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How Rothy’s Made a Zero-Waste Lace-Up Sneaker

Sustainable Bay Area footwear DTC Rothy’s has added a trendy sneaker silhouette to its line of work-ready flats and casual cupsoles.

The brand’s new Lace Up has been in the works for some time, senior design manager Lavion Gibson told Sourcing Journal, adding that Rothy’s aimed to approach the silhouette’s design with “thoughtfulness and precision.” The style employs the same zero-waste, 3D-knitting technology that has solidified the brand’s well-known aesthetic, using recycled materials like ocean plastics.

“While the shoe lace, tongue, and insole are fairly conventional components in footwear, it was new territory for us to explore how we could bring our unique lens to each,” Gibson said. With the design, he attempted to “capture the timelessness of a white sneaker” while harnessing the brand’s signature style and showcasing its sustainable materials.

Rothy’s eco-friendly innovations, as well as the new comfort elements designed specifically for this shoe, set it apart from competitors on the market, he said.

“The Lace Up truly reflects a holistic approach to sustainable design,” Gibson added, calling the shoe’s comfort “unparalleled.”

The sneaker features a dual density insole to offer cushioned support, and a terry-lined tongue, which Gibson said emulates the feeling of a sock and prevents blister hot spots. “Plus, unlike other white sneakers, The Lace Up is made to be thrown in the wash and built to last,” he said.

The silhouette is knitted using Rothy’s signature rPET yarn, which is spun from extruded pellets from plastic water bottles. The dual-density insole is a compound of plant-based materials, while the outsole is made from a bio-based thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), replacing the traditional polymer-based foam used in most sneakers.

New and exclusive to the Lace Up is a padded collar, which Gibson said offers ample cushioning to support the ankle and heel. “While not noticeable to the consumer, we used scrap yarns to fill the collar,” he said. The innovation “provides that nice padded layer,” he said, and “utilizes what little waste is associated with production into a beautiful comfort detail.”

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Sustainable Bay Area footwear DTC Rothy’s has added a trendy sneaker silhouette to its line of work-ready flats and casual cupsoles.

The Lace Up launched Tuesday on Rothys.com in women’s sizes 5-13. In five color ways including bright white, vanilla, navy, spearmint and lilac, the style retails for $165.

COVID-19 hasn’t just ravaged retail—it’s also impacted brand teams’ abilities to collaborate on fresh ideas. Gibson admitted that the season’s setbacks had forced new processes—and some of those changes could stick.

“In designing The Lace Up, we navigated the challenges of working remotely and implemented solutions that will be part of our design and production process moving forward,” he said. Due to the travel restrictions and safety protocols, the brand’s Bay Area team leaned on its workshop in China more heavily during the design process. “We utilized video, Slack and Zoom in new ways to iterate and communicate in real-time about colors, materials, fit testing, quality control, and beyond,” he added.

Sustainable Bay Area footwear DTC Rothy’s has added a trendy sneaker silhouette to its line of work-ready flats and casual cupsoles.

Outside of product strategy, Rothy’s has also leaned into PPE production during the pandemic, dedicating 30 percent of its factory capacity to the production of non-medical face masks.

Rothy’s launched the Open Innovation Coalition this spring, bringing together a group of more than 25 brands, including startups like intimates innovator ThirdLove and custom art and photo framing firm Framebridge, to open source designs and materials for the production of PPE. “To date, our combined efforts have resulted in 600,000 units of PPE donated,” Gibson said.

“We’re inspired and looking forward to continuing our efforts with these incredible brands,” he added, while also moving forward with fresh new design ideas.