Tag Archive | "vegan"

A vegan shoe store that walks the walk

As New York's only all vegan shoe store, Mooshoes sells footwear and accessories made from hemp, polyurethane and other synthetic materials.

As New York's only all vegan shoe store, Mooshoes sells footwear and accessories made from hemp, polyurethane and other synthetic materials.


Kathleen Plate let out an audible yelp when she spotted the punk-rock-inspired stilettos screaming with all of their neon might from the shelf: “They’re here!” She flipped them over instinctively to check for size. “I’ve been following them online,” she explained, almost apologetically.

From atop their 3-inch heels, the already-tall and slender Plate was downright statuesque, a high-fashion goddess. “These are so cute,” she breathed into the mirror. Then, assuming an air that was all business: “I mean, eco-fashion has to hold its own. No one will buy it if it’s ugly!”

The $198 shoes are by Olsenhaus, the über-trendy vegan line from Manhattan designer Elizabeth Olsen. The store is Mooshoes, the also-über-trendy vegan shoe store on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Crafted from natural linen and micro-fiber, Olsen’s designs hardly recall the demure hemp flats of vegan shoes past. Stamped on the inner heel is her mantra: “There is Only the Truth.”

Founded by sisters Erica and Sara Kubersky in 2001, Mooshoes claims to be New York City’s only completely “cruelty-free” store. Consistent with the owners’ vegan lifestyle, all of the shoes and accessories are made from faux-leather alternatives, including canvas, hemp and polyurethane microfiber. Prices range from $15 for a pair of gladiator sandals to more than $200 for boots and stilettos. Italian-made for ultimate suppleness, the synthetics are also 80 percent biodegradable.

The Kuberskys adopted vegan diets at their own pace. Erica was distraught when, at the age of 9, she learned of the “truly horrible” processes by which animals are slaughtered for their hides. Sara was a vegetarian throughout high school, but her appetite for fashion prevented her from embracing complete veganism. “She just couldn’t give up leather,” Erica recalled.

Throughout high school and college, the Kuberskys were frustrated by the lack of vegan products and stores from which to buy them. They dreamed of opening their own vegan store, and looked to their native New York for an opening in the fashion industry. “We thought that if our store could succeed in New York, it could succeed anywhere,” said Erica.

That dream came true in 2001, when the Kuberskys opened the original Mooshoes in Gramercy Park, Manhattan. Ironically, the store occupied the space of a former butcher’s shop. “We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into,” Erica recalled, “but we wanted to get our names out there.”

Mooshoes developed a loyal customer base of similarly frustrated vegans. The store was especially popular with young professionals looking for dressy footwear, who Erica said, “wanted to live the vegan lifestyle but didn’t want to make professional sacrifices for it.”

At its current location off of Chinatown’s Grand Street, Mooshoes is tucked inside a cozy enclave of chic boutiques, hipster coffee shops and vegan-friendly restaurants. Chelley Sherman of Babycakes Bakery, the bakeshop just down the street from Mooshoes that is revered by vegans for its agave-sweetened treats, said: “There’s a nice community of vegans around here. We all share tips and food.”  Also a Mooshoes customer, Sherman praised the store for its accessibility: “You don’t have to go in and check the labels. It’s all vegan!”

Zoey is one of four cats who call Mooshoes home. (Photo: Ellen London)

Zoey is one of four cats who call Mooshoes home. (Photo: Ellen London)

Other Manhattan stores have tried carrying small selections of vegan footwear, but with little success. Te Casan, popularized by its line of vegan shoes endorsed by Natalie Portman, closed in November 2008, leaving Mooshoes as one of the area’s only suppliers — and certainly the most extensive. The clean, minimalist space provides ample room for Mooshoes to host events, from launch parties to “Adoption Days” for local animal shelters. There’s plenty of space for the store’s adopted cats — Bowery, Marlow, Rocco and Zoey — to cozy up to the sales racks and greet customers as they come in. Erica stressed that a truly “cruelty-free” lifestyle includes more than just the dietary decisions: “It’s really important to walk the talk.”

Dayan Moore, Plate’s shopping buddy, said, “People think veganism equals ‘dirty hippie,’ but it’s really quite sophisticated.”  A microfiber clutch in one hand — Moore designs eco-friendly handbags — Moore picked up a T-shirt by Herbivore Clothing with the other. “Praise Seitan,” she read off its front, text stamped over a six-point star made of forks. “Now isn’t that just clever?”

