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Marrying Punkrock with Compassion: Tony Corrales of Ethical Footwear Brand NoSkin

Rewriting the narrative of youth culture fashion, Australian brand Noskin draws inspiration from design classics, re-interpreting them in alignment with the deep-rooted values of the subculture they cater to. Without compromising on ethical values, NoSkin delivers on the belief that fashion, music, and conscious living should coexist seamlessly.

We talked to founder Tony Corrales about creativity, growth and the small yet significant footprint(s) we leave on this planet.

Tony Corrales – Founder of punkrock-inspired vegan & ethical footwear brand Noskin (Australia)

March 13, 2024

Words — Eric Mirbach
Photos — NoSkin

Hi Tony! Who are you? What’s the elevator pitch?

Hey! I’m Tony Corrales, 35 years old and living in Melbourne, Australia — although I grew up in the UK, in and around London.

I’m the Director and Co-Founder of vegan footwear brand Noskin. We focus on classic styles of boots and shoes made in all-vegan materials, with a strong emphasis on the connection of music and fashion.

Punkrock-inspired vegan & ethical footwear brand Noskin (Australia)
Punkrock-inspired vegan & ethical footwear brand Noskin (Australia)

The brand’s “Midnight Collection” brings the mood of post-gig after-parties and late motel check-ins — but classy.

Punkrock-inspired vegan & ethical footwear brand Noskin (Australia)

The brand’s “Midnight Collection” brings the mood of post-gig after-parties and late motel check-ins — but classy.

What’s the story behind the inception of the brand?

We felt frustrated that vegan or ethical products often don’t feel the need to have any aspect of ‘brand’ other than the fact that they’re vegan and ethical — especially in fashion.

As a result, the products are great for people who want the more ethical option as their priority, but I don’t feel that they do a great job of bringing people over from other exciting fashion brands, because it feels like letting go of style, or quality.

”A lot of vegan brands are not doing a great job in bringing people over, because it feels like letting go of style, or quality.“

For us, the intent was to be an aspirational and exciting brand first, and always have our values running beneath the surface. Over time, this has evolved to bring us even closer to the art and music scenes that we grew up in and love, and reinforces that first and foremost, Noskin is a brand that stands for something and has a personality.

But of course, everything is ethically made and vegan, because in our view, why would anyone make anything that isn’t?

In your relatively young history, what would you say were some milestones or turning points for the company at large  — and for you personally?

Since starting the brand, we’ve definitely had a number of setbacks, but that’s because we’re always trying to grow as fast as we can.

We’ve had numerous issues with our warehouse and store location, we’ve had some production mistakes that were unavoidable, but this is all part of running an independent label.

And of course, we’ve had a lot of wins. Having Courtney Barnett be a part of the Noskin artists family from early on has been a great source of encouragement for us. Seeing your shoes on a center spread of the New York Times is always going to feel good!

Punkrock-inspired vegan & ethical footwear brand Noskin (Australia)

Shifting entirely to focusing on footwear has allowed a refinement of the core product — and for a clearer brand identity.

One of the most pivotal moments for our brand has been making the shift to focus entirely on footwear. After 2 years of being a clothing and footwear brand, we had to let go of some of our favorite styles, knowing that the best future for Noskin was in footwear only.

This has allowed us to focus all of our attention on refining our product and having people know us for being the shoe company.

When it comes to growing a brand, if your customer is confused about what you do, they’re not going to love what you do.

”Seeing your shoes on a center spread of the New York times is always going to feel good!”

There are a number of reasons why we focussed on footwear. One of the primary ones is, as I mentioned before, that we feel the best way we can be successful is to be known for doing one thing very well.

That said, we could have chosen to stop making footwear and to only be a clothing brand, but that leads us to the second reason, which is more logistical.

Punkrock-inspired vegan & ethical footwear brand Noskin (Australia)
Punkrock-inspired vegan & ethical footwear brand Noskin (Australia)

A decisive brand utilizes their marketing collateral to tell a story — and let you know if it’s for you, or, sometimes even more important, not for you.

This falls into what I call ‘The Paradox of Sustainable Fashion’:

When it comes to producing ethical clothing, we felt the best way to do this was to use recycled, organic and natural materials, like recycled cotton for our Japanese selvedge denim or hemp for our jackets. However, when you opt for materials that aren’t readily available at the factory, you have to custom order huge quantities to make it worthwhile for the factory, and the fabric supplier.

