Some of the best inventions are born from happy accidents. Play-Doh, the colorful moldable childhood staple, was originally intended to become a household cleaning product. British scientists believed they were on their way to developing a new treatment for high blood pressure when they landed on Viagra.
And The Brooklyn Footwear Company was just “tinkering” with different dyes when it developed Coffee Washed Leather, a U.S. patented technique and the basis of the brand’s unique footwear line.
Washed with recycled coffee grains, the footwear collection caters to coffee connoisseurs, stylish men and eco-minded consumers alike. The wash process achieves a vintage look without any additional chemical dyes, just coffee, meaning it is fully biodegradable. The shoes also smell like a freshly brewed cup of joe when you open the box.
The Coffee Washed line includes the Ronson, a stitch-out construction lace-up with an oiled suede or waxy leather upper, in three colors: black, latte and espresso. The men’s style retails for $150.
Olga Grib, co-founder of The Brooklyn Footwear Company, shares with Sourcing Journal the perks of working with coffee—artistically and sustainability.
Sourcing Journal: How did the concept for Coffee Washed come about?
Olga Grib: We were tinkering with different creams and dyes to achieve the finish we were looking for, but nothing seemed to have the desired effect. Coffee washed process came from a pure “what if” moment when we dunked a bag prototype into a bucket of coffee. As soon as the leather dried and revealed this incredible finish and aroma, we knew we had something special.
OG: Our products are literally washed in coffee using our proprietary formulas. We recycle brewed coffee grains from local coffee shops, re-brew them at the factory, and finish the products using our proprietary process. Recycling coffee grains helps the coffee shops to reduce waste, and we have great relationships with the owners. Coffee is such an iconic ingredient with an incredibly loyal following, and it is just amazing that we are able to integrate our company within this culture.
SJ: What makes coffee a good ingredient for dyeing leather for footwear?
OG: Leather and coffee are both natural ingredients, so when coffee molecules bond with leather, they slightly alter its properties, creating incredible pre-worn effect. This process eliminates the painful breaking in period when you buy new leather shoes. Our shoes are good to go right out of the box, there is no breaking in required. Coffee penetrates through the leather outsole, lining and upper, making it very soft; combine it with harmonious aroma along with a rich finish, and you have something truly amazing.
In addition, this is a completely natural process, as we achieve the color of the shoes without any chemical dyes, just coffee, which means our shoes are fully biodegradable.
SJ: What type of effects does the coffee dyeing process achieve?
OG: We have three core colors that are currently used in our collection: black, espresso and latte. These colors reflect the intensity and saturation of the color and finish of our shoes. We can achieve this by using different formulas of leather and coffee combinations.
OG: Yes, we were recently awarded the U.S. patent for the Coffee Washed process. It covers not just the leather, but any other material like canvas, cotton, denim, as well as any finished product, so we are looking to expand into different categories and grow the company around this incredible process.