We're big fans of sneakers here - they make any outfit look super cool and the comfort factor doesn't hurt - but we get extra excited about sneakers with a conscience. Veja, the French sneaker collection, started in 2005 by friends Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillon has just that. After a startling trip to a garment factory in SE Asia, the guys realized something had to give in the apparel industry, and sneakers were the best place to start.
To them, sneakers symbolize all the major issues of globalization, from the way they're produced and marketed to the way they're used and discarded. Their goal was to make the manufacturing process completely transparent at all stages, including design, material sourcing, production, sales and distribution. To make environmentally friendly sneakers, using raw materials, sourced from organic farmers without the use of chemicals. A seriously daunting project.
François-Ghislain and Sébastien
The first step was to eliminate the marketing budget - 70% of the cost of most sneakers goes towards marketing while only 30% goes into production - and put that money back into the production process. The cost of production for a Veja sneaker is 5 times higher than that of a big-name brand while comparably priced, in doing that they've been able to pay fair prices for raw, organic materials, sourced and bought directly from farmers (no middle man to pay) and pay factory workers a living wage in safe conditions. Making it economically equitable for all parties.
Veja is manufactured from start to finish in Brazil, a country they chose for its bountiful natural resources and excellent labor laws. 30 to 40% of the rubber used in the shoes is naturally sourced and sustainably harvested from the Amazon rainforest by local seringueiros who live there. The cotton used is organic and when organic cotton isn't available, recycled cotton is used in its place.
"Standing up with one foot in design, the other in social responsibility."