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Caleres Comfort Brand Vionic Unveils Ocean Research Initiative

California-based comfort footwear brand Vionic has revealed an initiative to help protect the world’s oceans through marine research and conservation.

The Caleres-owned label, which produces men’s and women’s shoes infused with podiatrist-approved supportive technology, announced a founding partnership with Proteus, an underwater research station and habitat that was built to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change. The collaborative effort will support beach clean-up projects, consumer education on the importance of protecting marine life, and a sea-themed capsule collection of the shoe brand’s Beach line of eco-conscious sneakers to launch in June.

Proteus was founded by Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of aquanaut and explorer Jacques Cousteau. The group’s mission is to develop innovative solutions to preserve and heal the world’s oceans, which have been heavily impacted by human interference, from polluting waterways with chemicals to littering.

“Challenges created by climate change, rising sea levels, extreme storms and viruses represent a multi-trillion-dollar risk to the global economy,” Cousteau said. “Our partnership with Vionic will open up more opportunities to collaborate and connect with consumers who are environmentally conscious.”

In recent seasons, Vionic has committed to incorporating ethically sourced and environmentally conscious fabrications and inputs into its footwear, the company said. Angela Caltagirone, the brand’s senior vice president and general manager, said that Vionic operates as a wellness brand, empowering consumers to explore the world with its supportive assortment. “With Proteus, we align in our sense of innovation and in our commitment to our oceans and planet,” she added.

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According to Caltagirone, the inputs used in the Vionic Beach line of sneakers encompass the company’s most sustainable material offerings. The shoes’ canvas uppers are made with natural cotton fibers, while outsoles are made from a rubber and soybean compound. The shoes are certified vegan, and the capsule collection will feature an exclusive sea-inspired motif.

Like the company’s other product lines, which include sandals, boots and slippers, the Beach sneaker was designed with a podiatrist-developed arch, forefoot and heel support system which offers relief for pain-causing conditions like plantar fasciitis.

Vionic's Beach sneaker.
Vionic’s Beach sneaker. Vionic

“Ocean wellness is human wellness,” said Chris Gallagher, co-founder of Vionic. “We are excited to contribute to and collaborate with an organization at the height of innovation, saving and protecting our oceans and planet in a big way, as both a brand and as passionate individual supporters.”

Protecting marine habitats has become an area of focus for the fashion industry at large, as concerns about global warming, microplastics and the impacts of chemical runoff from factories become more widely understood. Nylon manufacturer Nilit and owner of sustainable brand Sensil announced a collaborative effort with The Ocean Foundation’s Blue Resilience Initiative this month, with the goal of safeguarding and regenerating ocean meadows and coastal areas.

Companies are also looking to reduce their impact on the world’s waterways and seas by adopting more sustainable logistics. In mid-October, a network of cargo owners spearheaded by the corporate climate leaders at the Aspen Institute announced a commitment to shift to ocean freighters powered by zero-carbon fuels by 2040. Amazon, Brooks Running, Inditex, Ikea and Patagonia were among the first signatories to the effort, dubbed Cargo Owners for Zero Emission Vessels (coZEV).

The impacts of ocean shipping have also been noted by the European Maritime Safety Agency, which issued a report in September warning that emissions from vessels need to be slashed if the E.U. has any hope of achieving climate neutrality by 2050. The group’s data showed that maritime transport from the region is responsible for about 13.5 percent of all transport-related emissions, slightly behind aviation at 14.4 percent.