it to begin with. When I was little I felt disgusted by it. I remembered my grandmother killing a rabbit for food in a summer house and that horrible moment stayed in my mind forever. When I was young, meat was so hard to swallow it and finished up as a dry ball in my mouth. I always tried to find the way to hide it somewhere.
Unfortunately, as I grew up, I tried to do like others and what I thought was “normal”, so I ate animals. It was only in 2012 when I started to feel quitting meat. That same year, a good German friend I met in Australia came to stay at our place here in France for a week. She announced to me before coming that she was now a vegan and the first thing I thought was; “Oh my! What I’m going to cook for a whole week?!” In the end, it turned out to be the easiest thing and so much fun to prepare new meals! While she was with us I felt I wanted to know more about her motivation to go vegan and she just told me to read the book Eating Animals from Jonathan Safran Foer (which I highly recommend) and to watch Earthlings. So that is what I did and that was it; as easy as that! I couldn’t put animal products in my mouth anymore…
I guess all that time when I was a meat eater I didn’t want to think that a steak was coming from an animal, and so it was easier to not make the connection. That was before because after doing all the research about veganism, I was so touched and sad, the only thing I could think was “why I didn’t do this before”?
What made you start up the business?
Becoming a plant-based eater was quite easy. I like nutrition and learning a whole new way of eating was somehow fun. I wanted to stick to my vegan philosophy and quit leather, silk and so on, which was more of a challenge. Like the majority of girls, I like clothes, and I felt it was too hard to find high-quality vegan shoes that were stylish at the same time. It led me to spend a year thinking about the idea of designing my own line of vegan shoes until I decided it was exactly what I wanted to do. I spent another whole year doing research about synthetic materials, finding the perfect atelier, designing a collection and making samples, all before I opened the online store.
What have been the main challenges you have faced starting By BLANCH?
The first challenge was to self-learn everything about how to design a shoe collection and all the steps to produce it. I was very motivated so it was actually a really enjoyable process. Other challenges included finding high-quality synthetic materials and an atelier with some experience as well as the production itself! You have to be behind all the process and even when doing this, there are always little mistakes to be corrected. It consumes a lot of time to supervise all the process but it is necessary in order to ensure a good final product.
What has been the most exciting thing about By BLANCH?
Seeing my dream coming true. Seeing the great feedback from people regarding the shoe models and the brand itself. Seeing progress and that I am working in a kind business, where you can wear lovely products with cruelty.
What sets By BLANCH apart from other brands on the market?
I think there is room for everyone and there are several vegan brands doing a great job out there. I design shoes in a selfish way; I make shoes I like to wear, in my own style and I want them to be wearable yet stylish! What I am really proud of is being an ethical brand. Ethical for the animals and for the people. By BLANCH is designed in France, produced in Spain and we use synthetic leather made in Italy. It would be cheaper and could have more profit producing in Asia or North Africa but that’s not the brand’s philosophy.
How did you really start to get By BLANCH out there into the world?
Social media has been the key. As a small structure, we couldn’t afford big marketing campaigns and social media was the answer; especially Instagram and Facebook.
Another great tool to get the word out has been all the lovely publications and bloggers who wrote about us. We’re really grateful for it!
What’s your one style tip?
Any By BLANCH ankle boots with a pair of skinny jeans. Wear them with a white V-neck tee for the day or a blouse by night. I love when you can see few centimetres of your ankle.
Why do you think there has been such a rise in veganism over the last few years?
We live in a society of excess. Fifty years ago people ate meat once a week and now it’s lunch and dinner. We’ve learnt many modern diseases are related to animal products consumption and people have started to realise that eating meat is actually unhealthy and that you can have a nutritious healthy diet as a vegan.
In terms of food, it has become quite easy to be vegan thanks to the growing demand that has now created many vegan restaurants and food brands now available. In terms of clothing still a bit more limited, but that is slowly is starting to change too. Also, I think it helps that some celebrities have announced they are now vegan because of their love for the animals. Many young people have followed them, which it’s a good thing in this particular case.
What inspires you?
I don’t follow trends and to be honest, I get inspiration from everywhere: watching people in the street, surfing the net, in a film… but I always stick to my own style (I’m a jeans and boots girl!).
What’s your average day like?
The last few months have been a bit tough in terms of work as I have an 8 month-old baby girl. I had to take care of her during the day and work in the evenings or while she was napping. I think before becoming a mother I didn’t realise it would be that hard to do both things at the same time. I must say when I see her smile, it gives me all the energy I need. She just started to go to the kindergarten so my work life is getting back to normal.
I like to start the day checking the emails. Clients must be answered in 24hours, then suppliers, medias, bloggers, etc. I work with to do lists. I started that from my days working as an event planner when I had to deal with so many different things and events at the same time and needed to be extremely organised. So I write all the things that need to be done by priority and I cross them out once are done. I try to look for inspiration and new ideas for the brand all the time, so it’s not unusual to see me eating lunch and surfing the net at the same time. Being a busy mum makes me use any single free moment I have; Sometimes I can be in bed and start thinking about a new idea and have to jump out to write it down.
Do you think you have a work/life balance?
Balance is the key in life. I love my job but family comes first and I think even if you love what you do, you need to find the time for the people you care about. They are the real happiness.
What is the best part of your job?
Creativity. I Love to be able to design the shoes I want to wear and to create something. That’s the fun part of it. I also love connecting with amazing people who share the same values than me.
What words do you live by?
Love, compassion and gratitude.
What’s next for you?
By BLANCH is a very young brand and I want to concentrate on the shoes. In the future, I’m open to all possibilities. Maybe adding handbags or even a men and kids line.
Everything is possible, you just need to follow your dreams!
Inspired to check out By BLANCH’s lovely shoes? By BLANCH are offering an exclusive discount code for 15% off whenever you quote THEVEGANEDITION at checkout*! Get shopping here.
*Offer Valid until the 31st December 2016.