11 July 2013

Walk The Talk

Written by Published in Good Brands

When Mike Newman took over the vegan shoe label Ethical Wares twenty years ago, it only offered two varieties of boots. The brand now stocks nearly 500 pairs. But Mike is not only involved in sustainable business, he also dedicates his private life to creating a better world

ethicalwares creeperThe owner of Ethical Wares is committed to help people in the process of leading a more sustainable and compassionate life by offering cruelty-free products. Mike is not only involved in sustainable business though. He offers rescued animals a home on his farm and supports the Tibetan refugee community. He talks to us about his devotion, walking bare-footed instead of wearing leather and the future of Ethical Wares.

Sublime: What inspired you to get involved with Ethical Wares?
Mike Newman: We took the business over more than twenty years ago. The couple, who had started it off, had just two styles of vegan walking boots and seemed content to leave it at that. Ethical Wares now offers over 500 animal free products to choose from – so you could say we’ve made one or two changes along the way.

We see EW as an opportunity to make a practical contribution in helping people live a more compassionate life. Without the cruelty-free products being in place – from footwear to food and cosmetics – all the campaigning to move away from relying on animal products just won’t be able to succeed.

S: Having experienced the growth of Ethical Wares – how would you explain the increasing demand for cruelty-free products?
Well, there has always been a demand for animal friendly goods, but one that previously just hadn’t been fulfilled. One of our long-standing customers used to go hill walking bare-footed as he couldn’t get vegan boots and wouldn’t wear leather.

I think it is true to a certain extent that people are generally more aware now of a whole range of issues – animal cruelty, environmental concerns, fair trade, social justice and many more. EW just plays a very small but still important role in trying to make a world that is more fair and equal for all of us.

ethicalwares ranger-bootS: What is the most popular item in your store?
Our best-selling product would be our Ranger Walking boot. It’s been sold all over the world. We are also very pleased with the response to our Union Street range of shoes, launched last year. These not only look very cool but are probably the lightest men’s shoes you will ever wear, and they are made here in the UK exclusively for EW.

S: What would you count as Ethical Ware’s biggest achievement?
Well, I am tempted to say just keeping an ethically based business going for over twenty years has been no mean achievement. It’s certainly taken its toll on us. We’ve seen many companies come and go during this time. We are still here.

We get a great deal of satisfaction from having helped compassionate people all over the world lead a lifestyle that doesn’t rely on the exploitation of animals or people. We must have reached thousands of people during the time we’ve been going, and continue to do so today. For us, this justifies all the hard work and stressful moments.

S: You are also involved in rescuing animals and giving shelter to them. Can you tell us more about it?
I’ve always rescued cats and rabbits, and nearly fourteen years ago we moved to West Wales and bought a twelve-acre holding with a view to giving a safe and permanent home to even more animals. We currently have a motley collection of about fifty living here with us. As well as cats and rabbits we have sheep, goats, a pig, horses, dogs and Aunt Dottie, the cow. The upkeep for the animals comes from the income from EW and we see looking after them all as a logical extension of our vegan beliefs.

ethicalwares dottieWe recently took in some more sheep and goats from a wonderful animal sanctuary in Kent called Happy Endings. I’m currently nursing a bruised rib from a kick by Charlie, one of our new goats. Bless him.

S: Tell us more about your support for the Tibetan Refugee Community and your Tibet Shop.
The Tibet Shop emerged because of our concerns for the current situation in Tibet, which is such a beautiful and enlightened country. The rest of the world could learn so much from Tibet. Sadly a cultural genocide is taking place there and while world leaders line up to have their photos taken with the Dalai Lama, governments turn a blind eye to the abuse and misery inflicted on the Tibetan people for fear of upsetting China with all its economic power and influence.

Even though many Tibetans desperately attempt to make the world pay attention to their plight nobody seems to be listening. The least we can do is to support the exiled Tibetan community by stocking handicrafts and music, which both provides them with an income and also helps to keep Tibetan culture alive.

S: What does the future look like for Ethical Wares?
ethicalwares iconMN:
Looking ahead, we continue to look to source more ethically produced and animal friendly products. We have samples for a number of exciting new ranges pending. We’ve also been looking at how we promote what we do and are looking to have a short promotional video made later this year. We’ve been increasing the number of retailers overseas stocking our products as well and want to see this continue. The reliance on animal products or by-products to sustain our consumer lifestyle doesn’t seem like going to end anytime soon, so it looks like we still have plenty of work to do for the foreseeable future.


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