A fashion veteran and former Wall Street professional link passion, craft and ethics to build the premium shoe line, NICORA.
For Stephanie Nicora, a third generation shoemaker, fashion was hardly new, and still she wanted to build on the family legacy by doing it in a way that met her ethics and standards. Reyes Florez was a former Wall Street professional who, upon discovering the massive environmental and labor problems associated with traditional fashion, decided to leave his comfortable career to do something more impactful.
NICORA has been raising the bar for sustainable footwear since its inception. The style, comfort and durability of the shoes marries with the founders’ ethics to create a brand you can rely on. We sat down with co-founder Reyes Florez to learn about what makes NICORA so special from the inside out.
What makes NICORA so unique compared to mainstream brands?
So much of what we do is to create communities that resemble the close knit nature of old American shoe towns. Each pair of our shoes is hand built thread to finish on US soil by amazing artisans who are treated well. Having the factory in our backyard gives us the ability to know that our makers are living enriched lives through the practice of their craft. On the vendor front, many of our suppliers are family owned enterprises who have legacies that reach back over a hundred years. These century old factories and the teams behind them are incredibly inspiring.
How do you support NICORA’s makers?
Our factory has ownership in our brand, so they are a partner in the truest sense. As we grow and succeed, all parties involved in creating the brand benefit. Many of our makers own homes in Los Angeles and have kids they are putting through school. In fact we had a major celebration a few weeks ago when Francisco, our head stitcher, told us that his daughter had just been accepted to a very competitive Master’s degree program. She’s now the first generation in that family to do so!
To know that NICORA helped in some way create an opportunity makes all the long days and nights worth it.
What are the key sustainable aspects of NICORA?
We think about sustainability thread to finish. Through years of research, and ongoing development, we have found amazing materials that have all the beauty and aesthetic of traditional shoe materials but that are much lighter on the environment and in most cases actually help to clean up the world. All of our luxury fabrics are made from recycled plastics – including things like recycled ketchup bottles and recycled x-ray film. All of our shoes are ‘recraftable’ and ‘re-soleable’ so people can be sure they will have that classic pair of shoes or boots for years to come. When someone buys a pair of NICORAs they are buying life partners!
Any advice for consumers on how to shop smarter?
Buy less, and higher quality. It may sound counterintuitive for a business to encourage consumers to buy less, but it is imperative that we eliminate the amount of clothing and footwear waste the world generates.
Look for items that are made from high-quality materials and when it comes to footwear every pair of shoes you buy should be repairable.
This might mean spending a little more upfront, but in fact is much cheaper in the long run with the added benefit of keeping stuff out of landfills!