Companies throughout the footwear industry have seen the demand for sustainability and have answered. Whether by reducing water and energy use during production or by using recycled materials, brands are taking pains to factor their environmental impact into their business.
Veteran footwear designer Patrick Hogan’s new plant-based footwear brand Munjoi draws on this call for eco-conscious products. However, he readily admitted that choosing to use plant-based materials was easier said than done.
“Everyone is looking for the holy grail of sustainable materials right now, and the deeper you search you begin to learn that there is no perfect solution,” Hogan told Sourcing Journal. “This is when I discovered using better material choices is a great start for me, but making less footwear is even better.”
Hogan came up with the idea for Munjoi’s first shoe while on vacation in 2018, not wanting to wear sandals all day or tote around an extra pair of sneakers.
The convertible All-Dai shoes he spent the next two-and-a-half years creating function as both sneakers and sandals, as well as slides and mules. The shoe converts into each of these different modes by way of a removable foam insert. Depending on what the wearer desires, the insert can be placed on top of or below the knitted front or back portions of the shoe’s textile upper.
As simple as the All-Dai may seem, Hogan told Sourcing Journal “everything about this design was difficult.” Making it fit properly as both sandal and sneaker, he said, was a complex process involving significant trial and error that tweaked the shoe’s various components.
Though finding and working with the right sustainable materials proved difficult, Munjoi still ended up creating a shoe made of all plant-based materials. The All-Dai uses a blend of cotton and hemp for the shoe’s knitted upper portion. Its bottom combines materials manufacturer Bloom’s algae-EVA foams with eco-friendly sugar cane.
Like virtually all other brands in the apparel and footwear space, Munjoi felt the impact of the coronavirus. Hogan originally planned to launch the shoe, meant to be worn mostly in warm weather, at the beginning of the summer. Due to the pandemic, the All-Dai is landing in the market while consumers are busy buying boots and winter jackets. The upside, he said, is that undertaking the soft launch now will leave the brand even better prepared for its spring 2021 entry.
The All-Dai is available for pre-orders through Nov. 21, and Munjoi’s website estimates that product will be delivered in February. The shoes cost $98 and come in Black Sea, Sedona and natural colorways.
Looking further into the future, Hogan said Munjoi is “just getting started” with this release. However, he remained tight-lipped about what exactly the next steps would bring, only saying to “expect to see more sustainable solutions by Munjoi with a focus on ultimate versatility.”
Munjoi is not the only sustainable footwear startup looking to court eco-conscious consumers. Ocean Refresh launched a Kickstarter last month for a sneaker made largely from recycled ocean trash. The Oceana shoe, available in navy, black and white, is built with fabric crafted from abandoned fishing nets, as well as recycled rubber, ocean plastic, cork and foam.
Ocean Refresh’s Oceana shoe followed in the footsteps of mega-brands like Adidas, which has made Parley’s reclaimed marine plastic pollution a bigger part of its footwear supply chain, and Rothy’s, whose popular flats and sneakers are similarly built on the plastic trash threatening aquatic life.