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About A Perfect Jane

  • Founders: Suzanne Harper
  • Founded in: 2020
  • Employees: only externally
  • Money raised: started with €87,000 (crowdfunding)
  • Ultimate goal: sell our vegan boots in all countries in the world and become a household name in the shoe world.

Reebok, SuperDry, Nike: more and more major fashion brands are launching vegan shoes. Good news you might think. In 2021, leather goods worth 250 billion euros will be sold in the fashion industry alone, while the production of leather is associated with animal suffering, deforestation and a lot of water use (100,000 liters of water are needed to process one cowhide).

But, in most cases, ‘vegan’ simply means PU. And PU is one hundred percent plastic. A Perfect Jane‘s vegan boots are not made of plastic. The Dutch shoe brand makes high-quality shoes from apple leather. In this instalment of Start-up of the Day, founder Suzanne Harper talks about her quest for vegan leather, her ambitions, and setbacks.

Tell me, how did you end up with apple leather?

“I’ve tried everything: corn, mushrooms, pineapple. All of this turned out not to be strong enough for boots. A boot is stretched on a machine, which requires a lot of traction. Eventually I ended up at a factory in Bolzano, Italy. There are many apple orchards in that region. Apples that fall from the trees prematurely will rot. That is harmful to nature, because it is a very chemical process. Hannes Parth, founder of Frumat, saw this and thought: I need to do something with this. He then went to collect those apples to see if he could turn them into an alternative to traditional leather.

How does that work: making leather from apples?

“The apple is ground into a pulp. That pulp is laid out to dry until it is a raw fiber. This is mixed with recycled PET in liquid form. This was first tried about fifteen years ago and they have now reached the point where it can be used for the application of shoes.”

Does that always go well?

“In the Netherlands, I am one of the first who dares to make boots from apple leather and I have to pay close attention to what I can and cannot use. At first, I didn’t understand the technical sheets that came with the equipment. Now I know which conditions the strength, heating, and traction must meet. It was also a matter of finding the right settings for the machines. Consider, for example, the traction to stretch the boots.

The supplier was recently in the Netherlands and we sat down together for a day. It’s a journey of discovery that we’ve embarked on together. I am also very enthusiastic about the material. It is one of the most innovative materials on the market. I still have the first pair of shoes, a test sample, in my closet three years later. They are still as good as new.”

How did you come up with this idea?

“It all started in 2005 when I got my dog Jane. I immediately had such a special bond with her that I soon started cutting back on meat. Eventually I started to live more consciously and eventually became vegan. Around 2019 I also became aware that I was not happy with my job in secondment. In the weekends I worked in a clothing store, just because I liked it so much. Then I asked myself what really makes me happy. That’s animals and fashion. Through a personal development process I came into contact with a shoe designer. That’s how the ball started rolling.”

Where are you now and where do you want to be in five years?

“Things are going well now, but it must be said that it has not always been an upward trend. I started my company during the corona pandemic. Shoe stores had a lot of stock because they were always closed. Banks thought I was crazy to start a retail business during the corona period; I was told no time and again. Then I started my own crowdfunding campaign. I sold my first shoes in July 2021. In the same year we won the Breda StartUp Award and we are now also PETA-Approved Vegan certified. Those were two key milestones.

The growth has been continuing for a few months now. I shifted my focus from offline to online sales. My ambition is to become known worldwide as the trendy brand for vegan shoes within five years. Our slogan is ‘Walking on Plants’ and all of our shoes have a bright green sole with a leaf vein footprint. That is now really starting to live a life of its own among customers, I see more and more photos on social media. Ultimately, I want to become the Ugg for vegan leather shoes.”