The last time we spoke with Valentina, Sabina and Denitsa of cool-girl accessories label BY FAR, we marvelled at their fast-paced rise to cult-status, nostalgic 90s style and superb, sling-back heels. An amalgamation of cultures, the well-loved brand is Bulgarian-made and Australian-designed, while its signature leather is sourced from where else but Italy.
After bidding adieu to ‘boring’ and leading a renaissance in brightly-coloured premium shoes and arm-décor, BY FAR has garnered worldwide attention. But since the beginning of BY FAR, how far exactly has the stylish accessories stalwart come?
Held accountable by discerning industry watchdogs and the conscious modern shopper, sustainability is everything in 2021. But here, Valentina, Sabina and Denitsa assure us that the traceability, quality and transparency of their designs are of their own volition. It’s a primal desire to do good for wearer and world.
It’s a primal desire to do good for wearer and world
Walk me through some of BY FAR’s pillars of sustainability…
When devising a sustainability strategy, we are looking at many different aspects, that make BY FAR what it is – from the design to the product and packaging, as well as the people and communities we reach. Being more conscious is no simple task, but we are always aiming to get better and are making changes all the time.
We’ve taken what seems like the logical approach to reducing our impact where the most difference can be made – the product itself. This means a commitment to sourcing leather responsibly, with partners who we trust to be making strides in producing in a manner that reduces their impact. We are building our traceability system, so we can be sure of where each component comes from, whether our sourcing is responsible, and governed by the highest animal welfare standards and protection principles.
The close ongoing collaboration with our manufacturing partners serves as the basis for improvements, innovation and excellence. We have chosen to base all our production within the European Union, partnering up with small artisan factories that have been family-owned for decades. Working locally, respecting traditions of craftsmanship and progressing alongside local communities are principles that underpin the BY FAR Standards. Together we are committed to keep making transitions towards more responsible manufacturing, and the lessening of our strain on natural resources.
Every year we keep making changes for the better. For instance, in 2020, we removed all virgin plastic from our packaging and replaced it with a recycled one – a small change that has allowed us to repurpose over 200 kg of plastic waste from the oceans.
Since launching in 2016, how much has your sustainability approach changed? What have been some of your biggest learnings so far?
Growing as a brand over the past five years has been an amazing and incredibly exciting journey. We started just with shoes and then added bags to our product portfolio in 2018, which on its own was a different approach in terms of the craftsman, materials and suppliers.
Sustainability has always been of huge importance for BY FAR. It has never been a question of whether we should do it or not. We took a sustainable approach from our core outwards, focusing on the ethically sourced materials and local production within the European Union, minimising our impact and then tackling all other aspects of our brand.
The biggest learning has been our understanding of how sustainability goes much deeper than what we previously imagined. From product to packaging, ethical trading and community, there are so many learning aspects, challenges and opportunities.
How do you ethically source and utilise leather? Why does this matter?
We have a very close relationship with our suppliers and work with them to minimise the environmental impact of their production processes and products while respecting ecosystems and biodiversity. Leather is one of the main focus points in our sustainability strategy. In order to create premium products that will stand the test of time in terms of design, comfort and longevity, we choose materials of the highest quality and finish. Our leather is sourced only from tanneries upholding environmental, traceability and social compliance certifications.
Currently, we stand at a total of 60-70% certified leather, depending on each new season. We fully support tannery certification as one of several ways to help drive more responsible and sustainable leather production. BY FAR is also unwaveringly committed to preventing deforestation and forest degradation associated with the practices of leather production. We do this by refusing to source leather from cattle raised in the Amazon Biome.
What does it mean for a fashion label to have ‘traceable’ practices? Why is this so important?
Traceability in the fashion industry, or any industry really, is about knowing the full journey of your item, from start to finish. From where the materials are sourced to where the item is assembled, who are the people making your item – it is all a part of the product’s intricate story and is essential for distinguishing those great items crafted by real artisans. Traceability, of course, feeds into sustainability since it provides full transparency. It allows customers to know exactly what they are buying, and how its manufacturing impacts the planet, and its inhabitants, including the people at all stages of the supply chain. Customers have the right to make the best purchase decisions, and to do so they need to have all the required information available. This way, they can avoid supporting businesses whose ethical values do not coincide with theirs.
When did sustainability become something you really, genuinely cared about? What was the wake-up call to striving for a better future?
Sustainability has always been a part of the BY FAR DNA. We deeply care about the world around us, and that goes hand in hand with our love for good design and exquisite craftsmanship. Back in 2016, when the brand was born, we started our first collection using deadstock leathers, saving premium class production from ending in the landfills. Although that is no longer the case, we still try to integrate it whenever possible, as in our collaboration with the Vestiaire Collective in 2020.
We are continuously striving to do better and bring about more sustainable practices, and we see this as a long-term journey that impacts us all, doing better today and planning for tomorrow.