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Closure of our Melbourne Showroom; and Future Directions

Our bricks & mortar store at Smith Street, Collingwood, closed on 16th June, 2019. As of that date we are trading only on-line.

The store was established in August 1995 and quickly became something of an institution in Melbourne, being Australia’s first dedicated vegan shoe store, and subsequently becoming the first and only place where vegan footwear was manufactured locally. It was feasible to set up a manufacturing unit in the latter half of the 1990’s because, as a result of our government’s free trade policies, local factories were closing up or re-locating to Asia. Second hand machines could be picked up pretty cheaply, and there were plenty of people trained in the factory environment who were being retrenched and were looking for work.

However, those two circumstances were only temporary. Soon all the factories were gone – meaning no more cheap machines, few local suppliers, fewer and fewer mechanics specializing in footwear machinery, and an almost non-existent trained sector workforce.  From about 2015 things started to feel too hard and we concluded that we would need to transition to a different business model. We finally closed our manufacturing unit in June 2018, and a year later the shop was closed.

It probably wasn’t inevitable that the workshop and the retail showroom would close. Had the business been able to grow to a larger scale, with a unity of purpose, things may have been different – maybe. However, as it happened, the company directors were ideologically divided – one remained fiercely loyal to the notion of exclusive local production, and the other advocated at least a partial transition to overseas manufacture. There were persuasive arguments in favour of each approach, but the sad outcome was that in the absence of a clear shared vision insufficient thought and effort was devoted to securing our future under either or both paths. Various windows of opportunity opened and then closed and we were not adequately prepared to make the best of these.

In 2015 we decided to phase down local production and the workshop was finally closed three years later. And as time passed it became apparent that our overseas manufacturing capacity was not sufficiently diverse or evolved to support a single stand-alone retail operation. So the decision to close the showroom quickly followed.

For the time being we will be selling down existing inventories. Later we will be releasing a new range of shoes and boots manufactured overseas to our detailed specifications. Hopefully these will be the best vegan shoes yet!

 

Vegan Wares: Stepping towards new horizons

Hello to our loyal supporters!

This is just a quick note to let you know about some big changes that are underway here at Vegan Wares, and open discussion about any number of exciting possibilities.

As you are aware, for the past 23 years, our main focus has been to manufacture quality vegan footwear in-house. Over recent years however, due to key personnel changing careers, and the art of handmade shoes becoming a dying trade, in-house manufacturing has simply become too difficult for us to maintain. After much deliberation, we closed our workshop in June 2018.

Whilst our mission – to create genuinely sustainable products that help reduce animal cruelty and benefit the planet on a larger scale – is still the same, we have been contemplating the best platform from which to serve our customers in the future.

Rather than coming to decisions behind closed doors, we want to consult first with you, for without your support, Vegan Wares certainly wouldn’t have made it through the last 23 years.

These are some of the questions we will be considering over the next few months:

Should we continue with the bricks & mortar retail outlet, or become an on-line only store? Should we continue to support the few remaining local footwear manufacturers? Should we bring in a new partner with new interests and energies? Should we merge/collaborate with another like-minded business?

We are open to all ideas and suggestions. If you would like to discuss any of these matters with us, or if you have a proposal you’d like to throw on the table, send us an email, or pop into the shop. We are very excited to see where the next year will take us.

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In the lead up to our 20 year anniversary this August of being in the business of designing and making high-quality & sustainable vegan shoes, boots and accessories we’d like to return to where it all began.

Back in the early ‘90s Peter Cabena and Jenny Donaldson, both ethical vegans, began their journeys independently of each other seeking good quality alternatives to leather shoes. Peter had started up a mail order business importing vegan hiking boots from the UK and was looking to expand the range of footwear due to customer demand. Jenny had a keen interest in design and the idea of making vegan shoes locally. They met in April 1995 after Peter discovered a notice Jenny had posted on a Collingwood community board about developing a vegan shoe business. Sharing the same ideals of going into business to provide the community with ethical footwear that is high-quality, durable and fashionable, Peter and Jenny founded Vegan Wares.

Vegan Wares – Australia’s first vegan shoe store and local footwear manufacturer – officially opened for business in August 1995.

Below is an article titled “If the shoe fits” that appeared in Australian newspaper The Age on 1st November 1995.

Since then we’ve been specializing in designing and making high-quality, long-lasting animal-free footwear, also offering a made-to-order service, which includes colour options, size variations (e.g. extra width, extra length), and new style creations. We also stocked non-leather belts, wallets, purses from the beginning and have since expanded our range to include other environmentally sustainable products such as bamboo socks, sneakers made from recycled plastic bottles, cruelty-free bags and personal care made from natural products.

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Have you ever considered opening your own vegan shoe store?

A simple way to get started is to buy a franchise licence, which gives you the right to retail Vegan Wares products in your locality.  It’s simple and easy because:

you don’t need any particular technical expertise in footwear you have instant access to a proven business model the core merchandise is on tap you’re not alone – we are available to  support you 6 (business) days a week.

The Vegan Wares franchise system aims to achieve a wider distribution of our products by establishing a network of dedicated vegan retail outlets.  There is an element of standardization, to maintain our message of ‘sustainability through durability’ and client recognition, but there is also ample scope for franchisees to vary what is on offer around the core merchandise, and personalize the presentation.

In essence, under our franchise system we provide most of the products, while you work at connecting with your local clientele.

If you are good at marketing and customer service this may be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.

Entry costs – an initial set-up fee; an annual license fee; investment in foundation stock.

Email us for more information with subject heading ‘VW Franchise’: veganw[at]veganwares.com

We’re excited to be taking part in the Fair@Square event for the first time! It will be held at Federation Square, Melbourne on November 30 & December 1.

It’s a free public festival held annually celebrating ethical, sustainable and morally responsible behaviour – in line with what Vegan Wares’ is all about.

Come along to the festival next weekend and make sure you drop by our stall where you will find cruelty-free, ethical and sustainable products such as: shoes, belts, brooches, FYE sneakers, wallets, purses, guitar straps and bags. Just in time for Christmas!

What a great time of year this is! There are so many cruelty free/vegan festivals occurring around Australia and the world.

Last Sunday was the Cruelty Free Festival in Sydney, with a wonderful array of vegan stalls, including ours. We had on display samples of our footwear made in our Melbourne shop, and for purchase we had bags, guitar straps, belts, wallets, purses, wrist bands (cuffs), brooches, our International collection of shoes, the For Your Earth sneakers, lip sticks and lip balms. It was an enjoyable day, thank you Sydney! Check out pics from our stall here.

Now we’re looking forward to World Vegan Day in Melbourne this Sunday, November 10, where we will also have a stall. We’ll be bringing a large range of products with us so hope to see you there!

We’ll also be at the Cruelty Free West expo in Caroline Springs on Saturday December 7. Organised by the Caroline Springs Animal Welfare Network, the expo is in it’s third year and going strong.