Swedish Hasbeens Strap High Sandals_

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Gabby Handberg
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Having expressed interest in a pair of similar looking, ASOS-branded shoes, I recently received this exact pair of Hasbeens sandals for my 21st birthday. I’d never heard of this brand but their website excited me, claiming to be traditionally-made, sustainable slow fashion - something ASOS typically is not.
Swedish Hasbeens was founded in 2006, inspired by the wooden clog-style shoes of the 1970s, and has traditionalism and sustainability as its key brand touchstones. Unfortunately, Hasbeens suffer from a severe lack of transparency in almost all areas, and their commitment to traditional craftsmanship holds them back on their journey towards sustainability.

What it's made of:


All materials used by Hasbeens are sourced in Europe, and are apparently “natural” and “handpicked”. Sourcing the materials (relatively) close to their Swedish home scores Hasbeens some points, particularly for the reduction in emissions produced.
The sandal is made of natural Italian vachetta leather with a wooden heel made from lime trees and a natural, organic rubber sole. Vachetta leather is a full-grain leather made from cows which uses vegetable oil in the tanning process. This type of leather darkens over time, while the wooden heel will expand and change as the shoe ages. This means each shoe will remain unique and once again distinguishes this product stylistically from its fast-fashion alternatives.
Obviously, the use of cow leather raises immediate questions regarding sustainability, considering the environmental implications of cattle farming. The farming of cows for leather and other products involves high amounts of water usage, waste, greenhouse gas emissions and concerns regarding animal welfare. Hasbeens provide us with no information on where they source their leather, if animal welfare takes precedence, and if they are doing anything about the resources used and emissions created in producing leather. This lack of transparency is jarring alongside their other claims to sustainability fame.
On the other hand, leather lasts longer, is more durable and can be biodegradable. These factors contribute to Hasbeens attempt to create a timeless style which will last, and thus not supplement the ills of the fast-fashion industry. Moreover, PVC-based faux leather is derived from fossil fuels and can be detrimental to human health, having a much longer lifespan than real leather and thus longer-lasting negative effects. From this perspective, it would seem like the vachetta leather used by Hasbeens is more environmentally friendly than a plastic-based alternative, especially considering Hasbeens shoes are handmade and not produced on a mass scale. Sadly, Hasbeens explicitly state they have no plans to make any vegan shoes in the near future, and I find this lack of vision sorely disappointing. Faux leather alternatives derived from natural sources such as pineapple (known as Piñatex) could be a viable, more sustainable andmore ethical way to produce these shoes.
Their website claims the wooden heel of the shoe is made sustainably from alder or lime trees within European forests. These forests have strict regulations imposed on them from the EU, ensuring that for every tree which is cut down, a new one is planted. The EU forestry regulations have been established with sustainable practices in mind and are enforced across member states. These countries are expected to submit reports to the EU Commission every second year regarding the application of these timber regulations, which inspires confidence within me that these laws are being upheld. However, the onus of sustainability here is on the EU regulators, rather than Hasbeens itself. In other words, Hasbeens only seems to use sustainable wood because it has no other choice when sourcing from European forests. For this reason, I feel as if Hasbeens could make a greater effort to make their own contribution to sustainability.

How it's made:


According to their website, Hasbeens shoes are made with respect for people and the environment in mind, and are thus handcrafted in small factories with a history of craftsmanship. Prototypes are made in their Italian factory, while final products are made in Sweden and Romania. There is no information provided on the website about the exact process of making these shoes, and what the environmental impact is. Hasbeens plays up the handmade, traditional craftsmanship aspect of their product and allows material evidence of sustainability to fall to the wayside. I would encourage them to provide information on energy usage, water usage and emissions as a start, and to provide the consumer with clear goals as to how they will go about reducing these outputs.
Hasbeens highlight their leather as particularly sustainable because it is chrome-free and tanned using vegetable oils. A lot of other leather is tanned using a chromium salt bath, which is highly toxic and produces toxic waste that damages ecosystems and human health. Thankfully, Hasbeens’ specialised and more costly production line allows for the use of vegetable oil-based tanning instead. This means their leather is better for the environment than chromium-tanned leather, but many of the environmental harms still remain. On top of this, there is no information provided about which dyes are used on the coloured leather, prompting suspicion.
You can purchase these shoes directly from the Hasbeens website, but they are also stocked in stores like Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Amazon and ASOS. This raises some red flags as purchasing a pair of Hasbeens through the likes of Urban Outfitters contributes to the fast-fashion retail brand’s overall profits. However, this is more an issue with the fast-fashion business model than Hasbeens itself. They could ostensibly choose not to be stocked in unsustainable retailers but this would not be a wise business move. We still have the option, as consumers, to buy directly from the company and I think it unfair to judge Hasbeens for the misdeeds of their stockists. After all, being a sustainable business is about striking the right balance between environment and economy.

Who makes it:


All Hasbeens shoes are made by hand in small factories, and the company claim all their workers have good working conditions. There is absolutely no evidence to back this up, however. Moreover, as Hasbeens have factories in various countries within Europe, it would be helpful to know if they have a strict policy or code of conduct which applies throughout their factories to ensure the wellbeing of their workers. When the information on their website is lacking, we can only assume the worst. By establishing a clear corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy and partnering up with an audit company, they could prove to the consumer that they are a socially conscious and ethical company.
This is all before we even get into who works for Hasbeens on the corporate and administrative side. Their pre-existing careers page no longer exists, and any job adverts on their social media lack the sort of detail which could clue us up on how Hasbeens staff are treated. Similarly, there is a deficit of information regarding whether they have any sort of diversity commitment or gender equality within their teams. Social justice is a central aspect of sustainability, and I do not believe Hasbeens can call themselves truly sustainable without proof of social conscience.