There’s no shortage of environmentally conscious shoes on the market — but if you’re looking for kicks that actually look good, your choices are few and far between. That might be starting to change with Veja, which WIRED describes as “a shoe brand whose eco-friendly shoes don’t look like eco-friendly shoes.”
Meet Veja’s founders, Sébastien Kopp and Francois Ghislain Morillion — the goody two-shoes of the shoe world, if you will. Before these sneakerheads started their company, they were disillusioned by the stories behind all the shoes in their closets. Morillion told WIRED, “We couldn’t be really proud of the sneakers we had because of where they were made and how they were made and with what materials.”
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While traveling in Brazil, Morillion and Kopp noticed something interesting — it was a canvas and rubber volleyball shoe that was popular in that country. “It was a very democratic shoe,” Morillion explains. “It was simple.” The guys wanted to create a similar shoe, only instead of using mass manufacturing, they’d tap the small producers they met during their year of travel. Veja’s first shoe was a canvas sneaker with cotton sourced from a small family farm in Ceará, a state in northeastern Brazil. Today, the company buys more than 30,000 pounds of fair trade cotton every year from more than 320 families.
The rubber, too, is a product of Brazil. Every Veja sole is made from wild rubber tapped straight from trees in the Amazon. The practice, in which a liquid latex is extracted from trees, allows tappers to sustainably harvest the trees’ resources without damaging the trees themselves. It’s estimated that every rubber tapper preserves up to 300 hectares of forest — this is in stark contrast to the pollution caused by manufacturing synthetic rubber in shoes.
Even more refreshing: The company has a zero-advertising policy that allows it to keep a lower retail price while buying fair-trade materials and adequately compensating its employees.
Veja isn’t perfect — the brand readily acknowledges its own limitations, and you may have noticed that the ad above features a woman running across the city of Rio de Janeiro with no bra. Come on, dudes! But we finally have some climate-conscious sneakers that look cool to boot. For the rest of the footwear companies getting in on the sustainability game: It sounds like you may have some big shoes to fill.