An Interview with the People Behind Cri de Coeur

Gina and Julie, the designers of Cri de Coeur, wearing their shoes

Teddy Girls (the girls Cri de Coeur is inspired by this season)

I interviewed Cri de Coeur, the vegan shoe company.

I have some info for you….

Well, Cri de Coeur is two women, Gina Ferraraccio and Julie Dicterow. I remember them as one of the first cool vegan shoe companies out there, way back when I was so frustrated trying to find vegan shoes online.

I recently bought a pair of their shoes and was very impressed. I got their tall black fake suede boots with crazy fringe on them. They’re great.

I hope you enjoy these questions, and I’m really looking forward to seeing their new stuff.

1. How did you get the idea to start Cri de Coeur? Was it a lifelong dream or did it hit you suddenly.

As a life-long animal lover who is also super into fashion, it was so frustrating to never be able to find leather-free shoes that were actually cute. We always knew we wanted to do something to help animals, and also dreamed of having our own fashion lines, so what better way to combine the two passions than in vegan shoes? So Cri de Coeur was born in 2007.

cri de coeur logo

2. Was it really difficult to get it off the ground? Since you guys were one of the first vegan shoe companies, I imagine you ran into a lot of naysayers and had to do a lot of explaining?

The biggest two challenges when starting out were A) finding materials that were not only vegan, but also sustainable. A lot of non-leather materials can be toxic to the environment and to you, such as Vinyl and PVC, which both contain volatile compounds. We use a lot of polyurethane – or PU. It’s made from environmentally friendly raw materials and doesn’t emit any toxic gasses. In the past 5 years, there have been a lot of advances in the textile world in the field of faux leathers, so that’s been great. And B) there was, and still is, a mindset that vegan products are somehow inferior to their leather counterparts…due to years of poorly made and unfashionable vinyl products. That being said, more and more fashion brands are incorporating vegan materials into their lines…whether it’s their intention to be vegan or not…as the materials become more and more available and people see how their benefits outweigh those of leather, wool and fur.

3. Are you guys very driven and fearless people, or did you have to overcome a lot of fears in order to start this company? It takes a lot of guts–hats off to you!!

Thanks! It’s been a hard journey at times, but not filled with fear. Knowing in our hearts that we’re on the right path and blazing the way for future generations who will hopefully embrace veganism as the norm, inspires us to keep going in the face of difficulties. It’s awesome to know we’re making a difference in the lives of so many animals by doing something we love.

4. I would love to own my own company someday. I am wondering, how have you liked running a company. Was it everything you thought it would be? What has been the best part, or a part that you never imagined when you were starting out?

The best part is getting an email out of the blue from a customer telling us how much she loves our products and our mission. These messages always brighten our day and outlook! Running a business takes incredible dedication – it basically becomes your whole life. As an employee, you can clock out at 6pm and on the weekend, but when it’s your own company – there’s always something else to tackle on your perpetual to-do list.

5. What is your ultimate vision of the brand. Do you want to expand?

Cri de Coeur’s mission is to become a name synonymous with high fashion and uncompromising ethical values. We will also attempt to make a real impact on people’s mindsets as they shop by helping them to be more aware of how their purchases affect the planet.

We think that what we wear says so much about who we are, and it is so important to wear your heart on your sleeve, so to speak, by making choices in fashion that compliment our ideals on the inside. Eventually we would love to expand into other product categories and a retail storefront.

6. How do you come up with the shoe styles for the next season? Is it what you want to wear at the time, or do you think about what is missing in the world of vegan shoes, or are you inspired by a certain thing?

Each collection is newly inspired – by personal experiences, photoshoots, girls with great personal style, films, art, nostalgia – it all depends what we’re feeling at the time. We are our ultimate target customers, so we definitely design with what we’d like to be wearing at the time in mind.

7. Speaking of that, what are your inspirations. I always love to hear what kinds of things inspire people and their brands.

Our new Spring’13 collection is inspired by the British fashion trend known as the Teddy Girl. We’re channeling the Teds and the Mods and balancing feminine and masculine, with the updated edgy street look in metallic oxfords, laser-cut sandals and basket weave booties.

teddy girls (look them up, very cool)

8. I feel like veganism is growing by the day. Do you see more and more people becoming interested in vegan shoes?

There’s never been so much buzz surrounding issues that lead to awareness of the vegan lifestyle – from helping to reverse global warming, to living a long & healthy life, to eliminating animal suffering, etc. People are curious and seeking info on easy ways they can be a part of this movement. Buying a non-leather shoe or handbag that’s just as fashionable as its leather counterparts is one of those ways. We’ve definitely seen this trend emerge, and truly believe it’s a trend that’s here to stay!

9. Do you have any tips for vegan entrepreneurs?

Our number one tip would be – don’t get discouraged! There’s so much in your face everyday that is disheartening, from naysayers who can’t see beyond the status quo, to horrendous stories of how animals and the planet are treated, to the poor economic situation. Stick to your guns and work hard, and hopefully it will all pay off!

another teddy girl


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