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Rothy’s Jumps Feet First into the Merino Wool Shoe Trend

Rothy’s is feeling a bit sheepish.

Best known for its comfy-chic eco-friendly flats, the Duchess of Sussex–approved footwear brand unveiled last week its first new material since its inception: merino wool, which it has blended with its signature recycled PET yarn—derived from post-consumer plastic bottles—to create its “most premium offering yet.”

Merino wool, the San Francisco firm says, made the “perfect fit” because it’s a plush and cozy naturally renewable resource.

“Merino wool is a high-performing, luxurious, natural and renewable material,” Erin Lowenberg, Rothy’s creative director, told Sourcing Journal. “As we looked to expand our materiality, merino was the perfect complement.”

To source the fiber, Rothy’s partnered with Tollegno 1900, a Responsible Wool Standard (RWS)-certified textile mill based in the Italian Alps. Much of the facility draws on on-site solar panels and hydroelectric turbines for power; water used in production is harvested from the Alps, purified, then returned to the mountains.

“Tollegno 1900 is respected for its sustainable processing, ethical practices and quality,” Lowenberg said. “We wanted to source wool that was in line with our values as a sustainable brand.”

The wool itself, she noted, hails from an RWS-certified farm in Australia “famous for the highest levels of animal welfare.” (Allbirds, another Silicon Valley-beloved footwear purveyor, sources merino wool from New Zealand.)

Best known for its comfy-chic eco-friendly flats, Rothy's unveiled this week its first new material since its inception: merino wool.

The shoes, which are fitted with vegan-leather outsoles, cost $155 for a round-toed flat or sneaker, $175 for a Chelsea or point-toed flat and $195 for a loafer. Available in rich, fall-ish hues such as camel, aubergine and blossom, they run in size from 5 to 13, including half sizes.

While merino and plastic bottles don’t make the most obvious combination, together they create a “beautiful, soft and high-performing material,” Lowenberg said. Like all of Rothy’s shoes, the merino line is durable, machine-washable and “incredibly comfortable while maintaining its structure.”

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“The addition of merino to our PET yarn adds warmth to our silhouettes, and an even softer texture,” she added.

Wool has experienced a kind of renaissance over the past few years, particularly in the activewear and athleisure sectors. In addition to the aforementioned Allbirds, Indian footwear startup Neeman’s and skiwear brand Erin Snow, brands like Adidas, Lululemon and Under Armour have been touting apparel made with wool for its soft hand, temperature regulation and reported moisture-wicking and odor-resistant abilities.

The wool industry has tangled with its own share of controversy, however, including accusations of animal cruelty. The RWS, born out of a People for Ethical Treatment of Animals exposé in 2016, was designed to promote animal-welfare best practices and increase traceability through a chain-of-custody system.