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Making ‘friends’ the old fashioned way: With cookies and a couch

An aspiring musician seeks to create a following on the streets of New York City with free vegan cookies and an inflatable green couch.


“Wouldja like a cookie, sir?” Scott Alexander asks with a lopsided smile to a man walking by. His arm is outstretched, and he’s holding a plastic container full of vegan chocolate chip cookies. Homemade and crumbly, many of the imperfect circles have broken in halves. Sitting on an inflatable green couch that he bought on E-bay, Alexander manages to attract quite a crowd at Washington Square Park. He’s been giving out cookies at Washington Square, Union Square and the Lower East Side for five weeks.

While a few people walk past, their brows furrowed as they glance over skeptically at Alexander, many stop for a chat as they munch on the homemade cookies, holding the yellow business card that he passes out with them.

Working as a doorman to make ends meet, Alexander’s true vocation lies in music. And giving out free cookies at parks and public places allows Alexander to network, to meet “friends” in real time instead of just on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. Before he sets out to a spot to hand out his free cookies, Alexander tweets his time and location in addition to announcing it over Craigslist.  But he doesn’t meet many of his followers in person frequently.

With a little over 200 followers on Twitter and Facebook and 2,000 friends on Myspace, Alexander believes that music is the art of putting sound into a context and considers meeting people and giving out cookies to be a part of his music. “It’s going to be a different experience,” he says, “when someone comes to see my show or listens to my recording— because they found out about it through seeing me on an inflatable green couch and me offering them a cookie — rather than if they saw a bunch of sexy-looking posters of me up on Broadway or something.”

Alexander’s debut album was supposed to be ready last March, but he says a sketchy producer and other problems have delayed it. But the experience hasn’t put a damper on his confidence.

Tall, blue-eyed, bespectacled and slightly chubby, Alexander was born in St. Paul, Minn., in 1980. A graduate from UCLA in ethnomusicology, he moved to New York four years ago and considers himself to be an “under-appreciated rock star.” He lives in the city with his wife, Rebecca.

Attracting a crowd at Washington Square Park (Photo: Isabelle Schäfer)

Attracting a crowd at Washington Square Park. (Photo: Isabelle Schäfer)

Getting up frequently to refill his fast deflating couch, Alexander finally finds the problem: a hole in the side. “Up until this recession,” he says while crouching down and struggling to inflate his couch with an electric motor. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a day job that allows me a pretty flexible schedule and to work for three to four days a week and support myself so I can focus on the music,” which he refers to as “non-repetitive pop.” Working as a doorman since he was 16 at an opera house in Minnesota, Alexander says that it’s frustrating to continue working as a doorman even though he has earned a degree.

“I wanna be really honest about this,” he says. “I am motivated by the fact that the more friends I have, and that by making friends and people doing stories on me it will draw attention to my music — but, it’s also just really fun for me to meet people.” Inspired by other bands and musicians who promote their music over Myspace, Alexander said he believes that many wind up overdoing the online promotion so much so that it becomes unrelenting and annoying, making it harder for any other newbies who want to promote their music online.

Ariela Rubin, who found out about Alexander through her friends on Facebook, began following him on Twitter only recently. “I thought it was an awesome idea”, Rubin says enthusiastically. “I mean free and cookies — what can be better?”

But why vegan cookies, why not burgers or fries? “You don’t win friends with potatoes,” Alexander (a vegan himself) says in mock seriousness. As an afterthought he adds, “Also, I’m really good at making cookies.”

Making friends in real time as opposed to virtually. (Photo: Isabelle Schäfer)

Making friends in real time as opposed to virtually. (Photo: Isabelle Schäfer)

Kathryn Somerville, who had been taking photos of Alexander with her digital camera, just became Alexander’s newest fan on Facebook. “I was in the park a week or two ago,” she says, “And he was here and I was like that’s a cool couch, where’d you get it? And he offered me a cookie, and his card! And now I’m his fan on Facebook!”

Kalman Fox, who says he’s a stand-up comedian, more wary. “You gotta watch out,” he says. “Some people might think they could be poison in the cookies. He could be a crazy person – you never know, can’t go by looks. I’m kosher so I’m not gonna eat one.”

A woman, dressed in a black vest, pants and hat looks at Alexander’s couch and wrinkles her nose. “This is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen!”

“It draws attention!” Alexander says defensively, albeit with good humor.

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