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Cole Haan Debuts Its First Sustainable Shoe — a Sneaker Made From Dandelions

We’ve seen shoes made out of coffee grounds, mushrooms and algae. For its first sustainable shoe, Cole Haan is tapping into flower power.

Today, the New York-based brand unveiled the Generation Zerøgrand II, an eco-friendly lifestyle sneaker for men and women that features an outsole made with patent-pending Flower Foam (a lightweight material that consists of at least 25% dandelion rubber). It’s available now in multiple colorways for $130, on Colehaan.com as well as in the brand’s own stores and with its retail partners.

In the drive to create more sustainable footwear, shoe designers have been increasingly utilizing natural substances in order to limit the use of plastics and other petroleum-based materials and to incorporate components that biodegrade faster.

In addition to Flower Foam, the Generation Zerøgrand II boasts other eco-friendly elements. Its upper consists of vegan microfiber suede that contains 21% recycled content, as well as reconstituted felt fabric made with 85% recycled plastic bottles. Additionally, the laces are 100% recycled plastic. And inside is the OrthoLite Hybrid footbed that has 20% eco content.

Cole Haan Generation Zerogrand II sustainable shoe
Cole Haan’s Generation Zerogrand silhouette has been popular with younger customers.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Cole Haan

David Maddocks, brand president of Cole Haan, told FN that the shoe was in development for more than two years, though the science behind its Flower Foam technology dates back as far as World War II. “It hasn’t been used in footwear as far as we’re aware of, so we’re very excited about about pioneering this,” he said.

The release is the opening salvo of Cole Haan’s new sustainable mission, dubbed Change Forward, which represents the brand’s goal “to better themselves and the world around them” by replacing many of its shoe components with eco-friendly materials.

As such, it has set a benchmark that any Cole Haan product labeled “sustainable” will contain — at minimum — 25% naturally derived or recycled content by weight.

Maddocks noted that some products will exceed that percentage, but the 25% marker gives customers a base of understanding. “There’s a lot of confusion around sustainability, which is why we landed on a very simple, communicable threshold that people can rely on.”

He added that the brand chose to launch its eco mission with the Generation Zerøgrand silhouette because the sneaker, which debuted in 2019, reaches a younger customer thanks to its lower price point and athleisure aesthetic. But Cole Haan has many more sustainable products coming down the pipeline in the next seasons.

“This is early days for us,” said Maddocks. “We’re going to listen. We’re going to learn. I’m sure we’re going to make some mistakes along the way. But our intention is to continue to look through this lens and deliver great innovation, comfort, style and versatility to our customers while also doing it in a way that says we’re going to do our part.”

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