Over the past few months, I have been hearing more and more about Veja. My friends love the brand and I’ve even had a request to write a post about them. So I went onto their website and did some research. Before I start, I want to say that Veja is one of the most transparent brands I have come across. They provide every little bit of information about how their shoes are made and they’re ongoing search to be as sustainable as they can be. There’s so much info on their website so I’m not going to go into every detail but I’ll focus on what I found most interesting!
The main thing I took from my research was that they take their time. Their shoes take 5-7x longer to design and make because they take every step to be as sustainable as possible. Veja produced the first post-petroleum running shoe, which took 4 years to create. The time Veja take makes them an extremely innovative brand, creating shoes that are firsts for the industry.
After browsing on their website, I really like the style of the V-10’s. The different colour logos on the upper is cool and I like the heel. They would be super easy to style and look really comfy and they’re 100% vegan! The panels are made from corn-starch waste (C.W.L) and vegan suede. The rubber insoles come from wild rubber which they sourced from the Amazon Rainforest – they purchased wild rubber which, in turn, preserves part of the Rainforest.
One thing that stood out to me from looking at their project on the website, is their fight for fairtrade. They purchase their cotton and rubber directly from producers and not through big companies. This means that the producers have a higher income and have the safety of knowing that they are working closely with a brand that has fairtrade at its heart. The contracts between Veja and the producers mean that they know how much money they will get before they even plant a seed (!)
I have mentioned before that being a 100% sustainable business is very difficult and can cost a lot of money. Veja has come across these obstacles and they are very clear about what changes they have made within their production. In the chapter ‘Limits,’ they talk about what changes they have made throughout their process. For example, they began using natural dyes made from plants, but the quality of colour wasn’t up to scratch. They begun using conventional dyes after 2013, but they ensure that they meet European REACH standards. (REACH stands for ‘Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. It is a regulation that discusses the production and use of chemicals as well as the impacts on humans and the environment). Another obstacle they came across was the use of leather. From 2008 to 2015, Veja used vegetable-tanned leather; however, this meant increased costs and lower quality. Following REACH standards, 90% of Veja products aren’t vegetable-tanned. But, they do not contain Chrome VI. (This chemical is a big topic when it comes to the leather industry, and from my quick research, there is a myriad of health and environmental issues caused by this chemical). Despite this shift, they are still actively seeking a more environmentally-friendly alternative. C.W.L is the corn-starch waste alternative to leather that Veja use in some of their shoes, but it isn’t viable in the present day to produce this on a bigger scale.
There was a lot of chapters on the different materials they source and the people they work with the make their products fairtrade. But, one chapter, in particular, caught my attention. They introduced it with an interesting statistic that ‘70% of the cost of a normal big sneaker brand is related to the advertising.’ It probably shouldn’t come as much of a shock to me that this much money is spent on ads but at first it did. Veja, unlike any other brand I’ve come across, have eliminated marketing costs by not advertising (ambassadors, billboards, adverts). This meant the 70% of money usually spent on ads is spent on the creation of their products, researching more innovative alternatives, ensuring fairtrade products, and making sure that they have excellent working conditions. The elimination of advertising costs also means that, despite taking 5-7x longer to produce, the shoes are sold at the same price as other big shoe brands!
I really respect how clear Veja is by having all of their information regarding production on their website. They are constantly seeking more viable and eco-friendly alternatives, but as previously said, it is very expensive for businesses to be 100% sustainable. We have to give credit to brands that are actively seeking alternatives whilst being transparent on their products that aren’t currently 100% sustainable. They end their ‘Limits’ chapter by mentioning Overconsumption, and I think it’s a good note to end on:
While we’re proud of our sneakers and the way we make them, other questions beg to be answered. Do we really need to buy so many pairs of shoes? We’re aware our product is fashionable but is it necessary to fetishize them in such a way? To always own the latest style?