After five years of trial and error in R&D that created some “spectacular failures” along the way, Reebok’s 18-strong Future team came up with a smart-looking, $95 casual lifestyle sneaker made primarily of cotton and corn that quickly sold out at launch on reebok.com.
The story of how the eco-friendly NPC UK Cotton+Corn shoe came to fruition started with the innovation-focused Future team, helmed by head of future Bill McInnis, “sitting around a table and doing all the research we could on sustainability in general.
In the search for a suitable eco-smart material for the shoe sole, Reebok became interested Susterra, a product produced by chemical innovation firm Dupont Tate & Lyle that uses kernels from domestic industrial corn.
The “super, super simple” upper is made entirely from organic cotton and cotton stitching sourced out of India through the Better Cotton Initiative, resulting in a shoe whose primary materials once were living, breathing plants.
Reebok currently is producing a broader assortment of the sold-out Cotton+Corn model for a November drop, though it may expand on the design further down the road.
Some of Reebok’s earliest designs looked more like the “Prius of shoes” en route to creating the stylish, eco-smart Cotton+Corn shoe.
Consumers never get to see the blood, sweat and misfires that had to happen in order to make something like the NPC UK Cotton+Corn shoe. Some of the earliest scrapped designs looked like the “Prius of shoes,” McInnis noted—very different and “out there.”
Understanding how important consumer is to future product iterations, Reebok decided to offer Cotton+Corn online only to capture customer data and determine how much interest there is in a shoe built with alternative materials.