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An Interview with Sandra Canselier of COCLICO

COCLICO’s main ethos is all about combining modern minimalism with traditional craftsmanship to create shoes that will stand the test of time. Sandra Canselier came from a family of French shoe-makers so creating shoes that are made the right way is an important part of her drive. Funnily enough, Sandra Canselier’s relationship with fashion wasn’t exactly a match made in heaven. In fact, when speaking about how her love for fashion came to be, she laughs and quips that, “It wasn’t an obvious fit” — and I guess in this sense that is a good thing. 

Beyond chasing trends, and higher and profit margins, COCLICO speaks to a unique identity that invites customers to choose wisely. Never producing more than necessary and only using locally sourced materials and traditional crafting techniques, Coclico is constantly working to underpin each step of their design process with both ethical and environmental responsibility. Making them a worthy homage to the humble wildflower from which they coined their name. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. How did COCLICO come to be?
I started Coclico back 2000. I'm often asked why I gravitated to the fashion industry, and anyone who knows me will tell you that it doesn't seem like an obvious fit. I didn't purposely go into fashion, instead it was a fascination with the process of making, the complexities of production, and the puzzle of executing a design and bringing it to life. My family has been running a shoe factory in France for many generations. Because of this, I am very much focused on the actual shoe making, and I work very closely with Lisa Nading, our long time designer at Coclico, who has given us our unique and identifiable aesthetic.
Where did the name COCLICO originate from? What is the philosophy behind it?
Coclico is the name of the wild flower that grows along the roadsides where I grew up in France. A humble flower, yet sturdy, bright, and bold. The flower is also said to symbolise beauty and success. For me, the name 'Coclico' seemed to combine so many of the virtues that I was hoping to achieve with my company. It grounded me in the traditions of my childhood, and made it all the more perfect. I only wish I'd realised how difficult it was for English speakers to pronounce, that has been a bit of an issue!

French shoe-making craftsmanship is such a strong heritage for your brand, coming from generations of traditional French shoe-makers. How does COCLICO balance this heritage with innovation?
Our factory is in Mallorca, Spain, one of the few remaining factories on the island. They use traditional methods to make our shoes, which require a great deal of handwork done by experienced craftsmen. However, we also use modern technologies where it is called for. For example, cutting patterns using a computer is a great way to reduce leather waste.  

In what ways do your production processes help reduce COCLICO’s environmental impact?
When it comes to innovation, sometimes it’s actually about looking backwards and trying to make the shoes with as many natural materials as possible; and sometimes it is about looking to new and budding technologies that allow us to use recycled materials. Many of our constructions (constructions are the heel, sole, and any part of the shoe that is below the foot) are made with original methods that maintain our dedication to using environmentally friendly materials. For example, when we choose recycled cork instead of plastic for a covered platform, we might need to add a recycled welt so that a crisp edge is maintained. Details like that are not seen by customers as the platform is wrapped in leather, but the result is a crisp edge like you would see in the plastic platforms used widely in the industry. 
We also go to great lengths to make shoes as comfortable as possible, because we want our shoes to be in constant rotation, worn for many occasions over time. Slow fashion is an important aspect of our ethos. We often add many hidden features that enhance the comfort. For example, adding a softer density material like recycled cork or recycled foam in between the leather of the upper and the leather sole. Another one is making flexibility enhancing cuts in the ball area of a sole where it can’t be seen. We also make a sacchetto, that eliminates the traditional insole, it reduces material use and also enhances comfort and flexibility.


Tell us about your partnership with Native Energy? 
Sustainability is more important than ever. It is important to remember is the fact that sustainability is not just 'good for the planet’ but is imperative for our survival as a species. When you realise that we are all connected, you then start to take responsibility. You start to see that the benefit to all is also a benefit to you. As humans, we like to compartmentalise. Sustainability doesn’t fit into a box, it permeates our entire lifestyle. 
As a company, we are pledging to becoming carbon neutral. We do this by making an annual payment to Native Energy and the global programs they are involved in. As individuals within the company, we are each making strides to reduce and even eliminate our consumption of single-use plastics; and we're bringing these personal commitments into the work place. We are always trying to improve.

Today, sustainability is more important than ever, with brands becoming more and more concerned about their carbon footprint. What role does the fashion industry play in the effort to minimise our environmental impact as a species? 
What fashion can do is what any individual can do. Slow down a minute. Consider the impacts of what you are doing, process its value, and understand if you are meeting true needs. Fashion at its best is an art, a craft, and a vehicle for personal expression. It is considered, and that basically tells you it’s not a buckshot approach. The problem with fashion is there is simply too much stuff. Do what you do well, cultivate your product and find your audience. Create quality, and don't over produce it. We don't carry stock and we don't build in discounts to our prices — we're very carful to only make what we know we have a demand for. At the same time, try and reduce those inefficiencies that are ultimately waste. A great example is packaging. A great stride would be to take an industry wide review of single use plastic,  and make a commitment to abolish its use by a certain target year?

As consumers, how can we make a difference in protecting the future of our planet?
Look at the best designers and notice that they often have a uniform. Cultivate your own uniform and supplement it with your own signature pieces. Keep it easy, but you. Look into your closet. If you can’t see everything then you probably just have too much stuff.

Interview by Hannah Tan-Gillies