DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT: VEJA TRAINERS
Since 2005, VEJA has been making trainers differently infusing each stage of production with a positive impact. Environmentally friendly trainers, made with raw materials sourced from organic farming and ecological agriculture, without chemicals or polluting processes. Trainers that treat humans with respect, and are produced in dignified conditions, in direct consultation with producer associations and manufacturers. Trainers with greater economic justice, without any advertising or marketing expenses.
In 2004, Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion, both just 24 at the time, set out to reinvent one of the most functional everyday items – the trainer. The idea behind their brand combines design and social responsibility.
‘We decided to make sneakers because this product is a symbol for our generation and our era. It’s also a product that crystallizes the major issues of globalization through its production, dissemination, and usage. Making shoes differently was us saying that everything had to be redone from scratch, that
nothing was to be taken for granted. And it started happening: food, cars, consumer products, in general, are changing their production methods. The way these goods are made is more and more important. That’s what our project is about, making what we want the world to become. We take longer to design our shoes than other big brands. We love designing sneakers that we’ll be proud to wear in 10 years. The attention we bring to each step of the manufacturing process is extreme. We weren’t designers at first, but we simply put in the time and that’s what we became.’
Veja trainers are manufactured in Brazil because there is a good supply of wild rubber, organic cotton and factories where 80% of the workers are unionised and pay is above minimum wage. Kopp and Morillion work directly with 320 cotton farmers using agro-ecology methods that combine rows of diverse crops ensuring minimal soil erosion. The cotton is cultivated without fertilisers or pesticides. They pay their farmers twice the market rate. The trainers’ soles are made from Amazon rubber, where rubber trees grow in the wild. Using this rubber helps to preserve and enhance the Amazon rainforest. The 60 families of rubber tapers they work with are paid a premium as well so they don’t have to supplement their incomes by clearing the forest to grow additional crops or rear cattle.
The leather used in Veja designs comes from Uruguay, and the tanning process is completed with the help of plant extracts, not chrome or other heavy metals.
The brand also offers many vegan alternatives including uppers made from recycled plastic bottles. Finally, once in France, the storage and delivery processes are supported by Ateliers Sans Frontières, an association promoting societal integration through work.
“It’s true, Veja is more than a shoe brand,” says Kopp. “We don’t want to be another Nike. We want to show if two friends with no background in this industry can do it, everybody can do it. We want Veja to be an example and we want to say to the other brands, with all the money you have, with all the knowledge you have, with all the power you have, you can do much more.”
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