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Consumers Want Eco-Friendly Footwear. These Brands Are Delivering.

Consumers shopping for sustainable and cruelty-free footwear have more options than ever.

Today’s shoppers want to know the who, what, when, where, why and how behind the clothing and shoes they purchase. Their growing interest in and awareness of apparel’s impact on the planet could spell the demise of fast fashion, experts say. And though it’s too early to tell if consumers will really pay more for ethically made garments and footwear, Gen Z has taken a strong stance in the fight against climate change—and climate denial.

On Monday, fashion B Corp. Frank And Oak and Austin-based Suavs each dropped new shoes boasting eco-friendly profiles, catering to woke consumers who want to give their dollars to responsible brands.

Back in 2015 founder and CEO Monxi Garza channeled a background in international fashion into launching Suavs, which makes breathable, sweat-wicking, lightweight shoes for “going anywhere and doing anything.” Suavs focused on offering a versatile, “comfortable, easy-to-transport shoe” from the get-to. After forging a loyal following, Garza found herself wondering, “‘What more can we do to hold ourselves accountable in working our way towards decreasing our carbon footprint and becoming a more conscious brand?’”

Austin-based Suavs and Canada's Frank And Oak debuted a pair of footwear silhouettes made with recycled, repurposed and organic components.
Frank And Oak’s Drift sneakers use repurposed and organic materials. Frank And Oak

Now the Texas brand is “going green in 2020” with the debut of a 100 percent recycled knit upper, first gracing the Legacy high-top sneaker silhouette that re-launched Jan. 27 with the new ingredients and is available for $110 in jet black, timber and olive green colorways. Each pair diverts eight post-consumer recycled plastic bottles from waste streams, says Suavs, which plans to convert all men’s and women’s products to recycled and sustainable material inputs by mid-year.

The burgeoning brand has ambitious eco goals. Suavs has committed to using only vegan components, including glue, and manufacturing according to sustainable best practices in order to minimize production waste. Excess inventory will find new life through donations to charitable groups including Soles4Souls and LifeWorks, Suavs said, and e-commerce packaging is designed to double as a returns box for orders that must find their way back to the brand’s warehouse.

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Suavs will be looking for “more ways we can become more environmentally friendly in the new decade,” Garza said.

Suavs is keeping good company in the switch to sustainability.

Austin-based Suavs and Canada's Frank And Oak debuted a pair of footwear silhouettes made with recycled, repurposed and organic components.
New Drift sneakers from Frank And Oak are manufactured in one of Portugal’s oldest footwear factories. Frank And Oak

Frank And Oak, the sustainable clothing company that lets consumers subscribe to planet-friendly fashion, expanded its eco-first offerings with the “fully sustainable” Drift sneaker, which the brand says “embodies our commitment to a cleaner way of life.” The low-impact Drift footwear, the Canadian firm says, is “ethically and traditionally crafted in one of Portugal’s oldest shoe factories” and incorporates only repurposed and organic materials, eschewing the industry’s traditional reliance on virgin fabrics and fibers.

The Montreal brand’s footwear drop follows a public commitment earlier this month to five new zero-waste goals: using only recycled polyester fiber to make its shell fabrics, labels and trims, offsetting 100 percent of greenhouse gas scope 1 emissions, spreading the zero-waste philosophy throughout its supply chain, and by 2022, trimming all virgin plastic from its value chain and running its headquarters, warehouse and retail stores on 100 percent renewable energy.