How did the idea for Veja, an ethical sneaker brand come about?
Friends from school, Sébastien Kopp and Ghislain Morillion (two French men) decided to audit big international firms con earning their sustainable engagement. While travelling the world for a year, they were very disappointed about the obvious gap between what people were saying and their actions. From this observation, they decided to put their ideas into action and create a new business – which respects human and the environment. They chose sneakers as it was a product they loved and it is one of the major consumer products which concentrates a lot of budget in advertising/communication against production/raw materials budget. Veja was born, in Brazil, thanks to a lot of meetings with cooperatives.
What are your thoughts on how other companies produce shoes & fashion – do you think they will follow your ethical lead?
A new wave of consumption is happening. After disasters such as the Rana Plaza and the explosion of the inet rent, people want to know and understand better where, how and by whom their products are produced. A lot of new designers are transparent about their production and design due to this movement. Ecological or ethical products are now fashionable, which was not really the case ten years ago!
You participate in various projects that help support communities around the world – can you tell us more?
Every project Sébastien and Ghislain believe in, they will put everything we have into sup porting it. Actually, Veja is only linking beautiful projects, good initiatives and great people. We hare been working with cooperatives in Brazil since the very beginning -building relationships since 2005. We don’t “help communities”, we highlight their skills! As an example, the Seringueiros in the Amazonian Forest bleed the hevea and collect the latex from it, which constitutes 60% of our soles. It allows them to work with dignity, have a good wage and not to deforest the forest for cattle. Now they are protecting their income and their environment.
How would you best describe your sneaker designs and styles?
Veja sneakers are minimalist and strong, which allows them to be worn every day. Often, customers don’t know that Veja is a fair trade brand, but they buy our sneakers because they love the product and it’s design, and we love that!
Do you feel the consumer should be better informed on how the items they buy are produced?
Veja is trying to be as transparent as possible. For example, on our website, you can learn everything about our production – the weaknesses, the strengths, how they are made, who makes them, what we are trying to do every day. We are also working on a new website to be even more transparent! So the answer is yes! Consumers should know more about their products and the production if they would like to.
Through the Veja project, we have learned how to control our impact on the earth as much as we can… we would propose that everyone should also learn how they can lessen their impact on the earth and incorporate these actions in to their daily lives. Veja
What feedback have you received from consumers and other competitors?
In 2005, at the beginning of Veja, no one thought that it would work. Every one believed in advertising, and not us. After ten days, our competitors saw that our business plan was working and that word of mouth can work when a product is using good raw materials. We still have problems concerunning quality sometimes, as does every brand but we are very pleased to work with our contributors.
What top tip would you give others who wish to buy eco-friendly?
Five years ago, Sébastien Kopp and Ghislain Morillion launches Centre Commercial, a space in the 10th district of Paris which gathers projects with meaning: ecological and/or ethical. This shop only sells brands which have a strong design and are transparent. Our “top tip” would be to shop in this kind of space, because it helps initiatives to grew. Often, brands which are represent are small, new and need support to become more powerful and show that a new kind of business is possible and profitable.
What is your must do Eco tip in general
Through the Veja project, we learn how to control our impact on the earth as much as we can. We are using recycled energy in our office, drinking organic tea, coffee and juice, sorting our garbage. We are transporting our shoes through boat and not plane, using recycled cardboard for our box etc.
Can you tell us your biggest achievement to date?
In 2014, Veja launched its first pair of trainers made with recycled plastic bottles. Each pair of trainers uses 3 recycled plastic bottles which becomes B-Mesh – a material which is waterproof. We are very proud of these trainers plus they were super successful. We are still enlarging this range, the AW16 collection has 14 models with B-Mesh