N’go Shoes is one of those brands that demonstrates that you do not need to compromise style in order to be ethical. Read below how the brand came to be and the fantastic process behind the making of their shoes:
1. Can you introduce yourself to our readers please?
I’m Ronan, co-founder of N’go Shoes
2. Describe your brand in a few sentences.
N’go Shoes is a French shoe brand that supports the traditional know-how of Vietnamese artisans from ethnic minorities and builds elementary schools in the poorest provinces of North Vietnam.
N’go aims to combine trend, craftsmanship, design and solidarity. Our original and fashionable sneakers are part of a project with a strong social value, which is at the heart of the ethical fashion.
3. Tell us more about N’go Shoes. How did it all start?
N’go Shoes was born officially in 2017 but it all started in 2010. As childhood friends, Kevin and I went to work in Peru to build a kindergarten in a poor district of Arequipa city for 2 months as volunteers. We were 18 years old, it was the first time we worked on a social project and we discovered a new country with a strong craft culture. We promised each other that one day, we would also create a social enterprise to support local people in need. We finished our studies, we got some working experience (Kevin was accountant manager and I worked for an NGOs in Vietnam before starting N’go) and in 2016 we decided to follow our dream. After that, everything went very fast: development of product, partnership with the cooperatives of craftswomen, choosing a social organization to donate part of our benefit in Vietnam etc.
4. What is the process like in making your products?
1/ We collaborate with 3 cooperatives of craftswomen located in Dien Bien, Hoa Binh and Nghe An provinces. In Hoa Binh and Nghe An, we work with White Thai ethnic minorities and in Dien Bien with Lao ethnic minorities. We develop with them the ethnic fabric that will be later used to decorate our sneakers. As they do not speak English, we work with them in Vietnamese language and use Google Translate
Once the ethnic fabric is handwoven, the craftswomen send it by train to the assembly factory in Dong Nai province.
2/ Assembly of sneakers and sourcing of the materiales
With regards to sourcing, we closely work with the suppliers of the assembly factory. Most of them are certified and if they are not, it is simply due to the fact that they are too small to get audits. We know more than 90% of our raw material suppliers as we start making recycled collections with a material from China (after COVID-19), we will visit our suppliers in China). Then you understand that more than 90% of our suppliers are Vietnamese as we want to promote Vietnamese craftsmanship. We push them to develop new technologies to be used in the process but it takes time.
Once the assembly factory receives the ethnic fabric + raw materials (for example, the leather is from USA/Argentina and tanned in Vietnam), they make the shoes, pack everything and then we do a quality control to make sure everything is good. Once the QC is approved, we ship all the goods by sea to France, where our warehouse is located.
5. Personally, what does sustainability mean to you?
I do not see a future without sustainability. Sustainability means a long term vision and anticipating all obstacles that can/will cross our path. It is necessary to make decisions taking into account that it must be sustainable. For example, we make sneakers supporting Vietnamese local people but additionally, to reduce pollution, we launched a program called Zero Waste Shoes to give a second life to our sneakers. Then we reduce the negative impact of our business on the environment.
6. As a sustainable brand, what are your biggest challenges?
As I just said earlier, our main challenge is reducing our CO2 consumption. To achieve this, we plan to make an Evaluation of our CO2 consumption, get recommendations and apply them to neutralize it.
Other challenges for us is to develop our enterprise and partnerships with more cooperatives of craftswomen in Vietnam and maybe work in another country to support other people in need. We think that N’go can work in Vietnam and in other countries of the world to promote the crafts of local artisans and support their community.
7. Where do you gain inspiration?
These days it’s very easy to gain inspiration through the Internet, newspapers, magazines for example. We have easy access to all the data. Then it gives me inspiration to develop our shoe brand. Since I was little, I loved fashion and I always looked at it closely.
8. What’s your favorite item from your brand and why?
My favorite item is our saigon sneakers collection. I love their courb, the color and patterns. I think it combines perfectly European trends and Asian craftsmanship.
9.What’s the story behind your brand’s name?
N’go sounds Vietnamese but the meaning is English. It could be translated as “And Go…” = follow you dreams, never give up, go ahead but also the action of going = walk, run wearing our shoes.
10. What made you choose Eco Fashion Labels to sell your products?
We think it is a powerful platform for Eco Fashion in Europe.
11. What are the biggest challenges sustainable fashion is facing right now?
Ecological challenge is the biggest according to me because we still did not find the perfect solution. About social challenges, we do have the solutions and now we just need to “force” all the fashion actors to implement them.
12. What can be improved in this sector?
What we need to improve is our over-consumption. We must consume less, and consume better. Giving a second life to our clothes and accessories is important but I also think about the negative impact of collection second hand clothes, sending them to third work countries to end up in their rivers and landfills… I’d go for a “local second hand system” in order to protect the local economy and environment of third world countries.
Thank you Ronan for this interview!
Have a peep at N’go Shoes collection on Eco Fashion Labels (Go on, we know you want to) : https://ecofashionlabels.com/pages/seller-profile/ngo-shoes
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Written by: Chantal