Why Everlane Is Making a Play in the Nearly $20 Billion Sneaker Industry

With veterans Nike and Adidas as well as buzzy startups like Allbirds, the sneaker industry is already saturated with big-name and cult-favorite brands — generating about $19.6 billion in sales, according to global research firm The NPD Group.

But that’s not stopping Everlane from getting its foot into the marketplace.

The sustainable apparel retailer is launching its own sneaker label — under an even more daunting mission of creating the world’s lowest-impact sneakers.

Tread by Everlane sneakers
Tread by Everlane sneakers in butter.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Everlane

After two years of developing the design, Tread by Everlane is set to debut online and in stores on April 25, with a pair of timeless unisex trainers that are completely carbon neutral. (Everlane has pledged to eliminate all virgin plastic from its supply chain as soon as 2021.)

“Of everything we wear, sneakers have one of the heaviest footprints. They require a ton of energy to produce, are made largely from virgin plastic and never break down. So when we buy and replace them often — billions end up in landfills around the world,” founder and CEO Michael Preysman said. “That’s where we come in.”

Everlane’s latest endeavor pits it against major sportswear brands that have also made efforts to reduce their environmental impact. While Adidas has promised to eliminate new plastic from its supply chain by 2024, about 75 percent of Nike’s clothing and shoes are composed of some form of recycled material.

The company also goes head-to-head with San Francisco neighbor and FN’s Brand of the Year Allbirds, which has become synonymous with sustainable innovations through the design of its signature wool sneakers.

Tread by Everlane sneakers
Inside the making of Tread by Everlane sneakers.
CREDIT: Tim Gerard Barker/Everlane

However, at just $98, Tread’s unisex sneakers rival those of its competitors.

Boasting Everlane’s eco-friendly ethos, the new sneakers’ leather material is sourced from Vietnamese supplier Saigon TanTec, which said it uses 42 percent less electricity and 56 percent less fresh water than similar factories. Their laces and linings are made from discarded bottles. And unlike the average sneaker sole, which is almost entirely plastic, Tread’s shoes blend natural rubber and post-industrial recycled rubber — keeping 18,000 pounds of rubber out of landfills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 54 percent.

“It’s still far from perfect,” Preysman said. “But it’s the first step on a long path to changing an industry.”

Watch FN’s tips on cleaning your sneakers.

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