Lily Cole's Footwear Fight to Save the Amazon
This month saw the launch of a new collaboration between French sneaker brand Veja, supermodel and actress Lily Cole, and Sky Rainforest Rescue (a partnership between WWF and Sky broadcasting). Design and ethics are always high on the agenda at Veja and this collection is no different. Each shoe is made from organic cotton canvas and wild rubber from the Amazon (the only place on earth where rubber trees grow in the wild), and is available in two styles and three colourways. What’s more, for every pair of shoes sold, Sky will donate £10 to help save the rainforest.
The design comes courtesy of style icon Lily Cole who saw first-hand just how fragile the Amazon rainforest is when she visited the region in 2012. Determined to share her experience and help protect it, she teamed up with Veja and Sky Rainforest Rescue to design a print inspired by her trip. Despite this celebrity collaboration – usually a sure-fire way to charge more for a product – true to their ethos, Veja continues to keep retail prices fair (this collection costs between €69 and €79, approximately £55-£63 based on current exchange rates).
Veja’s vision is founded on three principals that underpin their multi award-winning supply chain: they use ecological inputs, utilise fair trade cotton and latex, and always respect workers’ dignity. They lessen negative environmental impact by using vulcanised rubber in their trainers, meaning less glue is used in production, their leather shoes and accessories are veg tanned and they aim to use natural dyes where possible for the canvas products. Their transparency is refreshing - they happily provide a wealth of information about their supply chain on their website, and they continue to strive toward even more sustainable alternatives whilst creating positive social impact.
In 2004, their very first year, Veja produced 5000 pairs of trainers and by 2012 this had increased to 125,000 pairs. In that period the number of cotton-growing families employed by Veja under fair-trade principals increased from 200 to 350. Post-production they work with Atelier Sans Frontiers, an organisation which supports people at risk of social exclusion, helping them build a new life and find work. Veja’s trainers are sent direct from Brazil to ASF where they are stored, prepared and dispatched by the “logisticians” for wholesale and e-shop orders.
The importance of fairly traded wild rubber may not be immediately obvious, but for the past few decades synthetic rubber has driven down the price of natural rubber. Subsequently Amazonian rainforest dwellers opt for more profitable (and far more destructive) trades such as cattle-raising and wood extraction. A fair price paid to the rubber tappers or “Seringeiros” for the latex means a higher value is placed on the rubber trees and subsequently the Amazonian rainforest has a fighting chance.