Launderette recently visited the London-based showroom of French footwear brand Veja. We’ve never been so inspired by a business model. They’ve completely reinvented the way that materials are sourced and how they are manufactured. The proof is in the pudding – well-designed, great priced shoes can actually do more good than harm for the earth and for workers.
Footwear is notoriously difficult to produce ‘ethically.’ One reason is that there are so many different types of materials used to make one pair of shoes. They have to be durable, comfortable, water resistant, context specific, well constructed and look good too.
Veja’s canvas sneakers use organic cotton from a cooperative of 320 family farms across Northeast Brazil that adhere to fair trade rules and respect workers rights. For the past five years, Veja has been working directly with ADEC (Associação de Desenvolvimento Educacional e Cultural), and this has allowed Veja to establish a seamless, human-based business model that avoids middlemen and makes sure that reasonable profits go directly to the producers themselves.
Veja is specially working with a chemist on a unique recipe for their fabric dyes using vegetable extracts such as Acacia. The leather used in their shoes, bags and wallets are also vegetable-tanned, which avoids polluting the surrounding environment.
The rubber soles are truly the most awe-inspiring part of a Veja shoe. The Amazon is the only place on earth where rubber trees grow in the wild, and every Amazonian rubber tapper lives and works in the forest, harvesting it direct from the trees. Using a new technology created by the University of Brasilia, the rubber tappers can transform the milky latex liquid straight into rubber sheets ready to be shaped into soles of Veja trainers.
Watch the video to see how the process works from tree to liquid latex to sole:
The actual Veja trainers are made in a factory located in the Vale dos Sinos, a well-developed region in South Brazil. Workers’ rights are respected and social audits are carried out in the factory as part of the FLO-Cert standard. Veja founders, François Morillion and Sébastien Kopp, are proving that a responsible and sustainable supply chain is entirely possible – it just takes doing your research!
Launderette actually went to check out the new S/S 12 collections but couldn’t help but be inspired by the amazing story behind the products. For spring, our favourite collection is Indigenos – vegetable-tanned suede with the wild rubber soles available in low and high top. These are somewhere in between a dressed-up look for the casual guy or low-key appeal for the slick, urban gentleman. We love the matching coloured laces! The Méditerranée collection is also great – it will bring both men and women delightfully into summer. A crossover between a sneaker and a boat shoe, this style, featuring organic cotton canvas, is the perfect weekend shoe. And they’re affordable!
We love that Veja also pays special attention to the design details. On the bottom of each shoe, you’ll find the weight of rubber used in each shoe.
Proof that another world is indeed possible!