Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Sneakers on the eco trail


Image result for sneaker anatomy
Image: For Kicks Sake - Anataomy of a sneaker

Welcome back good shoe folk and here we are all set for the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers Livery supper; the perfect networking opportunity for British footwear to talk all things footwear and exchange ideas with British makers, designers and manufacturers from across the country. One of the hot topics is bound to be sneakers' (trainers) market dominance.

Image: Carreducker Tor Boots

Like many, I'm more comfortable in a pair of Tor boots and jeans or even, dare I say it, trainers. Continuing last week's discussions of all things sustainable and environmental this is one sector where there are huge strides to be made. Here's a snapshot from a Wallpaper article that neatly puts it into context.

  • The fashion industry... produces more carbon emissions than international flights and shipping combined; and trainers leave a particularly large and unpleasant footprint
  • Trainers use a lot of different and ‘problematic’ materials – leather, nylon, synthetic rubber, plastic and viscose – and involve a number of different manufacturing processes – injection moulding, foaming, heating, cutting and sewing. That means a lot of resource-munching making and logistical toing and froing up and down the supply chain. Where they are made also matters." 
  • Over three-quarters of the world’s trainers are produced in China, where manufacturing is still – despite some positive moves – vastly reliant on fossil fuels. 

'Eco' is the current tag of choice and some brands are more committed and successful than others. Here are some to look out for:

Veja - produced in Brazil - the brand works with local organic cotton producers, Amazonian rubber farmers and a factory that turns plastic water bottles into thread for uppers

Image result for veja sneakers
Image: Veja sneakers


Allbirds - focused on making a shoe using fewer processes and more sustainable materials including  merino wool uppers, eucalyptus-based fibre and a sugarcane-based rubber



Image result for allbirds sneakers
Image: Allbirds sneakers


Everlane - Its tread trainer is made from recycled plastic, rubber and the low-impact leather

Image result for everlane tread sneakers
Image: Everlane Tread Sneaker

Good News - with recycled tyre outsoles, insoles of recycled eva and organic cotton uppers from the UK


Image result for good news sneakers
Image: Good News corduroy sneakers

Baabuk  - natural wool sneakers and slippers

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Image: Baabuk wool upper sneaker

Even the big players realise they need to step up to the market not just to attract young consumers, but the young talent in the industry.

Nike - its Flyknit material reduces waste and its Flyleather is made from recycled leather scraps; over 75% of shoes now use some recycled materials and it is by far the industry’s biggest user of recycled polyester.

Image: Natural leather Nike Air
Adidas - has developed Futurecraft Loop a fully recyclable sneaker made entirely from TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane); has partnered with campaign group Parley for the Oceans to produce a range of shoes with uppers made from recycled ocean waste; and has committed to transitioning fully to recycled plastic by 2024.

shoes knitted from ocean plastic
Image: Adidas Recycled Ocean Waste Shoe

Converse - is investigating sustainable materials and so far has launched three upcycled or recycled versions of the ‘Chuck Taylor’ - one in partnership with Thread International produced using recycled PET from plastic bottles; another features a recycled denim upper in partnership with Beyond Retro; and the third uses recycled waste canvas from its own mills. (To give some context of the impact, up to 100 million pairs of the ‘Chuck Taylor All Star Classic’ are produced a year)

Renew Canvas Chuck Taylor All Star Obsidian/Egret/White
Image: Renew Canvas Chuck Taylor All-Star

It's encouraging. We'll see, but for now I've got a better idea of which brands to look out for. Until next week, happy shoemaking.

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