Footwear brands are marking Earth Month with circular business models, innovative materials and buzz-building partnerships.
Ganni x New Balance
Scandinavian brand Ganni is set to debut its first collaborative shoe with New Balance Wednesday, reimagining the Boston-based footwear brand’s 2002R sneaker with environmentally preferred materials in two color ways.
The new release incorporates partially and fully recycled fabrics and components. The uppers include 80 percent recycled synthetic overlays, fully recycled mesh paneling, and laces made from 30 percent recycled fiber. The outsoles contain 5 percent reground rubber.
Ganni fans inspired the runner-meets-city-sneaker, available in up to a men’s U.S. size 11.5 (or women’s 13.5). The #GanniGirls often wear the silhouette to complement their favorite clothing from the Danish label. Retailing for $150, the shoe unites New Balance’s athletic appeal and Ganni’s 2000s-era aesthetic. Mesh paneling features an all-over Ganni logo print, while pops of green grace the soles and stitching.
“The NB 2002R style really fits into the Copenhagen way of dressing—we’re always cycling and running somewhere,” Ganni creative director Ditte Reffstrup said. “This shoe is the perfect mix of function and fashion. We are super excited to be able to create it with so much innovation and recycled materials.”
“Given Ganni’s global relevance with fashion conscious consumers and seeing their #GanniGirls styling New Balance sneakers so often, this collaboration seemed like a natural fit for both brands,” Lauren Fitzsimmons, New Balance lead for collaborations in EMEA, said in a statement. Working with the label has helped New Balance “continue to build our global narrative within the fashion space,” she added. The partners aligned on their shared mission to emphasize the importance of sustainable design.
From April 6, consumers could enter a drawing on Ganni.com to win early access to the limited-edition drop.
Merrell This is Home
Meanwhile, Merrell is launching a long-term sustainability initiative centered on preserving the environment.
This is Home is a multifaceted campaign encompassing product, digital, social and connected TV and showcasing footwear and apparel made with lower-impact inputs, the outdoor performance brand said. By 2025, the company aims to produce 100 percent of its products using organic, recycled, renewable and responsibly sourced materials, while halving its shoe and apparel samples. It also plans to reduce plastic packaging and encourage employees to give back to communities through 10,000 volunteer hours.
First up is an international take-back program, dubbed ReTread and launching this month with the goal of saving 300,000 pairs of Merrell shoes from the landfill. Developed with upcycling firm ReCircled, the U.S. and Canada-based program will allow consumers to return their pre-owned Merrell shoes to the company. ReTread refurbishes and repairs these shoes for resale, breaks them down for use in new products, or recycles them for alternative uses such as industrial materials or playground flooring.
“The role of This is Home is to ignite our emotional connection to the outdoor environments around us, by encouraging people to deepen their experiences locally,” Chris Hufnagel, Merrell’s global brand president, said.
“The Merrell ReTread program is a firm step in our sustainable commitment, enabling us to extend the life of our Merrell footwear,” he added. The take-back initiative gives outdoor lovers “more options to minimize their environmental footprint.”
To participate, consumers can order a free shipping label through retread.merrell.com. Once the shipment is collected, they will receive a $20 coupon code to be used toward a future purchase. Hufnagel said the ReTread program will debut in EMEA later this year, and expand into more markets in the coming seasons.
“We believe the outdoors is a place that people can always come home to, and that is why we are committed to preserve and protect the places we recreate,” he added.
Footwear foams are notorious for their adverse environmental impacts, with most options on the market developed using non-renewable fossil fuels. Polyurethane (PU) foams contribute to a perception that shoes are tough to recycle.
Canadian clean footwear technology startup and Merrell collaborator Evoco is attempting to break the cycle with its plant-based insole foams. Dubbed Fates, the in-shoe arch supports are made with up to 80 percent biomaterial, which breaks down 70 percent faster than typical PU. The insoles offer adopters like Kodiak, Timberland, Vans, CAT and Keen a biodegradable solution to a longstanding problem.
“We’re not here to mislead or make ‘green claims’ about our products,” CEO and founder Jason Robinson said. “Our mission is to close the loop on unsustainable goods, meaning that our brand partnerships need to reflect our commitment to creating a sustainable impact on culture and climate today, and for future generations.”
Using bio-based foams doesn’t mean brands have to compromise performance, Robinson said. Lightweight, durable and long-lasting, Fates offers compression that’s five times better than market PU, he claimed.
“Every eco-amplification is change, so it was important for us to ensure that all our products are USDA and GreenCircle certified,” he added. “It offers our customers transparency of our commitment for a sustainable future.”