Payless to Roll Out Sustainable Shoe Collection

NEW YORK — Payless ShoeSource will announce today it is adding a new line of eco-friendly footwear to its stable of brands.

To support the launch, the Topeka, Kan.-based chain, a division of Collective Brands Inc., has signed fashion model and eco-consultant Summer Rayne Oakes to help develop the yet-to-be-named line, which will be sold in about 500 Payless locations starting in April 2009.

Matt Rubel, president and CEO of Collective Brands, said that Payless could bring sustainable fashion to the masses by using its economies of scale to purchase certified-organic and recycled materials at an affordable price. “We have more than 4,500 stores — Payless is Main Street. What we do gets into neighborhoods and to people who might not normally have access to [sustainable fashion],” he said.

The first collection of eight to 12 styles of women’s shoes and handbags will retail for about $30. Footwear for men and kids will follow, with distribution growing to 1,000 stores. “This is part of a larger company initiative on many levels, and this line is going to help teach us how to do it,” Rubel said. He expects methods and materials for the green line to cross over into Payless’ other brands as well. “We are examining everything that we do. It’s part of a holistic approach [to increase sustainability],” he said.

“We are also trying to source more locally, because that decreases transportation,” said Oakes, who is best known as the Discovery Network’s “Planet Green” fashion and beauty expert. She will be working on sourcing and supply chain issues, providing design direction and appearing in advertisements.

“With the economy the way that it is now, many people think [green products] are that much more inaccessible, so this line is coming at the right time,” said Oakes. And she hopes other large companies will take notice of Payless’ sustainable efforts. “Part of this is to inspire and lead by example. You have to set the bar higher in this day and age.”

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