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Beyond Skin

Ethical credentials are backed by attention-grabbing designs at this contemporary women’s footwear brand

Making its trade show debut at Pure London earlier this month, ethical footwear brand Beyond Skin grabbed the attention of buyers hungry for something with a point of difference.

But while indies have noted Beyond Skin’s ethical credentials - it uses no leather so can be worn by vegans - it is the brand’s design aesthetic that has really won them over. Melissa Needham, owner of two-store women’s footwear indie Black Truffle in London, which is stocking the brand for the first time for autumn 10, says: “We’ve taken Beyond Skin on the merit of its product aesthetic and quality. [Owner] Natalie [Dean] understands that the fashion element is vital without compromising on ethics.”

Dean founded the brand in 2001, and as well as bringing stylish and affordable footwear to the market, her aim was also to reduce the impact on the environment in the manufacturing process and minimise the carbon footprint where possible. In the beginning, the shoes were handmade in the UK, but as demand grew - and to keep wholesale prices down - Dean found additional suitable factories in Spain and India that could meet the brand’s ethical requirements. Prices range from £24 for flat ballet pumps to £85 for boots.

Nine years since its launch, and Beyond Skin has a solid mail-order

and etail business plus 25 UK stockists, including indies such as Agatha in Lincoln and Leaf Clothing in Newcastle upon Tyne, neither of which are ethical specialists.

“First and foremost we are a fashion brand,” says Dean. “We want to be placed among our peers in the business, so we are stocked in beautiful boutiques.”

For autumn 10, Beyond Skin’s range is bold with colour, serving up a palette of mulberry, cherry red, violet, purple and pink worked into fun, quirky prints.According to Dean, popular styles include Sapphire, a four-inch evening shoe, Dannie, a casual shoe boot, and Dita, a textile-covered court shoe.

Following the positive response from buyers at Pure London, Dean is confident she can grow the brand. “100 key boutiques in the UK is the ultimate goal to enable us to keep exclusivity and still have a strong mail-order business,” she says. Next month, Beyond Skin will launch in US womenswear chain Anthropologie’s London Regent Street store.

Dean also has global ambitions, hoping to build on the eight countries, including the US, in which it already has stockists. “In five years we aim to have a much stronger international presence; the next market is northern Europe.” There are also plans to open a standalone store in London at the end of 2011.

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