Green Fashion Saturday: Payless Goes Green (ish) with Zoe & Zac Line

This week, Payless launched the first line of “democratized” green fashion: Zoe & Zac shoes for women and girls, made out of organic cotton, recycled rubber, and water-based glues. Every shoe is sold for $30 or less.

zoe and zac
(image captured from

The face of the line is Summer Rayne Oakes, model and TV host and one time winner of the Udall undergraduate scholarship.

I’m excited. It’s hard for me to find shoes I love anymore, especially at Payless. It’s not like I’m a hardcore vegan shopper, and I’m certainly not die hard enough to pay tons of money for Natalie Portman vegan shoes. But it does seem like every time I find a style I love, it’s in leather and I can’t bring myself to buy it. I remember the tannery in Fes, Morocco too well to want to buy leather ever again. You see one young man ankle deep in dye and acids, you too will desert the industry… how that place is a tourist attraction I’ll never understand. This line offers me a little hope. Next time I’m near a Payless, I’ll have to check these out. 

Like any product trumpeting its greenness, Zoe and Zac has been met with greenwashing criticism. NPR’s Morning Edition covered the launch of the line yesterday, interviewing Anna Griffin, editor in chief of green fashion magazine COCO ECOabout her concerns about the shoes being manufactured in China. “Who made the shoes, and under what conditions?” 

I, too, wonder about the emissions from shipping the shoes halfway across the globe. These shoes need to run extra large sizes to fit their carbon footprint. 

And of course, there is the perennial issue that plagues green products: consumerism isn’t green. Buying lots of new stuff isn’t green. In that sense, the fashion industry isn’t green (although parisienne style maven Garance Doré offers hope that fashion is tending towards mix & match from your own closet). 

So, Zoe and Zac – you are not a panacea, but a transitional product. As is the case in green food, green travel, green events, and green business, everything in green fashion is a compromise.

I applaud the idea of democratizing green. Like Van Jones bringing green out of Marin, Zoe and Zac is bringing a little slice of green to the nation. As one who spends her days trying to convince people to go green (and is often met with confusion), any kind of mass education through exposure, even flawed mass education, is a step in the right direction.

And hey, any increase in demand for recycled materials is a good thing – it has a ripple effect throughout the business community that incentivizes businesses who can sell their wastes as products and keep them out of the landfill.

And none of this answers the important, burning question: Who the heck are Zoe and Zac?!

Thanks to Regi for breaking this story to me early!



  1. Regi said

    You’re welcome, Jenn! And also, I’ve been hearing some about a Loomstate all-organic cotton collection coming out at Target….it might be out now, I will have to check! 🙂

  2. Regi said


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