Animal-Free Shoes Made in Italy

Fera Libens

11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action

Overview

Born in 2015, Fera Libens is an Italian shoe company/studio that combines sustainability and fashion. Since the brand was created, Fera Libens has been dedicated to making animal-free shoes, using only eco-friendly and innovative materials. We are excited to tell you the story of Fera Libens, following an interview with its founder, Mr. Francesco Virtuani.

Authors

Yunzi Xiao

Yunzi Xiao

Mo Chen

Mo Chen

School

TIAS School for Business and Society

TIAS School for Business and Society

Professor

Mirjam Minderman

Mirjam Minderman

Innovation

At Fera Libens, the innovation is mainly reflected by its materials. Traditional leather production industries are notorious for large water consumption and therefore harmful for the environment, but not at Fera Libens. When we asked Francesco to tell us about his innovation and what makes his shoes different, he told us that although he would like to have more personalization to their brand, Fera Libens has been sticking to classics.

“At the end of the day, our goal is not becoming just another fashion brand.” According to Francesco, to be a fashion brand he would need to change his products every season in line with 'fast fashion': it’s always on the go and forever changing at a fast pace. Instead, he wants to put more effort into making classics that will last for several years in an environmentally friendly way. Francesco expressed that “It is about ‘slow living’, we want people to slow down instead of constantly changing to be sustainable.”

Francesco took the time to introduce us to a new generation of microfiber made by Alcantara® that is partly made of recyclable elements which come from agricultural waste, such as the apple or wine industry. The outcome can be very similar to polyester or even leather. There are always new ideas turning into production that contributes to the goal of being sustainable and responsible for our climate. Its smart design also made the assembly process faster and less expensive.

Animal-Free Shoes Made in Italy

Inspiration

We started the interview by asking Francesco where his inspiration came from. Francesco had his first idea when he was researching in the UK working on cultural heritage, and decided to stop eating meat. In the meantime, he thought that if one chose not to eat meat then one should also not purchase animal-related products.

“It's only coherent for me to not use other animal products when I choose not to eat meat”, said Francesco. When searching online for animal-free fashion products, he found out that although people have already started making shoes from microfibers and syntax, the shoes they made were just not very fashionable. So he came up with the idea to start producing shoes using alternative materials for leather.

Looking back to his idea of searching for an alternative material for leather a year after graduating with a Ph.D., Francesco decided that now is the right time to start practicing his idea. So he created Fera Libens, a brand that makes animal-free shoes.

Overall impact

Francesco has been trying to highlight the sustainability side of his company since this is the trend and so many consumers are interested in this area. Recently he noticed that using the animal-free slogan alone is not enough to get enough interest and attention. To catch the consumers’ eyes, he put a lot of effort into proving exactly how Fera Libens’s products are sustainable, which is why he worked with those microfiber manufacturers.

He collaborated with the design department of Politecnico of Milano to research on how to develop more sustainable shoes. Francesco stated that he thinks it's too early to talk about this because it’s a project that has only just started. “I would say to keep looking for new ways to innovate [which] is the only way to grow.”

Fera Libens shoes are sold in many shops that are environment or climate-sensitive. But when Francesco went to fairs, at least half of the consumers were not particularly interested in these aspects. However, because they like the classic designs, the shape, the quality, and so on, they wanted to buy the shoes, and at the same time wanted to know the story behind Fera Libens. “They then became more interested in our core value, which got our products elevated onto a higher dimension.”

Business benefit

Up till now, Francesco has had one business partner who is also a friend of his. They collaborated for less than a year before his partner was offered a job and decided to move on. Although his partner continued to support him with some operations and Francesco has interns coming and going, it has been mostly a one-man show. Even with such limited manpower, he concluded that the business remained competitive in the market due to three main factors.

Firstly, as a shoe company in Italy, Fera Libens has the benefit of being in a country where you have easy access to mature factories with years of experience and good taste working in the fashion industry. Secondly, new materials, technics, and craftwork are always highly acceptable. And thirdly, although Fera Libens is clearly not the only one, it is one of the few companies that stick to sustainable shoes with classic designs; this makes the brand stand out amongst its competitors.

Francesco told us that “there is a sort of advantage compared to other brands because there are a lot of factories not only for shoes but also for materials. We have a group of small to medium businesses that are always proposing new materials and new ideas.” It has been the catalyst to his innovations and business benefits, which is also one of the keys to Fera Libens’ success.

Social and environmental benefit

"Yes, of course," Francesco is aware of the 17 United Nations Goals for Sustainable Development. He said he wanted to contribute to all of them. But for Fera Libens in particular, the goals he wanted to reach directly are the ones related to environment and sustainability. This mainly includes number 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities; number 12, Responsible Consumption, and number 13, Climate Action.

“The fact that Fera Libens is animal-free does not necessarily mean it is sustainable, you can take a material that does not come from animals but is very polluting, so we try to select microfibers and synthetic materials but only the ones that have the least impact on the environment.” In general, the synthetic materials in Italy are much less polluting than leather, and also much more controlled by European law.

On the social aspect, Francesco would go visit the factories he works with to have a visual idea of the environment of the factory, and to check if payments are made legally. If he suspects that the factory is not doing things clearly and nicely, or does not respect their manual laborers, he leaves and chooses a different one that meets those criteria. “If Fera Libens was to grow as a business I want to be absolutely sure that those are the basis on which we grow.”

Interview

Francesco Virtuani, Founder

Photo of interviewee

Keep this story going! Share below!

Fera Libens

Fera Libens

Milan, IT

Business Website: https://feralibens.com/

Year Founded: 2015

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

Born in 2015, Fera Libens is an Italian shoe company/studio that combines sustainability and fashion. Since the brand was created, Fera Libens has been dedicated to making animal-free shoes, using only eco-friendly and innovative materials. We are excited to tell you the story of Fera Libens, following an interview with its founder, Mr. Francesco Virtuani.