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Q&A: Why This Brand’s Embracing “Ecosexy” to Close the Loop on Footwear

In Brazil, footwear is made to be beautiful—even if it also happens to be sustainable, vegan, unisex, closed-loop and fair trade.

Those “green” descriptors haven’t often aligned with footwear that’s fashionable, but that’s where Insecta set out to change the game.

The Brazilian shoe brand that launched in 2014 is turning to what’s old to make new footwear with less impact on the environment and more appeal for consumers.

From uppers made of vintage fabric from second-hand clothing or fabric made from recycled PET bottles, to recycled plastic toecaps and insoles made from the remnants of existing production, Insecta’s not leaving anything behind that could be used for more shoes.

Sourcing Journal connected with Insecta founder and CEO Barbara Mattivy to find out more about what’s in store for the future of sustainable footwear.

Sourcing Journal: What made you decide to start an eco-focused footwear brand?

Barbara Mattivy: Insecta was born from an ecological solution to reuse vintage clothing. I had an online vintage store and some pieces were standing in stock. It was when I met my first business partner, she made shoes with scraps from the shoe industry. We exchanged these materials and the first pair of Insecta shoes were born in 2014 after the success of the models that we produced. I thought there was a gap in the market for sustainable and vegan shoes with a fashionable appeal. We call that ecosexy.

SJ: What’s behind the ecosexy ethos? What’s Insecta’s main mission?

BM: To make shoes and accessories with visual, social and environmental impact and to raise awareness of our stakeholders (consumers, suppliers and employees) on sustainability, veganism and fair trade practices.

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Since the beginning, Insecta has been ecological, vegan and genderless. We see these values as a way to impact the world in a positive way and as our great differential in the market, because there were few brands concerned with making shoes in this way when we created Insecta.

SJ: Can you walk us through what goes into making an Insecta shoe?

BM: Today we have four lines within the brand: patterns designed in-house and made of PET bottle thread fabric; vegetable laminate, made of latex applied on cotton; vintage, made from handpicked vintage clothes that are transformed into shoes; and basics, made with a fabric that blends recycled PET bottle threads with recycled cotton. Our insoles are made from scraps of our own production and the sole is made from recycled rubber. To close the loop of a shoe that goes into disuse, the upper parts are crushed into a machine that transforms everything back into insole, and the soles are crushed and transformed into new soles again.

SJ: How are you sourcing for your product?

BM: We are always aware of the innovations in ecological materials that appear in the market and what our suppliers have available, as well as always researching new supplier options that accompany these launches. For vintage clothes we go directly to thrift stores, we make sure that the fabric has nothing of animal origin. And for materials purchased from suppliers, we try to understand the entire production process to make sure it is the best solution for the environment, such as our recycled rubber soles. When they are disused, they are crushed and can be returned to our production as a new sole, causing us to have a cycle closure of our shoes.

SJ: What’s Insecta doing differently than other sustainable footwear brands?

BM: I believe that our main differential is the union of socio-environmental awareness with aesthetics. We want to demystify the idea that an ecological product cannot be beautiful.

SJ: How is Insecta leading sustainability efforts in the Brazilian footwear industry?

BM: Insecta was one of the pioneer brands in the production of ecological and vegan shoes in the country and, therefore, is often considered a benchmark within the sector. We care about the origin of each material used in the production of our shoes. We make sure to choose the best option for the brand and the environment, and we take it seriously. It is because of this seriousness that we have won some certifications, such as Peta Approved Vegan, EuReciclo and the certification of a B Corp Company.

SJ: What’s your goal for Insecta’s impact on footwear?

BM: Our main goal is to make a difference in the industry in a conscious, ecological and innovative way. We are very happy when we are recognized as a reference in conscious or vegan product, or when the customer that enters the store is interested in knowing what and how the shoe is made. It is gratifying and shows us that we are on the right track. We’d love to encourage new entrepreneurs to work in favor of the environment. If the world could have more ecosexy shoes like ours, we believe we could reduce a lot of the fashion industry impact.

SJ: What do you hope to see for the future footwear industry?

BM: I hope to see support and encouragement of the stakeholders for sustainable practices. That sustainability becomes, in fact, a culture within the industry.