Christian Dior once said “you can never take too much care over the choice of your shoes… the real proof of an elegant woman is what is on her feet”. 

It’s well known that the leather industry is a catalyst for a great deal of unethical fashion practices. Turning animal skins into leather uses chemicals such as formaldehyde and coal tar derivatives, which are not only environmentally destructive but also extremely dangerous for all who manufacture leather products. To make matters worse, the footwear industry in countries like India, China, Brazil and Vietnam is one of the major export industries employing a large number of children.

Ten years ago long-time vegan and former podiatrist, Alicia Lai, saw a gap in the market for beautiful shoes that didn’t cost the earth. She decided to create her own company and thus Bourgeois Boheme was born. 

The name evokes a warm welcome to all, from the bourgeois to the bohemian, the humble student, to the office professional. From street wear to formal occasions, Bourgeois Boheme suits people from all walks of life who want to have a positive global impact when it comes to their choice of footwear. 

Since re-launching two years ago, Alicia says their designs have gone from quirky to a more minimalistic style with a large emphasis on a unisex and timeless feel.

Alicia admits the hardest task is sourcing and locating new, ethical materials. Instead of PVC which contains chloride and isn’t biodegradable, BB uses cotton-backed micro-fibre polyurethane textiles and natural materials.

Another great ethical factor of the Bourgeois Boheme label comes though at the production level. Each pair is handmade in Portugal by skilled artisans in three separate factories that Alicia visits personally throughout the year.

Alicia says the main aim for Bourgeois Boheme is to produce shoes as ecologically as possible, despite the myriad of challenges this presents for her and her team.

“Innovation is out there and people are seeing that we do need to produce more eco products,” Alicia says.

"Vegan clothing is not just a hot trend this season."

With her family’s roots spreading from Australia to Singapore and China, Alicia now calls London home and says BB uses “British heritage and urban London surroundings” to gather inspiration for their collections. 

I asked Alicia what you should do if you live on a student budget and she gave me some tips. The main piece of advice was that investment pieces are key: you don’t need to buy new items every season if you make a few purchases of classic, timeless pieces once a year. From the Autumn/Winter range this year Alicia says both the Stella and the Tilda in grey are wardrobe staples that won’t go out of fashion. And in the men’s range you can’t go wrong with the sophisticated Louis. 

You can read more about Bourgeois Boheme and order online at: