At the forefront of VEJA’s ethos is an ongoing battle for better working conditions - they’re striving to look after the planet, workers and the average consumer on a daily basis whilst making your everyday wear more than just a pair of trainers.
VEJA’s story began in 2003, following a brief visit to one of China’s many manufacturing plants on behalf of a French fashion brand. Their visit could be considered plain sailing until founders, Sebastien Kopp and Francois-Ghislain Morillion, requested to see the factory-workers’ living quarters.
Something had to change - committing to change is one thing, but putting it into action is another. Having worked with France’s first fairtrade brand, Kopp and Morillion had seen the difference that fair trade beyond sustainable development made to local economies.
So, the production of which daily asset did they think required remodelling - one that saw regular use yet only seemed to grow in price? The answer was of course, footwear.
One year after their lightbulb moment, our dual-founders found themselves in Brazil, conversing and learning everything they could about raw material extraction from the seringueiros. These are communities whom perfected the craft of rubber tapping, working with the Amazon instead of through it. In that moment, the natural rubber formed foundations for what would become their first pair - a material that went on to represent 40% of all trainer soles they’ve made since.
Building upwards, a journey was made to the Atlantic coast where negotiations with organic cotton producers commenced. VEJA were looking to buy vast amounts of their agro-ecological cotton, a product grown without fertiliser or pesticides - meaning every harvest resulted in healthier, richer soil.
Finally, a deal was struck with a footwear factory in Porto Alegre, thus branding VEJA ready for production. With manufacturing in full-flow, Kopp and Morillion enlisted the help of a social reintegration organisation to support logistics - everything from receiving shipments to online care and dispatch was handled in the Parisian suburbs of Bonneuil-sur-Marne.
VEJA came to market in 2005, just two years after setting foot in Brazil.
On average, it’s said that up to 70% of big brand costing goes on advertisement, meaning just 30% is flushed into sourcing ethical materials and production.
To keep it brief, VEJA stripped their brand of all marketing costs; this meant no ads, ambassadors, billboards and so forth. Instead, they invested five to seven times more money into production lines - ensuring every step aligned with fair trade regulations and stood by heart-felt principles that made VEJA, VEJA.
By removing the ‘smoke and mirrors’, RRP remains the same as competitors. It’s all starting to make sense now, isn’t it?
Whilst ethical sourcing of materials and manufacturing is bread and butter to Kopp and Morillion, this isn’t to say that leather has no place in their footwear portfolio.
VEJA not only pride themselves on knowing their leather’s exact journey from abattoir to shop-floor, but meet REACH standards beneath the ChromeFree umbrella. This was achieved with help from the Working Leather Group - an organisation that pinpoints sustainable practise to reduce the environmental impact of leather, awarding tiered ratings for consumer use. You see, VEJA really do keep your own - and nature’s - best intentions in mind.
Taking another step ahead of competitors, VEJA launched their first post-petroleum, eco-running shoe back in 2019 - a project four years in development considerate of recycled materials, bridging the gap where others failed.
Ready for even more figures? Here we go…
Typically, your standard running shoe stands tall at 99% plastic construction - more often than not, employing polymers that are 99% petroleum-based. Working against the grain, VEJA running-uppers are produced using 100% recycled plastic bottles, sat above an Amazonian rubber outsole and an L-Foam expanded latex cushion at its heart - developed using 30% natural latex.
All of this contributes towards an 80% energy return underfoot, supported by Pebax inserts for stability through a ricinus oil construction.
When we said VEJA is at the forefront of environmental footwear production, we only spoke the truth! What you see at tower-london.com is more than just footwear, it’s a pledge for better working conditions without leaving gaps where promises should be kept and restrictions upheld.
Kopp and Morillion knew exactly what was going into each pair, and now you do, too! Head over to TOWER for lifestyle, running and ethically sound footwear that lasts - if it’s good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for you.