You may have seen the trendy and stylish ALOHAS Can Can Beige boots gracing the feeds of Instagram. They are available on their website for $173 and can be purchased for pre-order at discounted prices. At first glance of their website ALOHAS led me to believe that they were an innovative footwear brand dedicated to preventing overproduction and overconsumption by reverting the traditional sales cycles and encouraging costumers to pre-order, spend less, and waste less. Unfortunately I was extremely disappointed to find that this business model is not honest due to the fact that they resell their shoes to big brands. This ends up discrediting their entire “on-demand", "sustainable" business. I recommend spending your money elsewhere.
The brand’s website states that the Can Can Beige boots are made of a leather upper and a chunky rubber sole. ALOHAS has multiple vegan footwear options available on their site, but these boots in particular are made with cow leather. It is noted on their website that ALOHAS’ suppliers are certified with the Leather Working Group, what they call “the world’s largest leather sustainability program” (1). Working with LWG means that ALOHAS’ leather receives a third party assessment of its leather supply chain in addition to a certification for being sustainable material. LWG is a not-for-profit membership organization that has been assessing and certifying leather manufacturers on their environmental impact since 2005 (2). By assessing leather manufacturing facilities, LWG helps to improve the environmental impact of the leather industry and provide guidelines for things like water use, energy consumption, air pollution, waste, and chemical use. Additionally LWG encourages traceability throughout the leather supply chain (2). Because this boot is made of leather it may not be suitable for many people, especially for those who stick to a vegan lifestyle. For others who try to avoid their use of leather products due to a concern over environmental sustainability, there may be comfort found in knowing that all of ALOHAS leather is certified through LWG. And for those that have never thought about the impact of their leather consumption, buying a pair of boots like these might inspire you to research the differences between sustainable and unsustainable leather.
There is extremely limited information on the rest of the materials that make up the boots. The website only mentions a rubber sole but does not mention whether they use synthetic or natural rubber. Because there is no mention of this, I think it is fair to assume that ALOHAS currently does not have a very sustainable plan in place for the use of rubber in their products. The shoe brand VEJA provides extensive information on their sustainable use of rubber and even has details on where they source the raw materials used in their rubber (3). ALOHAS should seriously consider adopting a similar practice if they want to meet demands for greater transparency and sustainability. Another pain point is that ALOHAS shares no details about what the boots’ shoelaces, metal grommets, or insole are made of. The lack of transparency in this area is worrisome and disappointing considering their other recognizable feats.
ALOHAS is an authentic Spanish footwear brand headquartered in Barcelona in nearby production facilities. They say their products are produced locally in Alicante, Spain which results in a lower carbon footprint. However according to a Spanish article in La Vanguardia 90% of ALOHAS’ sales are exports to the US and other European countries (4).
In 2020 ALOHAS converted to a very unique business model surrounding an on-demand production process. The on-demand process helps to optimize production and prioritize sustainability by minimizing waste. ALOHAS releases designs of their products early on in the season and makes them available for pre-order on their website. Items are available for pre-order three weeks before production begins, and at a 30% price reduction. Once production begins, customers can still purchase products for the next five weeks at a 15% discount. The pre-order process allows for the exact amount of units to be calculated so that the true size of demand is anticipated. The website claims that products are made in limited quantities at full price for those who did not follow the pre-ordering process.
Discounting pre-orders encourages shoppers to be more thoughtful and strategic about where they want to spend their money and what trends they want to follow. This business model, in theory, is a great example of slow fashion as it allows products to be “pulled” into the market according to calculations of actual demand, rather than “pushed” based on guesses and business forecasts. ALOHAS has information on its website and Instagram account about what it means to revert the traditional sales calendar: in traditional sales prices go down over time but on-demand prices go up over time. This strategy is meant to prevent customers from waiting for future sales and making impulse purchases, and instead encourages them to plan their purchases early. Based off of this information, ALOHAS seems to be making great strides in terms of the UN’s 12th Sustainable Development Goal that honors responsible consumption and production. In addition to encouraging responsible consumption ALOHAS offers a “carbon offset” option that allows customers to make an additional donation, on top of their purchase, in effort to reduce the overall carbon footprint of e-commerce. Customers choose what project their donation goes toward, for example to support native forest regeneration or international renewable energy projects. This is another example of how ALOHAS is helping to fight climate change.
All of this was making me very impressed with ALOHAS which I was perceiving to be a business paving the way to slow and sustainable fashion. However I am left confused after seeing ALOHAS shoes being sold on websites like Zappos.com, Modesens.com, and Revolve.com. What is most shocking is that these sites are selling ALOHAS styles for discounted prices. This seems to completely counter their discounted pre-ordering system that is offered on ALOHAS.io. (http://alohas.com/) This makes me question ALOHAS’ truthfulness in their “sustainable business model” and their goals of preventing overproduction and overconsumption. Are these authentic statements? It seems extremely contradictory for ALOHAS to be producing enough stock to resell their items to other sites that are selling them and even discounting them. This makes it clear to me that their on-demand production is not a feasible business model for them at this point in time. They must remove the greenwashing from their marketing until they fix this issue.
ALOHAS was founded by Alejandro Porras in 2015 in Honolulu, Hawaii. While completing his MBA in Hawaii he had received a lot of attention for his Spanish sandals that were characteristic of the Mediterranean island called Minorca (4). He became inspired to start a business endeavor and began by traveling around Hawaii and showing off his first designs to various small shops. He then began manufacturing his shoes in Alicante and eventually started to gain clients all across the globe. When he returned to Spain in 2017 he took his start up with him. Porras has explained that as his business grew he found that his clients’ demands became more complex. He cites those demands as the reason that ALOHAS started producing on-demand; only what’s sold is what’s made, avoiding overproduction and overconsumption. However as I said above I am questioning the reality of this. On ALOHAS’ own LinkedIn page, “The brand has already strategically positioned itself in Moda Operandi, La Rinascente, Zalando, Revolve, The Iconic and El Corte Inglés” (5).