For this edition of Behind the Seams, we caught up with Christal Earle of Brave Soles, a female owned, ethically produced and globally inspired footwear and accessories brand out of Toronto. Brave Soles believes in work done with dignity, sustainable fashion and a future that we can all create together.
Tell us about your brand: who are you and why have you decided to create your brand?
Brave Soles is a lifestyle fashion brand. All of our products are handmade and incorporate elements of upcycle into every design. The inspiration for Brave Soles came from our founder, Christal, and the work she has done for years with landfill workers in the Dominican Republic. Tires are a huge problem in the many parts of the world: they are toxic, they take a long time to biodegrade and they are breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry deadly diseases. The spark for the brand came from seeking a solution that would be able to be a reflection of a love for fashion, people and planet.
How do your values shape your business?
We value people, planet and creating a prosperity we can all participate in. Our supply chain is built on small (often single) suppliers. Our workshop team is paid 2-3X the minimum wage in country, and we have a strong engagement with all of our team members. Everybody matters and their contributions are valued.
We also value loving the earth and so you will see evidence in all of our designs of our continual quest to upcycle and creatively incorporate surprising elements into our creations.
What is your relationship to fashion/clothing?
First of all, I (Christal) have had a love affair with fashion since I was 4 years old. I build my day from my accessories forward – even when I am working from home by myself 🙂
I have also been an active humanitarian for 20 years. I have worked all over the world and have seen first hand how the fashion industry can help or harm everyone along the value chain. I have worked with displaced and vulnerable people groups in many parts of the world and experiencing the effects of environmental degradation and irresponsible manufacturing practices convinced me a long time ago about the power of my choices and intentions.
At Brave Soles, we love fashion, but we love people and planet more. Fashion should feel good and you shouldn’t have to compromise who you are for what you own.
Who has impacted your life the most and why?
I have had so many amazing influences over the years that it’s hard to pick just one. One of those people is my daughter. She is a young teenager. I am a single mom and so life and work will often blend together in our world. She is integrated into every area of Brave Soles and knowing that I am building something that is also helping to shape her vision of the future inspires me to see things through her eyes and seek out her insights on life.
Who/ what do you look to for style clues and why?
As I have moved through different stages of my life, my style has evolved with my values. I live equal amounts of time between the Dominican Republic and Toronto and so I live the full seasons all year around. I live in a beach town in the D.R. and our world is pretty laid back. However I am NOT a beach person, so I tend to dress more urban and versatile. I love pieces that are simple so that you can jazz them up with shoes and accessories. I love reading fashion mags and following bloggers from all over the world because it helps me keep a composite view of what is taking shape in sustainable fashion from different parts of the world.
When you think of the future of sustainable/eco-fashion, what do you see and what excites you the most?
I am super hopeful for the future. I believe that the fashion world is (slowly) waking up to what it will take to sustain our life and future here. I believe the future of fashion is found in what inspires people to create, dream and imagine.
What excites me about this is the reality that we already have a wealth of resources and elements to draw upon that can challenge us to innovate and think beyond what we see. This is the true beauty of fashion. However, over the years, we seemed to have lost our ability to push ourselves to ask bigger, more beautiful questions about what’s possible.
If we can build a collective vision of how the true beauty of fashion is found in how it looks, feels AND the legacy it leaves for the generations behind us, then we will definitely have an exciting future ahead.
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