The Balagan brand designs timeless shoes and everyday accessories that are created using traditional craft techniques. The aesthetics of the repertoire were inspired by the modernist architecture of Tel Aviv combined with the simple elegance of Warsaw—the same distinctive design characterizes the brand’s latest collection, with the difference that their classic models were launched in vegan and biodegradable versions. The special feature of the shoe collection is that it is made of breathable and plastic-free materials, and each footwear can be composted at the end of its life cycle. The founders of the brand told us about the pieces that are unique in Poland, created with special technology, environmentally friendly and at the same time simple.
In the footwear industry today, speed, quantity and low price matter, so natural materials are often replaced by synthetic materials. If each part of a shoe is made of a different type of plastic, footwear that has already served its purpose or disintegrated due to poor quality will become non-recyclable waste. Billions of pairs of shoes end up in landfills, where they slowly decompose while releasing harmful substances and microplastic particles into the soil and groundwater over the centuries. In response to this problem, the Polish Balagan has launched a new alternative to the market, as well as cautioning everyone about brands that operate with eco slogans. As the brand’s founders, Hanna Ferenc Hildsen and Agata Matlak-Lutyk, have drawn our attention to it: “Unlike manufacturers’ advertisements, eco-leather is not always eco-leather”. They then added: “We have long dreamed of an environmentally friendly alternative to animal skins. We have been searching for and researching vegan leathers on the market for over a year. Unfortunately, all the shells we studied: apple, grape, pineapple and cactus shells are largely based on synthetic materials.” Based on all this, the brand’s team has decided to use only natural materials to create vegan shoe models that are definitely environmentally friendly and completely safe.
But how are these shoes made?
Finding a suitable alternative to natural leather took several months; during this time, the Balagan team examined a number of natural leather substitutes available on the market. As one of the central raw materials for shoe models, natural latex from Lactae Brasiliensis tree was eventually chosen. To produce this, the trees do not need to be cut down: to extract the “milk”, their bark is only gently incised. This is a very slow and sustainable process that does not affect the natural life cycle of the tree. Shoe soles are made from this latex in a small factory in the south of France using a long-forgotten rubber processing method from forty years ago. The liquid latex is poured by hand into various metal molds and then bathed at sixty degrees. After cooling, the sole is placed in the oven, where it spends another seven days—making it extremely soft and flexible. Since no ingredients other than rubber are used in the manufacturing process, the soles can be composted.
The upper part of the footwear is made of organic, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified cotton—the highest standard in textile production, which guarantees that no environmentally harmful fertilizers or chemicals were used in the growing process. The insole is made of natural latex and coconut fiber, which is also used to make the sole, and is covered with a thin, antiseptic cork layer.
Biochoes advertise their message with a campaign about closeness to nature, which also highlights the essence of the collection. In each image, a sense of energy and intimacy is emphasized: the vegan collection is mostly aimed at women who are environmentally conscious, ethically minded and sensitive to the topic. The full Down to Earth vegan and organic collection is available on the Balagan website.