FANCY FEET: How one goes from sustainable restaurateur to sustainable footwear company isn’t necessarily obvious, though the path can actually be direct if you’re Bianca Moran.
The founder and creative director of Susi Studio, based out of Los Angeles, today launches her line of vegan footwear. The summer collection consists of 10 styles with pricing from $165 to $250.
The shoes themselves offer a dreamy take on 50s and 60s femininity, while making vegan accessible. There’s microsuede platform pumps, T-strap mary janes and brogues made from recycled plastic bottles.
“I love how people embraced femininity [in the Fifties and Sixties],” Moran said. “As much as I love the streetwear movement, it’s OK to still be feminine. Pants are cool, but there’s this option, too.”
The company will sell direct to consumer initially on its site and will later consider wholesale distribution with a focus on higher end retailers in the way of department stores and boutiques.
Moran was 22 living in Barcelona, burned out from a job as an art director and decided to take a month off in Southeast Asia. She veered to the Philippines where her mother is from. One day, while hiking, she happened upon an indigenous community and saw how they lived off the land and had their own organic farms. Moran, already a vegan at that time and frustrated by how difficult it was to find food she could eat, asked if some of those organic farmers would sell her extra produce at market price. They agreed.
One particular harvest yielded 100 pounds of chili, which Moran turned into hot sauce to sell at the farmers market in Manila. She served it alongside vegan food, which the locals liked. That affirmation gave her the confidence to open her first vegan restaurant last February, which she called Susi. It’s the Philippine word for key — so “the key to sustainable living.” That gave way to a second restaurant, which also opened in early 2015.
“It was that experience where I realized that I wanted to promote veganism in ways that were maybe not as militant as some organizations,” she said. “I [decided] I want the cause of veganism, or the lifestyle, to be more accessible, but I just found that the restaurants were too hard to scale and really stressful.”
Enter shoes, and that’s where the idea for the shoe line, which was funded by Moran, came to be.
Moran said she saw a gap in the market for “cute vegan shoes” that weren’t Dr. Martens or sneakers, but also weren’t as pricy as a pair of Stella McCartneys. Moran said her original goal was to manufacture in the Philippines but the reality of how difficult it would be to actually open her own factory, at least initially, set in. She then turned to Hong Kong, where the shoes are manufactured, in a factory that’s 100 percent female. That last factor was intentional, Moran said.
And even with the challenges of the restaurant industry, Moran said she’s considering opening what would be a third restaurant as early as next year to be located Stateside.