Today in Paris, 15 years after its launch, pioneering sustainable sneaker label Veja has made its brick-and-mortar debut in the Marais, one of the city’s coolest neighborhoods. As you’d expect, it’s the most eco-friendly shop on the block.
The minimalist, double-facade boutique spanning 80 square meters is situated on the corner of Rue Debelleyme and Rue de Poitou and shares its design ethos with that of the label’s kicks.
The brand started by deconstructing a typical sneaker and rebuilding it in a more socially and ecologically balanced way, and it approached the store concept in a similar manner. “Our way of making a store is to undo everything until you’re left with a shell, and then use what can be saved,” co-founder Sebastien Kopp told FN.
Little wonder Veja is a favorite with Meghan Markle, known for championing low-impact, sustainably produced fashion.
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Take the mosaic parquet flooring: It was originally created by innovative architect Raphael Navot, using vertically placed pieces of reclaimed wood, artfully slotted together. For the walls, they stripped away the plaster to reveal the bare concrete beneath and — in a nod to the site’s former tenant, a store called Shine — retained a whisper of its logo etched on the concrete like a ghost of retail past.
Paris-based architecture and design studio Ciguë created bespoke shelving from recycled paper and plaster and used LED lighting because it has the lowest carbon footprint possible, Kopp said. The ceiling features a light sculpture by Brazilian neon artist Kleber Matheus.
Even the electricity is green, powered by French cooperative renewable energy provider Enercoop, which uses only energy from hydraulic, wind turbine, solar and biomass sources. The partnership was a no-brainer, said Kopp, noting that the energy company has supplied the Veja HQ since 2008.
In that his label is clearly a forerunner for the industry’s sustainability drive, Kopp has his own perspective on initiatives such as the Fashion Pact, the Kering-spearheaded initiative that recruited 56 major brands across the industry to sign eco-driven pledges, such as eliminating single-use plastics and reaching 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2030.
Veja so far has not joined the pact, presumably because Kopp prefers to cut his own path: “The Fashion Pact is a promise — I don’t comment on promises, I only comment on actions,” he said. “We never promise anything. We never talk about something that is not made. We never talk about 2030, 40 or 50. I believe that now is not the time to speak, it is the time to act and to show results.”
There is more action in the works for the Parisian sneaker brand, specifically a new project in Bordeaux. “It’s more like a laboratory,” Kopp revealed, remaining mum on details. He says he’s as good as his word and won’t say anything more until it’s done and he can show those results.