Oyster Shells, Carp and Castor Oil Create More Sustainable Sneakers

Oyster Shells, Carp and Castor Oil Create More Sustainable Sneakers

Seafood is making waves in the footwear sector, with oysters, seaweed, lionfish and carp leather being used in new sneakers. ER Souliers and P448 are among the brands using these new materials to create more sustainable shoes.
Castor oil soles are another component, used in Circle Sportswear’s new bio-based running shoe.

Oyster shells and marine waste reimagined

ER Souliers designer Eugène Riconneaus was inspired to develop his new oyster shell-based sneaker sole during days spent in La Rochelle on France’s Atlantic coast.

Don’t call it a pandemic project — Riconneaus used recycled rubber and leftover leather to create sustainable sneakers back in 2012. But the time spent back in his hometown caused him to look at the water in a different way and focus on incorporating marine waste into his newest design.

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It resulted in a rebirth of the ER Souliers line. “I decided that it will be the mission of ER and the right time for me to relaunch ER and try to use as much marine litter I can, or anything I can find in the ocean around France.”

As a result, the sneakers also incorporate algae and locally recovered ghost fishing nets, which kill dolphins, turtles and other marine life. While he notes that other brands use reclaimed nets, they often come from across the globe, and his commitment is to keep things local.

He’d been using ground up oyster shells to create his own pigments for art and painting and turned his creative workshop into a makeshift lab while he experimented. “Sorry if that doesn’t sound crazy in terms of innovation, but if someone wants to try a little, bit-by-bit to do something, it’s quite easy.” A lab later took over the research and production process. “But initially, it was like cooking crepes at home,” he joked.

Other components of the shoe are made of leather off cuts, natural cord and recycled rubber.

Riconneaus has perfected the process and put suppliers and partners in place to scale up production of the material. With roughly 20 tons of oyster shell waste each season just in the La Rochelle region, there’s plenty of raw material supply. It could also be used in sunglasses or furniture, he noted.

Riconneaus said he’s already been approached by “huge” brands that are interested in the new material, but they are often looking for a ready-made, quick solution to achieve sustainability credentials.

“This is not your solution. My idea is more to reduce consumption and to valorize what I can find in my native region,” he said. “I’m tired of seeing so many brands say they will change the world with some crazy innovation, to me it’s more about the cultural approach than the technical approach,” he said. He wants ER Souliers to be a community rather than a bunch of consumers.

Nor is he eager to seek certifications or B Corp status just yet, or even to call it a “sustainable” brand. “It’s a brand with a purpose,” he said. The unisex shoe comes in sizes of 35 to 48, and will debut at his men’s fashion week presentation Thursday through Jan. 26. Orders can be customized in his Paris atelier.

P448’s Karp sneaker

P448’s “Karp” sneaker made from invasive carp fish

At P448, the luxury Italian sneaker brand launched by former Stuart Weitzman chief executive officer Wayne Kulkin, the company is developing new leathers sourced from invasive species.

Kulkin’s lionfish shoe launched last June, and he is set to bring out a new version made from carp leather in April. Both fish are non-native species with no natural predators; lionfish destroy coral reefs, and Asian carp have decimated North American lakes and rivers, including the Mississippi.

Kulkin launched his company six years ago to find more sustainable solutions after decades in the shoe industry. He settled on alternative leathers as part of an effort to find natural materials that can be beneficial to nature in more than one way — and fish fit the bill.

“Six years ago people were like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Now there’s this heightened awareness because of all the severe weather.”

One of those proponents is Mark Wahlberg, who cited the brand’s sustainability focus and Kulkin’s passion for innovation when he made a “significant” minority investment in the company last March.

While the small size of lionfish created a design challenge, the larger Asian carp can create enough material to cover a whole shoe or a handbag and is a much more durable material, he said. It’s cured in a method similar to traditional leather, and the shoes are trimmed with other eco-friendly materials like recycled, chrome-free suede, recycled outsoles or recycled footbeds.

Research took over a year, with months just figuring out what parts of the skin would work for leather and solving durability problems without resorting to plastic coating. The brand also eschews the typical two pounds of paper and plastic packaging.

“It just takes takes curiosity, it takes time, it takes patience,” Kulkin said of the research and development process. He’s looking to work with brands and companies that are seeking new materials and can benefit from their R&D.

