Nat-2, a high-end German sneaker brand, has taken the trend of using atypical and environmentally friendly material in footwear to a completely different level.
The brand, which won Peta’s 2018 Vegan Fashion Award and occasionally doubles as a sneaker-themed art project, has made notable forays into the world of vegan sneakers before. It previously made waves in 2017 when it developed a sneaker made with “leather” from mushrooms and other fungi.
Building off the success of its fungus footwear, Nat-2 felt encouraged to test the limits of which materials could be successfully incorporated into a traditional sneaker. Its latest release, developed in Germany and handmade in Italy, features footwear crafted with an eclectic array of natural materials, including coffee grounds, stone, wood and milk, retailing between $300 and nearly $700.
The Nat-2 Coffee Line, for one, is made with sustainable recycled coffee, coffee beans and parts of the coffee plant. The insole is made of soft cork, and the upper sports reflected glass decals for better night visibility. Like all of Nat-2’s vegan creations, recycled plastic is used for suede-like accents, and animal-free glue holds it all together. The coffee upper is described by Nat-2 as “very smooth and fine” and retains some of the texture qualities—and even the distinctive smell—of the coffee grounds used in its creation.
Not to be outdone, the Nat-2 Hayfield Almwiese Line is a luxury sneaker made with real Austrian or Bavarian meadow hayfield or, as it is sometimes known, grass. Nat-2 says more than 50 percent of the shoe’s surface comes from recycled hay, grass and flowers. Like the Coffee Line, the grass used in its creation retains much of its natural smell and texture for a very literal take on “green” textiles.
Nat-2’s Milk Line is made from non-food milk it says would typically be discarded. It was developed in Germany with the help of Qmilk, a company that specializes in the creation of textiles made with lactose protein fibers. Meanwhile, the Stone Line was created with the help of Roxxlyn, another German company that produces phone and computer cases using real stones like granite and tiger eye. Nat-2 says its upper comes from slate that has been made light and flexible through state-of-the-art technology.
Finally, Nat-2 created the Wooden Line, of which 90 percent of the surface is wood from ash, birch, cherry, maple and several other trees. To create the upper, wood is melded to organic cotton and made pliable and soft like leather. Nat-2 says the wood used in its production is “exclusively from ethically managed forests” and harvested with respect for the environment. The wooden collection includes four unisex low top and high top models.
Nat-2 was founded in 2007 by designer Sebastian Thies, a sixth-generation shoemaker. The company is a family-run business inspired by footwear from the ’80s and early ’90s. Nat-2 footwear, like many luxury brands lately, has worked to make high-end sustainable and eco-friendly products made with less harmful materials.
“For Nat-2, the reason for using many sustainable and eco-friendly materials and techniques is not only the ecological aspect but also a matter of what we consider as good design,” the brand said about its production philosophy. “By creating such innovative products and things, we also reach new aesthetics and haptics which have never been seen before in fashion, footwear and accessories.”