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Message slide sandals spring 2023
Message is launching with two unisex slides, in four colorways each.
Courtesy of Message

As the former president of skincare brand True Botanicals, Megan Whitney Higney tapped into nature for clean beauty options. Now, she’s looking to do the same with her first footwear venture.

This month, Higney is launching a new shoe brand called Message that harnesses renewable materials to offer an update to the comfort sandal business.

“I really lived this gap in the footwear market, which was between performance footwear and luxury footwear, specifically in the sandal category,” said the Oakland, Calif.-based executive.  “Slides have always been my favorite, since I was a girl playing soccer. And I wondered, when is someone going to give this silhouette more love?”

Message Meghan Whitney Higney
Meghan Whitney HigneyCourtesy of Message

Higney’s idea for Message sparked roughly two years ago after a trip to Portugal, where she discovered the unique properties of cork. She noted that it resists impact, sweat, odor and water, which has made it a favorite material for sandals for decades. But more importantly, it is sustainable —  in Portugal, cork is harvested from oak trees every nine years in a process that does not harm the trees themselves.

To be even more environmentally responsible, Higney is using cork from the country’s wine bottle industry. On average, each pair of Message sandals is made with nine upcycled wine corks.

Furthermore, the line is sourced and produced locally by a group of second- and third-generation factories outside Porto, Portugal, which are located within 40 miles of each other to reduce the carbon impact.

“I know that supply chain is not necessarily a sexy [topic] for the customer to talk about, but it was something I obsessed with because it I knew that was going to help from a sustainability perspective,” said Higney.

Message Shaw slide sandal beige
Message sandals are made using upcycled wine corks.Courtesy of Message

Message’s debut collection includes two unisex slides featuring a two-piece, patent-pending cork-on-cork footbed. The looks include the Mullen with a narrow stretch knit upper and the Shaw with a wider knit strap, which come in four colorways each, with new color drops due seasonally. Both retail for $160, in sizes EU 36-46.

“There’s definitely an elevated piece to the style of the slide,” said Higney. “We think there’s a customer who doesn’t want to spend $400, $600 on a slide, but they do care about what they put on their body. And they want to look pulled together.”

The brand initially is launching online at Wearmessage.com, but will not limit itself to just DTC channels, explained Higney. “We very much are a direct brand and all of our own channels are going to be really important for us, but wholesale is also going to be a huge part of our strategy,” she said. “The consumer today wants to be connected with you in all of the places that they’re touching, and that includes offline.”

Plus, she noted that an in-store experience gives customers the chance to discover the comfort of Message sandals. Initially the brand will target specialty boutiques in key regions of focus, selling in existing inventory.

Message Shaw slide sandal vermillion
Message’s Shaw sandal in vermillion colorway.Courtesy of Message

Funding for the brand’s development came from a private “pre-seed” investor, who contributed about $500,000 toward the business, and Higney also tapped into her own resources. Now that the brand has launched, she plans to seek out other investors. “I always want this to be individually funded as much as possible,” she explained. “I come from the investment world, so I know where institutional capital can be great and I also know where it doesn’t necessarily allow you to stand in the values of the brand. There’s a fiduciary obligation as soon as you take on that outside capital.”

Overall, Higney said she’s eager to unveil Message to the world and wants to use the brand as a platform to support further environmental progress. For instance, she’s pushing her factories to find alternatives to polyester stretch fabrics and has a goal to develop a recycling strategy for her sandals’ cork midsoles.

“I’m super honest about where we’re not and where I want us to be. But my whole purpose of being here is to keep moving that conversation forward,” she said.

Message Mullen slide sandal citron
Message’s Mullen slide in citron colorway.Courtesy of Message
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Former Beauty Exec Launches a Sustainable Shoe Brand Called Message
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