The art of constructing a good pair of shoes has largely been replaced by the convenience of fast fashion. In today’s consumer culture, the desire for quick and easy access to trends often eclipses the understanding that quality takes time and care. Or rather, it did, until two French footwear designers found one another while working side-by-side at Chloé and decided to branch out on their own to create a new kind of footwear brand, one that is sustainable, luxurious, and best of all, under $600.
Paule Tenaillon and Marine Braquet, the co-founders of Nomasei, know what it takes to build a shoe that will last. Tenaillon, a 20-year veteran in the designer footwear space, began her career working for the likes of Stéphane Kélian and Givenchy. She then took a job in a design studio that produced shoes for Jil Sander, Jil Sander Navy, and Chanel, before eventually making her way to Chloé, where she was named head shoe designer. Braquet focused more on the product management side, starting at Dior and later moving to Louis Vuitton and Chloé.
But more than their sheer talent in the design and product departments, Tenaillon and Braquet have a mission: to design truly sustainable footwear. “We were a bit frustrated to see how the luxury footwear industry was evolving, creating more and more collections without thinking of the impact it might have,” Tenaillon and Braquet told Refinery29. “We wanted to change that.”
Despite recent small steps towards progress, with Stella McCartney utilizing recycled materials in her SS20 collection and brands like Burberry and Gucci producing carbon-neutral shows, fashion continues to be a dangerously unsustainable industry, making up 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, according to Business Insider. In an attempt to counteract this alarming figure, the duo behind Nomasei are rethinking the entire process of designing a footwear collection.
From the drawing board to the final sale, Tenaillon and Braquet are constantly asking themselves whether or not their methods are truly effective. “It's not only about choosing eco-materials or eco-components — which we do — but more about implementing a new business model.” Part of that includes finding craftsmen who are equally dedicated to sustainability, and supporting them with good working conditions and plenty of time to create.
After searching for the right factory, the duo discovered the perfect partner in a small, family-owned factory located in the village of Montopoli, Tuscany. In order to be a part of every process in the supply chain, Tenaillon and Braquet allowed the factory to purchase a stake in their company. Now, they work together on meeting specific goals, which are communicated directly to Nomasei customers on the brand's transparent website. “By letting our customers know what they purchase, where it has been made, how it has been made, and what exactly it costs the factory to produce, we think we can change the way they consume,” Braquet says. “If customers end up understanding why a product has this cost, then, little by little, they may reduce the amount they consume.”
To further encourage transparency, Nomasei breaks down each and every cost involved with the making of a single pair of its shoes to allow customers to understand the price they’re paying. Compared to other luxury houses, where shoes could cost you upwards of $1,000, Tenaillon and Braquet work to keep Nomasei’s prices under $600, while at the same time, maintaining the same level quality — if not more — that you’d find from a more recognizable designer shoe brand.
The goal is to become totally carbon neutral within six months, an act that could help to offset the carbon footprint caused by global shipping. Additionally, the brand is working to provide recycling and repair capabilities to customers worldwide in order to extend the life of each shoe.
Nomasei is made up of nine timeless styles, including hiking boots, loafers, mules, and sandals, that cost between $135 and $600, all of which are available now at Nomasei.com.