On the cutting edge of vegan footwear, South African atelier, Grandt Mason Originals produces sustainable, unique, handmade designs that promote locally sourced and recycled materials. Each shoe is designed on-site at the Cape Town factory with simple, leftover materials recycled from South Africa’s leading upholstery distributors. Grandt Mason Originals strives to produce one-of-a-kind vegan shoes focusing on quality, comfort and durability while promoting sustainability and reestablishing the role of true, quality craftsmanship. Simple, durable, and colorful, Grandt Mason Originals plays along the lines of traditional shoe patterns mixed with local South African flare. Not only are these designs sustainable, they also serve to highlight the skills and craftsmen specialized in producing these shoes.
“Our footwear promotes the idea of the cobbler and the artisan [by] having a shoe custom-made to one’s individual taste and preserving the life-span of the shoe for years to come,” Grandt Mason, the company’s founder tells Ecouterre. “We promote the shoe repairer and, by using sheet rubber soles, enable our shoes to be easily re-soled as opposed to using bucket components which have a set life-span and are very difficult to re-sole. We also offer a two year world-wide guarantee on all of our footwear. It sounds cliche but our shoes are made with a lot of love.”
As a vegan, Mason had trouble finding decent ethical, leather-free footwear for himself. While studying product design and seeing a lack of sustainable and vegan footwear on the market, Mason used his design knowledge to teach himself the basics of footwear styling, design, and production. With no formal training and only his passion to guide him, Mason began to produce one of kind, customized, handmade footwear that quickly became the talk of Cape Town. With the exceptional talent of 4 local shoe craftsmen and Mason’s sister, Kate, Grandt Mason Originals features a unique line of vegan, machine washable, leather-free handmade shoes for women and men produced locally and using resident talent in South Africa.
Drawing from daily inspiration and whatever catches his creativity, Mason meticulously designs a proto-type for every shoe pattern, which then transitions from its 2D to 3D form and is manufactured and produced in-house at the Cape Town factory.
“I sketch the design of the shoe taking various things into consideration like the shape of the foot, where the toes lie, etc, ensuring the shoe does not cause discomfort. When this process is complete, I cut the shapes off and transfer the information to create patterns, which can then be placed down on just any material to create footwear.”
Grandt Mason Originals vary in style for men and women from boots and ballet flats to sandals and lace-ups. Mason states that comfort and quality are also key characteristics to the footwear he creates, “We strive to design and manufacture cutting edge footwear with a strong focus on quality, comfort, and durability. In this disposable age, we hope to re-introduce the idea of longevity by creating footwear with true soul, footwear that one treasures and struggles to toss away.”
Every pair of Grandt Mason Originals is fitted for lasting wear and comfort with double padded insoles, machine washable fabrics, non-slip sheet rubber soles that can be easily retreaded, as well as no stiffeners to allow shoes to be packed flat for traveling. The shoe’s rubber soles can be detached and recycled, while the upper materials are biodegradable, all having minimal effects on the environment.
“Functionality always comes first for me as this is a prerequisite for comfort. I am obsessed with the idea that all shoes should adjust to the individual’s foot. Over and above this, our materials define much of the look and feel along with our approach to production whereby we don’t use animal products, plastics or heat-set silicones. As a result of this approach, which we have pioneered, our shoes are machine washable, can be packed flat and are 90% bio-degradable.”
Mason envisions his vegan footwear as a solution to mass-produced products and a way to reinvigorate artisan skills as well as ethical, consumer choices. “I hope that our product conveys the love and energy that has been poured into it. Every pair is entirely unique and with age develops its individual character. This is the opposite of the mass-produced footwear available on the market. Sustainability and fair trade are very important to us and are at the heart of every decision made on all levels of our operation. These decisions coupled with a unique approach to design, dictate the look and feel of our footwear.”
Shoes can also be made to order, customized at the brand’s small atelier located in Cape Town’s Woodstock Exchange design building. Along with size customization, clients can choose every element of the shoe’s design from the fabric to the stitch color. Grandt Mason Originals are also sold at a local marketplace, Neighbourgoods market in Woodstock, South Africa, which attracts locals and tourists alike. Mason explained that besides these two sales outlets, the company does not sell anywhere else within South Africa so that he can set his own prices, making products affordable as well as accessible to South Africans. The company does often export products abroad to Europe, mainly to Germany, Norway, Spain and Denmark, yet is still preparing to distribute to the larger American markets.
Currently, Grandt Mason Originals offers 5 distinct designs for ladies and 2 simple designs for men. Mason revealed a new footwear range for the upcoming fashion season and that the brand will offer a selection of colourways to distributors in order to expand their wholesale, retail, and online offerings and availabilities.
Mason’s love for creating quality shoes and innovating the sustainability of the shoemaking process is evident in his product line and is encouraging for more companies to follow suit.
“We are at the forefront of the vegan footwear revolution and are constantly pushing the boundaries of sustainable footwear production.”