As a result, a small brand trying to do the right thing has to make hundreds of units, otherwise the factory will reject the order.

Whilst the product itself may be made from more environmentally friendly materials, with so many items made and a new and smaller customer-base, there is a much higher chance for textile wastage, not to mention the incredibly high up front costs to produce such large quantities, which means the product may be sustainable, but the business is not.

There’s no point being a sustainable business, if you don’t have a sustainable business model and you disappear in the first 24 months.

”There’s no point being a sustainable business if you  disappear after 24 months.”

For us, the desire to be known for one thing and also the challenge of using sustainable materials meant that focussing on footwear was the best move we could make to continue on our mission.

Why do we need another vegan footwear brand that makes shiny new products from virgin materials?

There’s no doubt that there are plenty of options already out there for footwear, and many pairs of shoes on the shelves of vintage stores.

In many cases, we don’t need another footwear brand of any kind.

For us however, we want our brand to be more than the product we sell. We want to involve people with the culture that we love. We want to use our platform as a way to share the art and music that we love.

A way to bring people together for intimate shows and events that are less prevalent because venues alone can’t the underground scenes as much. By being a product focussed company, we can exist, grow and increase our reach, which allows us to in some ways be more of a hub for the things we love, but have a way of making enough money to show up every day and keep doing it.

Punkrock-inspired vegan & ethical footwear brand Noskin (Australia)
Punkrock-inspired vegan & ethical footwear brand Noskin (Australia)

Bringing people together as a brand — one showroom session in the brand’s Melbourne headquarter at a time.

Punkrock-inspired vegan & ethical footwear brand Noskin (Australia)

Bringing people together as a brand — one showroom session in the brand’s Melbourne headquarter at a time.

What’s your vision for Noskin’s role in the future of sustainable fashion?

My vision for the brand is to continue to show that being a sustainable, ethical or vegan brand should no longer be the primary marketing tactic, but instead be something that is expected from the customer, whilst the marketing and branding efforts are focussed on producing something innovative and cool.

We also want to encourage people that sustainable and ethical fashion is a journey. There are so many challenges when trying to create a more ethical fashion system, and these things take time — especially for emerging brands with smaller budgets.

If people can support and share the long term vision, rather than trying to pick holes in the offering of a company in the early days, then it’s these companies that will be innovating in the realm of sustainability when there is more money available — and this is what we commit to doing as we grow in the years to come.

What are steps you take to make sure that your material selection and your production process aligns with your values as a company?

At the moment, we use microfibre PU, as we believe this is the best material available to us in terms of look, feel, durability and cost to then make our products accessible.

That said, we make no claims that it is the ideal material to use from an environmental perspective, which is why we’re always sampling our core collection with different materials.

”Moving away from leather is the first step on a more ethical footwear journey.”

We have sampled, and have the production process ready to release our shoes using the material ‘Mirum’ — although at this point it would make our products almost $100 more expensive, and that is just to cover the additional costs in production.

As soon as this material is more widely available and we can release our entire collection with this material at the same price that we offer now, we will move over to it without question.

For many people, moving away from leather is the first step on a more ethical footwear journey. The next step we’re putting in place is to move away from oil based materials, but to do that, we need to keep the cost at a point we believe will still get people away from leather, first.

Punkrock-inspired vegan & ethical footwear brand Noskin (Australia)
Punkrock-inspired vegan & ethical footwear brand Noskin (Australia)

One is the actual shot, one the behind-the-scenes — both drip of brand awareness.

If you could give aspiring founders in ethical fashion one piece of advice, what would it be?

One piece of advice I share is one that many people gave me, but I thought I was better than:

When starting something like a brand, it is not a quick win e-commerce product.

Building a brand takes time.

I certainly thought if I read enough books, listened to enough podcasts and worked enough hours I could bypass this fact, but the reality is that building a brand isn’t done by the founder, it’s done by the customers.

They fall in love with your brand, then they fall in love with your product, then they encourage their friends to do the same.

No matter how many hours you work, you can’t rush this part of the process, you just have to keep giving them reasons to love you so that it can happen naturally.

Thank you, Tony.

For more about Noskin, check out their website and find them on socials:

https://www.noskin.co/
@noskin.co

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