Fed up with the waste endemic in the production of footwear, the London-based shoe designer Beatrix Ong – who’s worked with brands including Jimmy Choo and Nike – has come up with a fresh approach: The New Concept Shoe collection.
Ong has started with just one model, a unisex slip-on brogue called Wen that costs 188 pounds, or $288 at current exchange. She plans to launch one style at a time and the shoes are designed to be season-less.
Made from canvas, with a vulcanized, recycled rubber sole, it comes in black, white, and a Sponge Bob print, which is tied to an ongoing creative collaboration with Colette in Paris, and Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products. Insoles are made from bamboo and charcoal, which naturally deodorize feet.
The sole shape is based on old kung-fu slippers, which were originally made of fabric, while the white brogue upper is a nod to the shoes her great-uncle Dr. Sun Yat Sen, founding father of the Republic of Chian, used to wear.
The shoes are made in Chinese factories from existing, discarded, or leftover stock that would normally have been thrown away.
“With footwear, waste happens before the shoes hit the shop floor – even the smallest imperfection means a shoe will be thrown away and acres of material go to waste. Our aim is to make use of what’s already there,” said Ong in an interview.
“It’s easier for factories to throw things away, but in the long-term it’s wiser to reuse and recycle. What we’re trying to do is limit the waste. We want to do one thing – do it crazy well – and in a considered fashion. We don’t want to do disposable fashion.”
In October, Ong quietly launched the shoes to patrons and members of London’s Design Museum.
They can also be pre-ordered on her website, beatrixong.com, and will be stocked at Colette in Paris. The idea is to sell one style at a time, have a tight distribution and stay as close to the end consumer as possible.
As for her decision to launch at the Design Museum, she said: “I wanted the shoes to be seen as a design object, seen a neutral light,” she said.
Ong’s passion for sustainability – and slowing down – came partly from time spent in China over the past few years.
A graduate of Central Saint Martins in London, Ong was formerly creative director of Jimmy Choo and launched an eponymous shoe range in 2002, which no longer exists.
She has collaborated with brands including Globe-Trotter and Nike, and has taken part in official British delegations to promote the country’s creativity in China.
Earlier this year she was a member of Prince William’s delegation to China as part of the Great Festival of Creativity.