“I’m seeing now that bigger people are interested, but they need to be led. Everybody is waiting for some big group to come in and say like, ‘OK, now you can use this problem is solved, now you can use this,’” he said. “They have multibillion-dollar businesses, and they have the resources, but you have to open their eyes.

“We want to [educate] people, we want to involve science, we want to involve fashion, and we want to involve the agricultural industry,” he said.

To that goal, Kulkin continues work with small materials innovators in Europe, which are researching methods to repurpose orange peels, coffee grinds and rice husk. He’s also looking at working with python as well, an invasive species in Florida that has nearly wiped out much of the native animal populations in Everglades National Park. That project is still in the development stage.

Kulkin said a big part of sustainability is creating value from new materials, and rethinking what we think of as luxury. Bombarding the consumer with facts and figures isn’t as effective as education.

“People love the story,” he said.

The brand promotes its partnerships with with deep-sea divers, for example. Last season, they had shoes of similar design in both traditional leather and lionfish. When customers learned about the sea creature’s environmental impact “they all went for the one made out of lionfish, which I thought was interesting [and] kind of proved the desire.”

Circle Sportswear’s recyclable running shoe with castor oil midsoles.

A bio-based, recyclable running shoe

If the name doesn’t give it away, Circle Sportswear launched its bio-based SuperNatural Runner — designed with circularity in mind.

The French sportswear brand partnered with The Woolmark Company, Tencel and Arkema to create the shoes for easy disassembly and made with the shoe’s entire life cycle in mind.

The upper part of the shoe is made of 65 percent certified merino wool, chosen because it doesn’t shed micro-plastics like plastic-based synthetics, is biodegradable and maintains moisture management and breathability. Wood-based Tencel makes up 35 percent of the shoe, while the midsole is made up of Arkema’s castor oil material and the outsole is made from biodegradable rubber Lactae Hevea. The sole can be fully recyled without losing its technical properties.

“The SuperNatural Runner project started from a blank sheet with the mission to launch a new era of sustainable running shoes. Made for disassembly, bio-based, recyclable and made in Europe, Supernatural Runner brings the best of ecological and performance worlds,” said CEO Romain Trebuil.

Trebuil launched the company in 2019 after a career in oil and tech to create new, more ecological materials solutions for yoga and running apparel.

“They are innovating the way we wear wool by bringing the fiber’s innate performance and eco-credentials to the sports industry. Our textile engineering teams worked collaboratively on the development of the upper and pushed through the innovative nature of merino wool to the technicality required for running,” said John Roberts, managing director at The Woolmark Company.

All of the materials are sourced in Europe, with the production, development and assembly of the different parts were carried out in Italy, France, Germany and Portugal, ensuring a lower carbon footprint and reduced emissions.

The sole is recycled directly by Circle.

Customers can return the shoes to Circle, which has created a material-to-material process that allows the soles to be recycled through polymerization, so that they can make new soles without losing material properties. The business works with Arkema to recycle the soles, and Woolmark on the shoe upper, and the company is working on new collection and recovery methods by 2025.

Trebuil has also set out to create a community and will open the doors of its workshops to add visibility to its sustainability. To avoid overproduction, the shoes are available on order and come in three colorways of traditional black, white and a bright grass shade. It’s not just the eco-credentials that are green.

Ecoalf Plants a Flag in Paris, Eyes Other Fashion Capitals

Ecoalf Plants a Flag in Paris, Eyes Other Fashion Capitals

Having largely conquered the cold, sustainability-minded countries of Europe, Ecoalf is now upping its fashion credentials and visibility by opening a boutique in central Paris — with Milan and Los Angeles locations also coming soon.The Spanish brand, known for its holistic approach to green fashion, took a bright 1,600-square-foot space a stone’s throw from the BHV in the buzzy Marais district, troweling the walls, floors and fixtures with a concrete mixture containing old, shredded T-shirts.
“In France, the brand is not known, and the store will help,” brand founder and president Javier Goyeneche said in an interview at the boutique, which has a vibe somewhere between contemporary art gallery and surf shack. “Paris is very important, and the location is fantastic.”

Although the brand is sold in almost 2,000 wholesale doors in Europe, with Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Scandinavia the most established markets, it is only sold in about 70 doors in France.

