Susie Bergquist’s calling to found Salt + Umber began with her personal values at the forefront.   She courageously decided to start the one-year-old company after working in the fast fashion footwear industry for years and bearing witness to the harsh reality of shoe-manufacturing for mass-market retail. There was a lot of waste, harsh chemicals, heavy machinery, and pollution involved in the process.“It was a world that I loved.  I really loved it but I was deeply troubled by what I saw,” stated the founder.

Impassioned, Bergquist decided to put her growing knowledge of product design and supply chain logistics she’d learned on the job to the test—and let’s just say that it paid off.  “I decided to go off on my own and start a business where I knew that I could make the changes that I could make on my end and work with small-batch factories and retailers that are doing things the right way.”

Doing things the right way is Bergquist’s guiding mantra for her company’s culture. Salt + Umber is more than a passion project for the founder, it’s an affordable alternative to her high luxe sustainable footwear competitors, “I wanted to make something that people could afford that was still eco-friendly and sustainably made.”

The earthy and rugged minimalist aesthetic that is central to most of the brand’s pieces are inspired by the combination of two of earth’s elements, Salt and Umber.  What’s even more beautiful than the name is that the line is a labor of love often intertwines the founder’s appreciation for nature, art, and diversity of culture. “Most consumers don’t know where their products come from,” but through shared commonalities Bergquist is looking to change that,  “salt is a sea mineral that is essential for all life and umber is a mineral from the earth and everyone is connected through these two elements because they compose our entire planet.”

In listening to the founder speak of boundless, borderless connectivity with people around the world we couldn’t help but get more inspired about all that the brand stands for. “I know the people who make the product. I go [to India] and see where [my products] are made.  And that’s really important to me because you really never will know until you go,” stated the passionate founder.  At the inception of her business she manufactured her products in Chinese factories that had high product minimums and did not uphold environmentally sustainable practices.  “One of the reasons that I chose [to switch to] India is it’s a great leather source and they have their own tanneries.  India actually produces most of the world’s leather and they export a lot.  I wanted to ensure that all of the components of the product were made in the same country and that the shoes [could] be made there too,” as an avid proponent for reducing her carbon footprint Bergquist’s manufacturing switch was only logical. “The leather tannery [I use] is a state-of-the-art facility,” says Susie. All of the Salt + Umber components are produced in a green form of tanning called vegetable tanning.  In this process natural materials are used in the tanning process like tree bark. Then the excess water is cleaned and recycled (often several times). By increasing the water’s life cycle the probability of toxic chemicals leaking back into the earth is drastically reduced.

Supporting our international girl gang is a central to all we stand for here at Zoe Elle and Bergquist has us in awe, which is saying a lot! The founder’s managed to build a brand that is woman owned AND made. “The footwear industry in India is run by women which I love.”  Bergquist’s weavers are all women who would otherwise have difficulty finding other means of employment because of the country’s cast system.

Ready to buy your first pair of gorgeous Salt + Umber sandals?

The founder strongly suggests the LILY shoe because it’s her all time favorite and one of her best sellers. It’s a mule style slide that is super easy to style and can be worn well into the fall so there’s still time to slide it into your cart.  You guys know were all about smart, guilt-free purchases and Salt + Umber are all that and more.  Bergquist’s ideal customer is a savvy womxn who loves high quality products that are built to outlast trends and seasons.  If that’s you be sure to check out Salt + Umber on their Instagram and their website!