Naot’s fashion show, which included vegan sandal styles slated to hit shelves in spring 2023, included fashion from emerging designers. Onalaja, Kentaro Kameyama, O. Low by Orit Lowinger, Marina Leight Atelier, Toit Volant paired their designs with the Israeli comfort brand’s shoe silhouettes on the runway.
In metallics, animal prints and plant-inspired motifs, along with canvas textile uppers, the brand showcased strappy sandals, slides and double-buckle strapped silhouettes.
Naot’s first exploration of alternatives to traditional cow hide leather was developed in partnership with Nova Milan, a Costa Rica-based material innovation firm that specializes in plant-based leather. Nova Milan co-founder Irma Orenstein said the company has worked with Naot to create a proprietary alt-leather made with a blend of hemp, pineapple leaves, coconut, banana, and water hyacinth—agricultural waste from the country’s farming communities. The fibers from these plants are processed and held together with a blend of plant-based resins and glues—”no polymers,” she said.
“In the past, we found vegan materials that were good, but the leathers that are out there right now aren’t necessarily as sustainable as what they’ve created, because they have fossil fuels in them,” Naot U.S. vice president of operations Ayelet Levy told Sourcing Journal. Other options have been lacking in achieving the “real leather look,” she said.
The collaboration with Nova Milan has yielded a material that is embossed with the texture of natural leather, and can be printed using Kornit Digital’s textile printing solutions, with the patterns the brand has conceived for its collection. The shoes’ plant-based leather uppers are complemented by fully vegan inputs, she added, including cork, textiles and plant-based glues.
Naot designer Hagit Ronen Tenenbaum said the brand is still assessing and optimizing the material as it prepares to launch in 2023. Developed and tested in Israel—where high temperatures prevail year-round—Naot’s sandals are designed to stand up to wear and tear, she said. The brand is currently testing the vegan leather against the quality and longevity standards it has come to expect from its leather and textile-based options.
While Naot has always gravitated to environmentally friendly alternatives to standard materials and footwear components, Tenenbaum said the brand has a practical interest in cultivating a viable alternative to traditional leather. “Right now the world is consuming meat in a very big way,” she said, “But we’ve been watching the food industry very closely, and all the technologies being developed to reduce the consumption of meat and develop imitations.”
Tenenbaum believes that as the world continues to “evolve and change,” with younger consumers gravitating to more sustainable, planet-positive options in all areas of their lives, fashion players could see a dwindling supply of leather, most of which they get from the food industry’s byproducts. While the scenario isn’t yet a reality, Naot hopes to be a part of creating new options now—and helping to introduce alternatives.
“There’s a new generation in the world that is much louder and much more aware,” she said. “They want to see that fashion is thinking in a different way, and we have to follow their direction to break our systems and habits to do less damage.”