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A spring 2022 look from Ecoalf 1.0, its premium line.
Courtesy of Ecoalf

Goyeneche said its new premium line Ecoalf 1.0, which debuted for fall 2021 retailing, is helping garner the brand attention and appreciation with its minimalist allure in the vein of old Celine or current Cos, but with the highest sustainability credentials.
“It’s not basic, it’s timeless, which is a key component of sustainable fashion,” he noted.
Touring the bifurcated space at 14 Rue du Temple, the executive pointed to polo shirts which shed hardly any micro-plastics when laundered; a sleek tote bag made of plastics retrieved from the bottom of the ocean; and sleek sweatpants made of Kapok, a natural cellulose fiber sourced from the dried fruits of the kapok tree.
The brand is also pursuing collaborations that are bound to heighten its profile, including one with Gwyneth Paltrow’s apparel and lifestyle brand Goop, landing at retail in October, and another, streetwear-driven tie-up with Spanish model Jon Kortajarena, slated for February 2023, Goyeneche said.
At present, about 60 percent of the Ecoalf business is wholesale, 20 percent retail and 20 percent online, he noted.
The next retail opening will likely be Milan, followed by Los Angeles this fall, in tandem with a full-court press into the North American market. In fact, Goyeneche plans to relocate from Madrid to California to set up the office, warehouse and flagship store. Wholesale distribution in North America will be handled by the M5 showroom in New York, which has launched the likes of Stone Island, Woolrich and Herno in the market.

The Paris boutique is made with eco-minded materials.
Alexandre Tabaste

The brand also counts flagships in Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin and Tokyo.
Ecoalf logged 67 percent growth in 2021, and is targeting revenues of 40 million euros this year, and 60 million euros in 2023, according to Goyeneche.
Sneakers account for about 25 percent of sales, with the outerwear category preeminent in winter collections, and T-shirts, sweatshirts and swimwear for the summer. The brand will next stretch into apparel for yoga, jogging and other active pursuits.
Founded in 2009, the company is turning its attention to the end of its products’ life cycle by focusing mainly on mono-filament garments, rather than ones made of blended materials.  Goyeneche noted already 94 percent of its fabrics are mono-filament, including organic cotton and cashmere as well as plant-based polymers Sorona by DuPont and Solotex.

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Stella McCartney Teams With Bolt Threads on Fungi-Based Fabric, Mylo

Stella McCartney Teams With Bolt Threads on Fungi-Based Fabric, Mylo

LONDON — Stella McCartney is dishing the dirt once again, using a leathery fabric made from the root system of fungi, and developed by the California-based Bolt Threads.
McCartney has used Bolt’s trademarked Mylo fabric for two pieces of clothing, a black bustier top and utilitarian trousers. Although they won’t be for sale, McCartney said she plans to integrate the material into future collections.
Both garments were handmade from panels of mycelium-based material laid on recycled nylon scuba fabric at McCartney’s atelier in London. The styles are sporty, and in step with McCartney’s spring and fall 2021 collections.
Mylo is soft, resembles vegan leather and is made from the infinitely renewable mycelium, which appears like clusters of fine thread above, and below ground. Is also used in other fields, including architecture and design.

McCartney first started working with Bolt Threads in 2017, when she plied Mylo into a prototype of the brand’s signature Falabella handbag. In 2018, the bag featured in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Fashioned from Nature exhibition.

Stella McCartney has worked Bolt Threads’ Mylo organic fabric into two pieces of clothing. 
Image Courtesy of Stella McCartney

McCartney said she’s “proud to be the first brand in the world to create garments made from Mylo. And I can’t wait to offer this innovation commercially at some point in the near future.”
She believes her community “should never have to compromise luxury desirability for sustainability, and Mylo will allow us to make that a reality thanks to the groundbreaking Bolt Threads.”

Bolt, she added, “shares our same commitment of innovating a kinder fashion industry — one that sees the birth of beautiful, luxurious materials as opposed to the deaths of our fellow creatures and planet.”
Bolt is a biotech company in the San Francisco Bay Area that specializes in advancing sustainable materials. The firm develops fibers from scratch based on proteins found in nature, as well as clean, closed-loop manufacturing processes.
An example is vegan-friendly silk created from yeast, which McCartney has already used in past collections.
According to Bolt, the mycelia it grows for Mylo can be produced in a few days, without the resource intensity of raising livestock, which can take years.
Bolt uses mulch, air and water to recreate ecosystems found under the forest floor to grow the mycelium.
The company said it is trying to eliminate as much of the “synthetic” chemistry as possible during manufacturing. It added the processing and finishing chemistries it uses are “intentionally evaluated and selected” using Green Chemistry principles.
“At Bolt Threads we know that what worked for a planet with 1 billion people won’t work for a planet with 10 billion, which is why the need for smarter material solutions is more critical than ever,” said Dan Widmaier, founder and chief executive officer of Bolt Threads.
“Since the early days of developing our Mylo material, Stella has been instrumental in bringing it to life and helping to evolve it into the high-quality leather alternative it is today,” Widmaier added.
Stella McCartney is part of a consortium of brands and companies, including Adidas, Lululemon and Kering, working with Mylo and giving feedback to the Bolt Threads team. Widmaier said the aim is to put Mylo into large-scale production.

