Why I'm Saying Goodbye to Footwear Manufacturing

  • By Shaherazad Umbreen

Why I'm Saying Goodbye to Footwear Manufacturing

Dear Family, Friends, Colleagues and Customers

Thank you for all of the messages of support you've been sending in to me since I announced that I have decided to pivot the business.  

It's never an easy decision to either pivot or close a business, particularly when it's a healthy, growing, profitable venture started from scratch.  The purpose of the business has always been to provide 100% of profits to women and girls living in poverty through GlobalGiving UK, and to date over 10,000 women and girls have benefited from the funds raised.  This is courtesy of the thousands of women who have purchased my boardroom friendly #18hourheels.

Shaherazad Umbreen and friends

When I started the business 6 years ago I had no qualms whatsoever about excessively indulging in fashion items.  In fact, many of my colleagues will remember that every Friday, without fail, a number of fashion packages arrived for me which I had ordered to indulge my fashion habits.  I have also been vegetarian since I was 9 but decided to use leather for my shoes because I ensured I only used skins from animals where the leather was a by-product of the meat industry.  I figured, if people were eating meat, I may as well put the skins to good use and leather provides more luxury and comfort than synthetics.

Forbes Shaherazad Umbreen

Since then, my business has grown every year.  And I have too.  In personal and day job terms, I became absorbed in the profession of sustainability, learnt lots about supply chain transparencies, became engaged in co-operative and socialist ways of living and I have even joined the rebellion - Extinction Rebellion (albeit as a gentle member!)

Palestine Article

I am saddened and burdened by the state of our planet and its ever shortening longevity.  It is highly likely that within 10 years the earth we inhabit will be hideously uncomfortable for human life at best, or un-live-able at worst.  Unless we take drastic action now.  Small steps, for once, are not enough.  It's time for everyone individually and collectively to make a huge concerted effort to halt and even reverse the impacts of climate change.  We have overused and abused our world.

Daily Mail Shoes

Things must change now and therefore I cannot, in all good consciousness, place another order for leather shoes, even though the profits go to amazing causes which, in fact, support my life's feminist philanthropic purpose.  I will still be supporting these causes, but through different endeavours which are planet positive as well. 

And just in case you were wondering, carbon offsetting, in my opinion is no more than a trick to make consumers believe they're doing the right thing; and carbon offset colonisation is another issue in itself and so I couldn't contemplate that either.  Not with a clean conscience.

Girls in Pakistan Shaherazad

My family and friends will tell you that when I first started cutting back on purchasing things I didn't "need" but "wanted" I found it difficult.  But now, I'm totally in the zone of "if you don't absolutely need it then don't buy it." 

I have joined the rebellion, head, heart and soul (but not sole!)  That means I can't pivot to vegan shoe manufacture either, because that would still require consumer overconsumption to drive top line sales and long term profits.  It would be a dichotomy in responsible capitalism, albeit a vegan dichotomy - but a dichotomy nonetheless.

Therefore, once my warehouse is clear (existing stock) then there will be no further production.  The little lambs and cows must keep their skins for themselves in future.  

Given it's worldwide reach and profitability, I am considering selling the brand Shoes by Shaherazad but in all likelihood I will keep it to myself.  It's been one of the proudest projects of my life and something I think should stay with me.  Perhaps one day I will revive the brand (when I'm retired so you'll be waiting 22 years yet!) and hand make the shoes on a need-new-shoes only basis so it is purely a labour of love (not love and profits), even when the profits currently go to good deeds.  

Travelling Heels

I could have easily justified my shoes as planet friendly because of the good deeds done by the profits; the encouragement of underconsumption of shoes through shoellery; the quality and longevity of the items; the use of by-product skins and the use of well paid labour, as well as of course the jobs that the production creates. 

But overconsumption is overconsumption by any name: a business like mine only becomes successful when lots of people buy my product again and again for new colours, new designs and new styles. 

So, my dear friends, it is because of all this that I have decided that it is quite literally the end of the line (the shoe line that is).

Peruvian Girls

There have been so many exciting highlights in this adventure including:

  • Handmaking shoes myself
  • Creating new designs
  • Exporting to 21 countries across the world
  • Running export activities in Kuwait, Qatar, Dubai, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the UK
  • Delivering style parties
  • Being present at the UN Event in the Tower of London
  • Consumer and trade shows and so, so much more
  • The photoshoots using you - the "real women"
  • Customers telling me I had restored their faith in heels
  • Visiting No 10 Downing Street with my book and shoes
  • But above all my favourite days have always been when photos have come in from the projects the shoes have supported in Pakistan, Kenya, Palestine, Peru, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, the UK and more.  Those days have made my heart shine like sunbeams.

Kenyan girls

What's next for me?  I have new adventures planned.  I'm currently leading StartScaleSustain which I also started from scratch and the profits from this venture all go to women's and girl's good causes.  Then, in June I start my dream job which means I'll hand over leadership and running of SSS to my team of associates so that monies can continue to be raised on my behalf to support females to lift themselves out of poverty.

My dream job is one which encapsulates my passions of responsible business, environment, sustainability and culture.  I will be directing the marketing for one of Britain's best loved brands.  I'll be sharing who it is with on LinkedIn when I officially start.  

Thank you for all we've done together.  The 10,000 women and girls we've helped has been our collaborative effort.  I hope that we get to share new sustainable ways of living and being in the future too.

Shoe making

You've been wonderful cheerleaders and collaborators and I totally salute you all for taking this adventure in #18hourheels with me.

PS.  For anyone who would like to stock up on their gloriously comfortable Shoes by Shaherazad before they're gone forever, remaining stocks can be found here (see what I mean about needing to encourage overconsumption in business!)  You can use the code "goodbye" at checkout to gain 70% discount on any purchases (please note: if you use the code then returns are not possible as it takes the product to below cost). 

Stock purchased at full price is returnable.

Shoe Model

Thank you again and digital hugs.

In Solidarity,



Your Shoe.E.O

Shoes by Shaherazad logo

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