Sustainability in Sneaker Culture

Sneaker Envy

Look down at what’s on your feet right now. Chances are if you’re wearing shoes they’re either comfortable, or hawt!  If you’re like us and have just begun to come down from the recent global eye-candy fest otherwise known as fashion week this one’s for you. On the runway we saw how shoes can compliment, tie together and in some cases outshine an outfit. That said, not much has been written in the world of sustainable fashion about sneaker culture. However,  HVC believes that sneaker collectors have great potential to lead consumer-driven demand for ethical and environmentally responsible footwear production.

Sneaker culture is a world full of history, style and meaning  that this writer will not pretend to be able to capture in such a short format. Suffice it to say, we were blown away by the potential for ethical and environmental responsibility in the footwear industry that we witnessed while attending a week-long series of classes at Ramp Learning Resource Center in Portland, Or.

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What struck us is how much sustainable thinking is already going on in the footwear industry (no big surprise to those in the know). These advancements are in-line with innovations in haute couture fashion. Materials and design are the key unifiers here. A good sneaker company will recruit those with fashion industry knowledge to treat their lines like a luxury brand, with  an intelligent consumer as inspiration. This is just the sneaker fan that D’Wayne Edwards, Founder of Pensole School of Footwear Design and former Footwear Design Director,  JORDAN Brand looks to reach.

With global giants like Nike, Adidas, New Balance leading the trend ethical production and sustainable materials selection is on the rise in the sneaker industry. All this  makes perfect sense. As we learned at Ramp, the history of  sneaker culture has a symbiotic relationship with music, fashion and car culture. The selection of   colorways andmaterials mix with footwear design to create visually appealing  and technologically evolving processes. These product conversations, both from a concept of shoe to marketing perspective have great promise to advance the role of  sustainability in sneakers.

The opportunity for  sneaker culture to lead the way in ethical and environmental responsibility exists in its dedicated, consumer driven  desire for customization. Just imagine if those self-proclaimed sneaker fanatics who have made the news lining up outside malls around the world when the newest Air Jordan drops were campaigning for that same shoe to be sustainable? Major corporate social responsibility (CSR) change makers could breathe a collective sigh of relief!

Air Jordan XX3

The Air Jordan XX3 was Nike’s first basketball shoe designed under the company’s Considered ethos. The brand also heads up the N7 collection, whose website states that it’s “inspired by Native American wisdom of the Seven Generations: In every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the seventh generation.” That sounds pretty much like CSR speak to us!

Other brands have followed suit by highlighting ethical and environmental links to their footwear collections.  In researching this piece HVC  learned about the  OAT Shoe brand, who design sneakers that biodegrade. The future of sneaker culture is booming, with women weighing in on the conversation and leading trend indicators reporting that “green” is becoming a new platform with which to personalize your kicks.

We believe in the power for a good product to change the marketplace and sneaker designers have been proving that this is possible for over 30 years. Imagine what the terrain would look like if they could work with customizable ethically produced, environmentally friendly materials? We can’t wait to see it!

Stay tuned for more updates on this topic. Be sure to submit a photo of your favorite sneakers for our next piece on sustainable sneaker culture.  Special thanks goes to Janene Larson, who founded and welcomed us to visit  Ramp in Portland, Or. which the city’s Development Commission states ” is to the Athletic & Outdoor Industry what Hollywood is to the movie industry!”

Here are some great resources on education and sneaker culture:

(Feel free to add your favorites in the comment section below)

Pensole Footwear Design Academy

OSD Live

Sole Theory

The Shoe Game

366 Days of Kicks


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