Bolt also pointed out that Mylo is not petroleum-based, like other synthetic leathers, and that the company has strict screening and testing processes for the chemicals it uses.

Stella McCartney worked with Bolt Threads’ organic Mylo fabric on two prototype garments. 
Image Courtesy of Stella McCartney

While those chemicals meet the requirements of various Restricted Substances Lists, “we recognize the limitations of such lists in ensuring safety and are incorporating other steps to improve our chemical use policies,” Bolt said.
McCartney works with a number of innovative mills in Europe and the U.S. on sustainable, animal-free materials such as fur, denim and leather.
Her faux furs are done in partnership with Koba, which makes part bio-based, and fully recyclable, fur fibers. She also works with the award-winning Italian denim mill Candiani, which has developed Coreva technology.
Coreva’s eco-friendly stretch denim is made from a plant-based elastomer, and is colored with natural dyes made from mushrooms and seaweed.
McCartney argued earlier this year that her pre-fall 2021 collection was her “most sustainable collection” yet, with 80 percent of the clothing, footwear and accessories made from environmentally friendly materials, and manufacturing.
Last year, McCartney revealed her “A to Z Manifesto,” which she said would act as “a checklist” for responsible behavior by her brand.

VF Corp. Sets Goal to Eliminate all Single-Use Plastic Packaging by 2025

VF Corp. Sets Goal to Eliminate all Single-Use Plastic Packaging by 2025

Given the magnitude of plastic packaging waste in the fashion industry, VF Corp., whose brands include The North Face, Timberland, Vans, Icebreakers, Dickies,  and Supreme, has set an ambitious goal to eliminate all single-use plastic packaging, including poly bags, by 2025.
All remaining non-plastic packaging used by VF and its brands will be reduced, originate from sustainable sources and be designed for reuse or recyclability, according to the company.
“With a portfolio comprising some of the world’s most iconic apparel and footwear brands, we recognize we play an important role as environmental stewards and can serve as a catalyst for industry movements that drive positive change,” said Jeannie Renné-Malone, vice president of global sustainability for VF. “Our new global packaging goals are an example of how we can leverage our scale for significant impact. In just one year, we could potentially eliminate as many as 100 million poly bags from our packaging waste.”

In addition, VF’s sustainability goals include that all single-use plastics in product packaging will be 100 percent recycled, bio-based content or a combination of the two by 2023; all paper-based packaging will be recycled content (minimum 80 percent, where performance allows), third-party certified virgin content or a combination of the two by 2023, and VF will commit to leadership in crucial industry coalitions and policy initiative to build circular packaging infrastructure that will enable its 2025 pledge.

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VF has been a long-standing participant of Canopy’s Pack4Good initiative, committing that its paper packaging doesn’t contain materials from Ancient and endangered Forests or other controversial sources and reduces overall forest fiber consumption for packaging.
VF has also committed to additional guidelines and sustainability goals that will support its new Sustainable Packaging initiative and commit to minimizing waste across the enterprise.
Among them are all nonessential, single-use plastics for which there is a viable product alternative that will be eliminated from VF’s offices, throughout its direct operations and from all company-sponsored events by 2023.
Further, all VF-owned distribution centers will be zero-waste by April 1, 2021. VF seeks to engage sustainability best practices at its internal and external sponsored events ad is committed to working with retailers and industry peers to support the development of collection platforms and recycling technology.
In addition, VF’s Icebreaker brand is determined to be plastic-free by 2023, removing synthetics from its entire product collection within three years. VF’s Timberland brand has set a vision for its products to have a net positive impact by 2030. By designing 100 percent of its products for circularity, the brand will work toward zero waste. By sourcing 100 percent of its natural materials through regenerative agriculture, The Timberland brand will contribute to its net positive impact on nature.
The North Face brand originally launched a Polybag Brigade recycling program with TerraCycle in 2011 and to date has recycled more than five million polybags.


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