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Veja’s New Vegan Leather Sneaker Was Made From Corn

Veja’s new “Campo” sneaker drop doesn’t have a big name athlete or entertainer attached to its marketing, but it does have a new type of raw material: corn.

The shoe’s upper fabric is made with vegan leather produced from canvas and corn—and Veja says it’s the first time the material has ever been used in the fashion industry.

The Campo’s upper and panels are composed of C.W.L., a material that is biologically sourced and made partly from waxed canvas and partly from corn waste taken from the food industry. The lining of the sleek, white sneaker is composed of jersey made with recycled polyester and the insole is a mixture of EVA, recycled EVA and wild rubber.

“After 5 years of research and many failures to create a vegan substitute for leather, we finally found a revolutionary fabric,” Veja said on Instagram. It’s the first time we [found] a vegan fabric that replaces, perfectly, the leather.”

Veja’s entire model has, so far, has been to use the money most footwear brands spend on marketing and endorsements to source sustainable and innovative materials for its sneakers. Founders, Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion, said the “collective infatuation with the virtual” they saw around the time the company was founded in 2005 pushed them to create a “brick and mortar” product to compensate.

“VEJA is based on a very simple observation: 70 percent of the cost of a normal big sneaker brand is related to advertising,” the brand’s website explains. Veja estimates that it costs five to seven times more to produce and design a Veja sneaker than it does to produce an average design because of its commitment to raw materials that are environmentally friendly and then to manufacture those materials through a factory system with “high social standards.”

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An example of this practice is the sourcing of Veja’s wild rubber, which makes up about 18 percent to 22 percent of every Veja sole and also a portion of the insole. Starting in 2004, the brand has purchased rubber from a community in an Amazon rainforest that produces this wild rubber. As a result, Veja says that it can pay up to twice as much to source the rubber for its shoes. Still, it estimates that this practice has saved over 120,000 hectares of rainforest.

However, with minimal emphasis on advertising, its footwear ends up being sold for around the same amount. The Campo, for instance, retails for 125 euros, or $142.92.

As far as C.W.L. and the prospect of creating a vegan leather substitute purely from canvas and corn by-products, Veja may have a case—if the price is right. In the United States alone, there were an estimated 88 million acres of corn planted in 2018.