Meet Tina Bhojwani, CEO and co-founder of New York-based vegan footwear label, AERA. Built as a platform to address the environmental and social challenges faced by the fashion industry, Tina aims to create a positive impact with AERA. With its pieces handcrafted in Italy, the ethical label shows that luxury, quality and design do not have to be compromised in the name of sustainability. ELLE caught up with Tina to know more.
ELLE: What inspired you to start AERA?
Tina Bhojwani: Throughout my career, I witnessed first-hand, the social and environmental impact made by the industry. Once I started to research and truly understand the issues, I knew that it was time to try and rethink the existing business models. At the same time, I serendipitously reconnected with two friends—Alvertos Revach, entrepreneur and founder of Humble Holdings, and luxury- footwear designer Jean-Michel Cazabat— who were also at turning points in their lives. They were also keen on doing mission-driven work. Together, we understood that there was an opportunity or a void in the market, for vegan and sustainable luxury footwear.
ELLE: Which materials go in the making of AERA’s vegan shoes?
TB: Thanks to innovation and technology, the materials we are using today are no less beautiful, comfortable or durable than leather. They are vegan and minimise the environmental impact on our planet. Our materials are approximately 50 per cent bio-based and 50 per cent synthetic. For the synthetic element, we use recycled materials wherever possible. Our soles are made of thunit, a material which closely resembles leather, but is water-repellent and has superior performance in terms of flexibility and abrasion resistance.
ELLE: How can consumers adopt a conscious shopping habit?
TB: I believe a great starting point would be for consumers to reflect more deeply before purchasing, and ask themselves a few simple questions: Why am I buying something? How and by whom was it made? Will I get enough wear out of it? Education, and asking these basic yet informative questions can help consumers adopt a more conscious shopping habit.
ELLE: What are your future plans with AERA?
TB: I see us becoming a global brand, and eventually, there is an opportunity to expand and add handbags. We also plan to evolve our materials as more interesting solutions become available—in fact, it will be a constant evolution, with the dream that someday the materials we use will be 100 per cent bio-based and have the lowest possible impact on our planet.