What was the motivation / driving force behind the decision to launch a vegan shoe?
I, (Matt, one of the Co-founders) chose to follow a vegan diet in 2018. Both Ian and I are well aware of our responsibilities as makers to find sustainable, kinder materials and challenge the life cycle of our products – from inception to re-cycle or degrading. We both know that the over reliance on animal-based materials is not sustainable in the med term and that better products are products that last.
Similarly, we are a demand-driven, customer-centric business; when people want a vegan shoe and repeatedly ask for it, we make it. If the demand is there, we will grow our vegan range and volume.
Can you describe the demand and changing market / tendency towards growing veganism in the fashion industry?
It’s hard to ignore or deny the explosion of demand for sustainable products. In 2018, there was an obvious focus on ocean health and plastic, re-use vs. single use and changing diets. ‘Fashion’ also came under scrutiny for pollution across its lifecycle and most notably, ‘fast fashion.’ Many consumers are increasingly aware – and concerned – by the cost vs. Impact equation and we’ve seen the rise of hyper-transparency from successful brands like Patagonia and Everlane (in the US).
In which markets will the vegan shoe be available and do you have plans to expand into other markets?
We ship internationally, often for free.
What is your USP / what differentiates your brand from the competition?
Our shoes are incredibly comfortable. Of course, lots of brands say this. However, we’ve upgraded every part of our shoes, so that we deliver the promise of performance when people wear them – and they love the feel. We fit a Comfort Forever footbed (high cushioning, never degrades, guaranteed for life) into every shoe.
You said that you would consider making your entire line vegan if this shoe is a success – what kind of figures would you hope to see and can you expand on this?
Can you tell us about the vegan material used for the Vegan 172, and what makes it sustainable?
It’s an Italian Microfibre called onMicro.
Let me be transparent. It’s cruelty free and this was our first priority. It performs brilliantly – it looks beautiful and it’s hardwearing and breathable. However, it’s a polysynthetic. That’s plastic in our language. As for sustainability, it’s not the perfect solution. This is why it’s the first step and we have to continue to research and prototype with nascent materials. We have several future products in the workbench and they feature more recycled and recyclable components.
Do you have any other new fabrics in development?
We work with partners to develop products. Today, we are a small shoemaker – an end user of large materials companies. In the future, we’d like to contribute to advanced materials development, either by developing our own ‘lab’ or sponsoring people for whom this type of work is a specialism.
Our industry has to do more than just acknowledge it. We have to take responsibility for our impact.
What are your plans for the rest of 2019 and 2020?
We are about to run a Crowdfunded project with the outcome being the manufacture of the ultimate travel shoes. Travel changes us, gives us new perspectives, challenges our thinking. People need shoes that perform brilliantly; super comfy over long distances, healthy, lightweight, stylish enough to get that upgrade and casual enough to chill out.