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This Is the Fair Trade Footwear You've Been Waiting For

French company Veja turn fish-farmed tilapia skin, recycled rubber, fair trade canvas, and recycled plastic bottles into bold sneakers.
December 21, 2015, 4:15pm
Taua B-Mesh, Natural White

SNEAKERS IN A BOTTLE – VEJA from Veja on Vimeo.

In a sustainable future, light from the sun powers all things, used water is filtered, then returned to our aquifers, food production is localized, toxic chemicals are eliminated, everything is recycled, traded fairly, and fully used. It's a dream for some, and a project for others, but for now, truly fair trade products are hard to find.

Making a much-needed break from the world of excess that is most modern design, French company Veja are putting fair trade on your feet. Started by two 25-year-olds back in 2004, they've become something of a sustainably-minded phenomenon, the European version of a phenomenon like TOM's (but with quite a bit more style). Each pair is made in Brazil on ultra-performance Toyota machines, using a new technology called B-Mesh (a.k.a., bottle mesh), which uses three (!) plastic bottles per pair of shoes, as well as a host of other materials, including fish-farmed tilapia skin, recycled rubber, and fair trade canvas. I was sent a pair of Veja sneakers in the Esplar style, which takes its name from the Brazilian NGO, Escritório de Planejamento e Assessoria Rural (The Rural Plann ing and Development Association), and unlike many sustainably-minded products I've purchased in the past, Veja's empasis is on function, just as much as form—because you can't truly call your products sustainable unless they were meant to be used.

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Interested in learning more, The Creators Project spoke to the founders of VEJA about designing for sustainability, fair-trade tech, and advice for young, environmentally-minded creators:

The Creators Project: First off, how did VEJA get started? 

B-Mesh, Silver, Grey, Black

Why sneakers?

It is a product we love and it is part of our culture. Sneakers expanded beyond the sports fields with our generation, and became a universal product in the 90’s.

Arcade, Canvas, B-Mesh, Black Grafite

Esplar Velcro, Leather, Black, Black Pierre

Far too few people consider the production behind their wardrobes. How do you plan on changing awareness, and why do you think it's necessary?

Esplar, Leather, Copper Pierre, Natural

Esplar Tilapia, Leather, Black Pierre

When you need a certain material for your shoes, how do you go about sourcing it? I think our readers would love to know what your process is like for R+D. 

Holiday Canvas, B-Mesh, Silver, Gray, Nautico

Any advice for young designers looking to get into the world of sustainable & fair trade manufacturing? Where should they start? 

V-10, Extra White, Extra White, PekinV-10, Bleu de Paname, Extra WhiteVolley, Leather, Nautico, Nautico