VEJA and Mini Rodini push the limits for bio-based shoes
The two brands’ creative directors, Sébastien Kopp and Cassandra Rhodin, on traceability, unconventional materials, and why companies’ methodology to measure CO2 emissions is ”complex, often vague”.
7 May 2021

VEJA and Mini Rodini not only share the same sustainable mindset but were also founded around the same time — 2004 and 2006 respectively — before ”sustainability” was a buzzword within the fashion and shoe industries. And while illustrator Cassandra Rhodin invested her last money to create Mini Rodini, VEJA’s creative director Sébastien Kopp shares a similar story.

— We started with 5000 euros. Today, we are a brand that grew organically, without investors, he says.

He describes the initial idea behind VEJA as ”innocent”.

— We wanted to trace the production of a sneaker to reinvent it, rebuild it with ecological raw materials, making them in a factory that would respect the workers. Discovering and analyzing every step of the way to change how a sneaker is made.

Rhodin, on her side, founded Mini Rodini as a tribute to all children, their imagination, and the sense that everything is possible. 

— We make clothes for kids that are comfortable, inclusive, creative, unisex, and sustainable — always with flair and attitude.

The relation between the two brands goes years back and this spring, they join forces for a special collab sneaker.

— It’s made of C.W.L, a vegan alternative to leather, which consists of organic cotton canvas coated with corn starch and ricinus oil. It’s 54% bio-based and made in Brazil, says Kopp.

— I’m a longtime fan of how VEJA combines design, responsible materials, and fair trade sources. Both brands are trying to make products that do as small impact as possible on people and planet. Our companies’ values are a great match, says Rhodin.

Cassandra, how will you continue to work with sustainability onwards? 

— Sustainability is one of our main reasons to exist and we’ll keep on developing and pushing ourselves forward and to be better at communicating all the things we do. At the same time, there is so much greenwashing going on in the textile industry now and we want nothing to do with that. This spring, we’re launching a traceability program, so our customers can have 100% traceability of our materials and production chain. They’re able to see that we only work with better materials and better production and nothing is made in conventional materials or conventionally produced.

Sébastien, you recently released a CO2 Emissions report. Why did you do it? And what did you come up with?

— We applied our principles to our CO2 emissions study: calculate everything, go beyond what is in front of us. 

— Since the creation of the brand, we are familiar with all the people we work with: from the producers to the factories where we conduct social audits and chemical tests every year. We have full traceability in our production chain. This full traceability helps us control the manufacture of our sneakers and their distribution, shipping our pairs by boat and not by plane. But in 2019, we wanted to reach further. We wanted to know the true impact of VEJA by calculating all our CO2 emissions, something no one else does. 

— The methodology that is used to measure CO2 emissions is complex, often vague. Most companies don’t pay attention to their production chain, mainly because they don’t know what is happening there. As a result, they publish incomplete results, including only a tiny part of their impact, like their company cars. The influence of their raw materials and production in factories is not included in their study, even though it is very often the most significant part of the emissions. 

— So, we calculated everything for a year: from the cattle breeding to analyze the impact of the leather used in our collections, our offices, and business trips, not forgetting the transport of our pairs, the emissions of our warehouses, and so forth. The goal: to be aware of our impact and to be able to reduce it as we move forward with our collections. For example, we discovered that leather represented 97% of our emissions linked to our raw materials. We want to keep developing the use of alternative materials such as C.W.L — as mentioned, made of organic cotton canvas covered with corn starch and castor oil. But also improve the sourcing of leather and its tanning, such as the use of chrome-free leather, tanned without chromium, in some lines of our collections.

The entire study is available here