The current state of the Mexican shoe and sandal industry is that the Mexicans are locked into a low-profit battle with the Chinese and the Brazilians. Quality suffers, the materials used are the cheapest possible, and the only one who wins is the country with the least expensive labor rate.
The consumer has no choice. He either buys the inferior, mass produced goods coming out of Asia or Brazil, or the expensive, handmade goods coming from either Italy or France.

There is no real middle ground. Sure, there are the over- priced name brand trainers but those have been recently condemned as environmentally unfriendly by a recent MIT study that found that building a “simple” pair of running shoes might take up to 360 separate process steps with upwards of 65 different parts made out of possibly 24 different synthetic materials generating 30 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

But the impact goes way beyond mass-produced shoes. There is a ripple effect that comes from consuming too much, buying products that wear out and made from materials with a high environmental cost. The Guardian reported two weeks ago in an article entitled – ‘Nasa-funded study: industrial civilization headed for ‘irreversible collapse’? – on an independent research project funded by NASA, led by an applied mathematician of the US National Science Foundation and supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center who found that “even advanced, complex civilizations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilization”. They concluded: “Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion.”
The article went on to say that “This is a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business – and consumers – to recognize that “business as usual” cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.”
One of the chief causes of this unsustainability comes from our consumption habits. In short, we buy too many products that have high replacement rates and made from the wrong materials.

And the fact is that mass-produced goods made from synthetic materials processed mostly from petroleum products have other costs. A recent article published by entitled “De-Toxing Children’s Footwear” sited a Greenpeace investigation done earlier this year that “showed children’s clothes and shoes made by major brands — including Disney, Burberry, American Apparel, GAP, and Primark — contained residues of toxic chemicals. In some cases, the levels were higher than just residue.”

We as consumers now have more than one reason to support the nascent slow-wear clothing movement and the designers who are more conscious and are just not about creating trends and throw-away clothes. The slow-wear clothing movement is built around 3 primary tenants: a rejection of mass-produced, the preference for long-wearing artisanal materials, and slowing the rate of consumption by purchasing better quality clothing less often.

And to support this, many nations like Great Britain are bringing it back home. For example, the textile mills of Yorkshire are expanding and 19th century looms are being called back into existence. Brands with quality manufacturing processes using only the best long wearing materials are popping up everywhere these days. To name a few, there is Merz Schwanen in Germany making knitwear, the company Appalatch is making quality wool clothing in Asheville, North Carolina and there is Sahara Sandals in Mexico that makes handmade sandals built to last.

So with all of that in mind we need to learn to make do with less; both as a society and as individuals. We must always be mindful of the economics, carefully calculating the relevant value propositions. And we must be aware that perhaps the only personal vote that matters any more is how we spend our money because what we buy is what we support; however tacit.