Picture this: you're 23, studying at university, with only a few internships under your belt when it comes to work experience. Then you start your own fashion brand...and go on to become part of a huge ethical fashion movement, selling lots of garments and accessories all over the world. Sounds like an impossible story? Well, that's what happened to Marie Viard-Klein, the French student who launched vegan shoe and fashion label Minuit Sur Terre while studying Political Sciences and Marketing in Bordeaux six years ago.
By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist, and vegan fashion expert.
Today, Marie's been vegan for eight years – but back then, she was just discovering the challenges of finding vegan footwear. “I was looking for vegan shoes to buy and I realised there were only a few brands offering quality vegan shoes – and none of them was French,” she recalls. But there was another factor that pushed her towards vegan fashion: “That same summer, I adopted my dog Cannelle from a shelter, and she is the main reason I started the brand: I was looking for a job allowing me to bring my dog to work!”
Cannelle is still a main feature at Minuit Sur Terre – she even stars in some of the brand's promotional photoshoots. And the philosophy of respecting all sentient beings is behind everything Marie and her team do. Minuit Sur Terre sources its materials in Italy, prioritising eco-friendly plant-based or recycled fabrics. Their consumers love the brand's designs made from apples, grapes or cereals, as well as their styles crafted from plastic bottles recovered from the Mediterranean Sea.
The brand's collections are manufactured in Porto, Portugal, as well as Nantes, France. Minuit Sur Terre is committed to good conditions for workers, and visits their factories several times per year.
But as any brand, Marie's labour of love has had to overcome its hurdles. And often, those were connected to how the market viewed the brand. “The most difficult part of being an ethical brand is to make our followers and customers understand the fact that we cannot be perfect,” says Marie. “We are doing the best we can, and obviously we would like to have our products made with 100% recycled materials or fruits, to last a lifetime, to be manufactured at 10km from our office and to cost £50. But the options we have are limited and we sometimes have to compromise.” The brand aims to carry out their commitment to ethics without overburdening themselves with the stress of being flawless, which is a tricky balance. Marie's answer is simple: be honest and transparent. “We choose transparency and every choice we make is explained to our customers, so that they understand how hard it is to conciliate ethics, environment, quality and price.” Sounds like we should all give ethical-fashion companies a break – they are doing their best, and without them, all we'd have would be a ruthless industry without any regard to the impact it has on the world around it.
One of the reasons why Marie's creations are so easy to relate to is that they are made for people like her. When asked who her ideal client is, the answer is “Me! It’s not that surprising since I created the brand after my unsuccessful search, but I really am our typical customer : a woman aged 25-35, and someone who is eco-conscious but who does not want to sacrifice her style.” Minuit Sur Terre certainly caters to that type of woman: the brand's playful sandals, versatile sneakers and chic bucket bags are the perfect blend between ethics and style.
As a brand owner, Marie's days are busy, and they start early. “Usually I wake up around 7am to take care of my furry family. I live in the countryside with two horses, two dogs and four cats. I feed everyone, go for a walk with the dogs and/or the horses - and often Sammy the cat follows me around everywhere, including the forest. Then I take a shower and I’m ready to work! I work remotely three to four days a week, and only go to the office once or twice a week.”
Her working day is a balance between creativity and practicality. “I still do a lot of design - mostly for shoes. I’m not as good for bags and knitwear, so I leave those to my colleague. This includes looking for inspiration, drawing, choosing materials and colours, and following the product development. I also take care of all administrative tasks, which is really not something I’m fond of, but someone has to do it! My working days are never alike!”
Marie also admits to a habit many of us fall prey to: “Mostly, I eat in front of my computer so that I have more time in the evenings.” But her evenings are once again dedicated to her furry family, among her other passions: “After work, I like to go running, and I also have to take care of all my animals before dining and working again if I’m not too tired, otherwise I go to bed with a good book.”
By Sascha Camilli
Sascha Camilli is a vegan fashion writer, speaker and activist. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, you can read our interview with her. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
All photos by Minuit Sur Terre
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