Founded in 2004, Veja, the ecologically minded sneaker label beloved of Meghan Markle, has long been ahead of the curve. Co-founders Sebastien Kopp and Ghislain Morillion have just been waiting for the rest of the industry to catch up.
But they’re not letting the grass grow under their feet. Veja has just dropped its very first technical runner and will soon welcome customers to its first brick-and-mortar store, located in Paris’ artsy Marais district.
Four years’ research and development in the making, the ecological running shoe is 53 percent natural and recycled. Materials include Amazon rubber, rice husk waste, banana oil, sugar cane and the innovative Alveomesh that’s made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles. The remainder is synthetic rubber. As for the name, the Condor — that’s inspired by the bone structure of this indigenous South American bird.
The goal is to up the sustainability stakes, says Kopp, but for now the shoe is the best possible balance between organic materials and running optimization. The use of Amazonian rubber he adds, helps to fight deforestation by increasing the economic value of the forest. For fall ’19, Veja collaborated with Rick Owens on a completely vegan runner-style shoe that made its debut on the men’s runway Owens produced in January.
The brand also insures the rubber tappers who extract the raw materials from the trees are paid fair prices, while their Brazilian factory respects workers’ rights. Employees at the plant near Brazil’s Porto Alegre have four weeks of paid vacation every year, and they work 40 hours a week, with regulated schedules and weekends off.
As for the store, it is set to open next month. When FN visited last week for the launch event to unveil the Condor, there was a suitably eco-driven running machine on loan from hip Paris sporting club Montgolfière. User-powered with treads made out of wood, it was just the thing for putting the Condor through its paces.