7 innovative brands paving the way for a more sustainable shoe industry
Material innovations, upcycling, and 0 waste when we list the companies promoting better footwear consumption.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
When covid hit the world, the Swedish craft brand — until then mainly producing card and travel wallets cut and sewn by hand in a small Stockholm atelier — had to think differently.
— People didn’t travel as much or even at all, says founder Daniel Ankarstrand. They were trapped in their home. That was when I came up with the idea of luxurious slippers. If people doesn’t leave their home I can still make them look smashing. I made a luxury slipper with a size range from 37 to 45. With the slipper, I want to give the everyday life a little bit extra. I can see ”The Dude” in Big Lebowski wear a pair of salmon slippers when he go out to buy a carton of milk or the banker during a Zoom meeting wearing his pajamas and the slippers.
Yes, you read it right. Salmon slippers. Made of salmon leather, a pure byproduct from the fish industry.
— It is such a great feeling to produce a luxury item out of something that before was seen as trash. The leather is sourced from salmon farms outside the Norwegian coast and tanned in Iceland. It makes me proud to work with an exotic leather that is true to Scandinavia. The exterior is made out of salmon and the lining is made of french calf leather to add that extra luxury feel and quality. The sole consists of a layer of calf leather, two layers of vegetable-tanned leather, and finishing up with a rubber sole so that they can be worn both indoor and outdoor, Ankarstrand concludes.
This spring, one of the world’s oldest shoe brands has challenged themselves, releasing their most eco-friendly shoe ever — Jazz Court RFG. The unisex silhouette contains 0% plastic. Instead, it’s entirely made of seven and only seven natural materials.
The sole is made of durable rubber, the insole of wool, the eucalyptus fiber is used for the shoelaces, while the upper consists of cotton and jute. The dyeing process has used different colors from gardenia flower and beetroot where the latter also is used for the ink to stamp the sizing information on the insole labels.
The packaging is, of course, also made of 100% recycled cardboard.
For their sneaker Eide, Swedish shoe brand Icebug uses leftover wool from fellow Swedish Woolpower’s local production in the northern part of Sweden. The natural properties of wool gives it natural anti-odour qualities as well as great thermo-regulating qualities — being cold when it is warm and warm when it is cold. Icebug also states how the soft and comfortable upper together with the cushioning BUGforce EVA midsole with BLOOM foam, made of algae biomass, makes it super comfortable. Sustainable highlights also include an outsole partly made of recycled rubber and recycled wool lining, while other parts of Eide are partly made of recycled fishing nets and recycled polyethylene.
Direct-to-consumer brand Myrqvist offers a curated range of sleek and timeless men’s footwear. The next step in their ongoing journey to an even more sustainable brand is their Made-To-Order service, manufacturing the shoes by hand after the customer has placed their order. It ensures that the brand doesn’t buy a lot of surplus stock that then needs to be sold out.
— We are not the only brand offering a Made-To-Order service, but we have made it much more accessible by halving both the delivery time — on average 3 weeks after the order is placed — and the price tag. As far as I know, we are the only one in the world offering a Made-To-Order shoe for less than €300, tells Sebastian Öhrn, founder and CEO. He continues:
— The latest development in our concept offering a more sustainable shoe consumption is that we have created collections with only ordered goods. Our Black Suede Collection is the first of these. By optimizing our production, purchasing one and the same material, and having an already determined pattern, we can further reduce both the production cost and lead times and thus offer the customer a price that is closer to ready-to-wear prices. In this way, we only manufacture exactly what is bought from this collection and get 0% waste. As an extra bonus for customers, we also offer to have their initials embossed on the sole.
— To only offer a sustainable product is not so impressive to me if you can not offer it at a price that is available. Therefore, we strive for the size of the wallet not to determine whether the customer can consume sustainably and in this way, I think we can make a greater impact, Öhrn concludes.
The innovative Swedish shoe company initiated their sustainablity work before sustainability became trendy. Their 767g model is a high platform boot with a sole made of recycled eco rubber. The semi-aniline leather produced at a local tannery in Portugal, that’s meeting the high requirements for waste management and water preservation. 100% recycled nylon shoelaces, also produced in Portugal, and the insole is a 100% recycled foam material mixed with a charcoal powder for an environmentally friendly bactericidal effect.
Available in sizes 36-41 with larger sizes expected this fall.
Inspired by Icelandic stone landscapes, Kastel has developed a completely new and more sustainable shoe sole described as stronger and more grip-resistant than today’s soles. It’s constructed in layers of rubber so that one layer at a time wears down, and filled with recycled EVA which gives it a lower weight. This creates a light sole that lasts longer and has a much better grip.
— Most sneakers on the market are designed for the California beach promenade with mild and stable weather conditions. As a Norwegian shoe manufacturer, we have to think differently and make shoes that can withstand difficult surfaces and changing weather, says Andreas Malo Dyb, founder.
The shoe manufacturer, which is already known for innovative ideas, such as Norway’s first self-service shoe store, is now launching a unisex spring and summer collection where the soles are combined with environmentally friendly upper materials, such as recycled polyester, organic cotton, and hemp.
The spectacular shoe brand continuously works to source new and innovative fabrics in a bid to get rid of animal-based materials, in favour of natural, recyclable ones. One example is this spring’s slipper Grass Flower, handmade in Europe and made of recycled tea bags from Florence. This August sees the launch of two innovative silhouettes — Abacá, made of Bananatex (the world’s first fabric made purely from Banana plants), and Grape, made of waste from Italian wineries.