Most shoes are rubbish, but Vivobarefoot wants to fix them.
On Monday, the minimalist running shoe company announced the launch of ReVivo, a new program that “revives, reconditions and resells” worn and returned footwear from the brand, which seventh-generation Clark Shoe dynasty scion Galahad Clark founded in 2012 to tread more lightly on the planet, both literally and figuratively speaking.
The footwear industry produces more than 25 billion shoes every year, according to a 2019 World Footwear report. Ninety percent winds up in the landfill, often within 12 months of purchase.
But Vivobarefoot wants to keep its shoes on people’s feet and out of the trash longer. So it’s tapping the skilled craftspeople of U.K.-based Boot Repair Company to pull any languishing shoes back from the brink. It’s part of Vivobarefoot’s larger goal to raise awareness of the footwear industry’s waste problem by mobilizing a real-world solution to “become the most sustainable shoe brand in the world.”
“The shoe industry typically makes shoes out of complicated materials bonded together with petrochemicals that will ultimately sit in landfill for a lot longer than the lives of the wearers,” Clark, who is also the company’s CEO, said in a statement. “At Vivobarefoot, we’re on a journey to make the most sustainable shoes in the world: regenerative for people and the planet. The launch of ReVivo is a super exciting step in that journey and one of many initiatives we are taking to make sure none of our shoes ever end up slowly decaying in landfill.”
ReVivo will mine faulty items or returns from Vivobarefoot’s 100-day free trial. Returned shoes will undergo a complete fault inspection before they’re assigned one of three grades, depending on their condition and whether they’ve undergone repairs or resoling.
All shoes are given a deep steam clean and sanitized using the Oeko-Tex 100-approved Micro-Fresh technology, which staves off odor-causing and pathogenic bacteria. Repairs might include re-stitching burst steams, patching torn or weak areas, rebonding soles or replacing broken eyelets and damaged laces and insoles. Old insoles, Vivobarefoot says, are used to repair other shoes. Thin or busted soles are recycled into equestrian area bases.
The revived shoes, which will range in price from $45 to $215 for adults and $33 to $78 for children, will be clearly marked as such and available for purchase at www.revivo.com.
“Transitioning to a circular economy starts with design,” said Emma Foster-Geering, head of sustainability at Vivobarefoot. “Over the past year, the Vivobarefoot team has played by the extremely strict rules of our eco-matrix to ensure every design that makes it through has an end-of-life solution, in addition to being made of the most sustainable material available on the market. This is what really makes a product recycling program like ReVivo work.”
Environmental advocates have long made a case for repairing and reselling products before recycling them as a final resort, and it appears brands are beginning to listen. Just last month, Veja, the cult-favorite shoemaker beloved by Meghan Markle, debuted a 820-square-foot space in a former military barracks in Bordeaux, France, that it says will serve as a “test hub” for cleaning, repairing and recycling shoes “in order to develop the store of the future.”
Labels like H&M-owned Cos, Mara Hoffman, The North Face and Prana have been working with Oregon’s The Renewal Workshop to mend previously unsellable clothing for a second go-around on the shop floor. Eileen Fisher’s Renew program will fix popped buttons or broken zippers for free, and Patagonia’s Worn Wear will refurbish blemished goods and offer them for bargain hunters and conscious consumers alike on its online secondhand marketplace.
Nudie Jeans from Sweden, too, has long been a pioneer in the space, setting up repair shops worldwide and fixing up its customers’ castoffs for resale.