The sustainable French sneaker – and accessoiremerk Veja is this year ten. To celebrate their birthday launch a new sneaker, the V10, which is even more durable than its predecessors. It seemed like the ideal time for us to listen to the founders of hip label.
Your existence this year to 10 years. How did it start?
We started with Veja in 2004, when we were still very young. There was no sustainable example in the sneakerwereld, so it was a leap in the deep. We are fairly unique in the area of collaborations with the suppliers. For us it is very important that we all the way to the beginning of the chain and all of the steps personal follow-up. We were cotton farmers in Brazil organic cotton production and in the Amazon rainforest, we discovered fairtrade to producers for rubber. The local people that live in the forest and there are wild rubber harvesting.
We also sought to own sewing plants to work with. All of the steps in the process we did ourselves. It lasted a while before the first sneakers were able to produce. We are and will remain a small brand. With Veja, we want other companies to inspire, that is more important to us than that we are one big label would be.
How important are fairtrade labels for sustainable brands?
Labels are useful because they have a body form on the field. We are starting to work with suppliers that have no labels had acquired, but under the right conditions to work. For a label to be able to obtain, a third party checks will be carried out. Therefore, they are a way for us to be on the right path to get to the hotel and we have the process to obtain them eight years ago started. In april 2009, if the farmers where we work with the fairtrade label.
But labels are not our ultimate goal, but rather a minimum standard and a good start. We also know that labels are not perfect and that they be criticized. It is good that people keep asking and not be satisfied with the promise of a label. On our website you can our vision about this good follow up.
Has the market changed in the ten years that you are as sustainable entrepreneurs?
Absolutely. When we were ten years ago, our brand launched, were not many people ready for sustainable fashion. There were small groups who agree to take part, but the general public was not yet open. We can speak of the first wave of sustainable initiatives.
In the beginning of Veja was once said that we inpikten on a trend, that we are not sincerely interested in sustainable fashion. But look, ten years later, we are still there, in spite of the difficulties. We are surfing, not on a wave, we are the wave. Together with the other sustainable businesses at the beginning of the years 2000 started, we formed the first movement of modern fair fashion. There was, unfortunately, also a lot of greenwashing by the larger companies.
We are now arrived at the second wave. It is a movement that is much bigger and stronger than the first wave. The consumers are much more aware of the real price of fashion and initiatives work better together and find support in each other. There is more transparent communication and sustainable entrepreneurs will be able to inform each other through social media. There are links between small enterprises. It’s all going faster now, even though it feels slow.
The next ten years we are going to have a lot of positive changes: small companies that can quickly respond to the economic developments and sustainability carry go, I think, prevail.
How harmful is greenwashing for you?
For us, this means ‘greenwashing’ do little, but there is a lot about communication. It is very annoying for us, the smaller companies, because consumers are critical and cynical towards fair fashion brands. You have to extra hard to prove because there are players who are dishonest to communicate.
We are of the opinion that you should remain silent before you a good result have been obtained. It is not always easy to see the difference between blaaskakerij and sincere actions, but hopefully the consumers that the companies who do the loudest shouting is not necessarily the companies that do the best job.
Veja does not advertise. Why this choice?
One of our principles is the ‘zero advertising policy.” It costs five to seven times more to a sustainable sneaker, but we do not want the shoes to be expensive for the customers. They must remain affordable. Therefore, we save on advertising costs.
We do not know whether this is the best way. There are people who say that we make our shoes more have to promote with advertising campaigns, but we want the challenge to our way to do. Let us find out whether consumers are really ready for sustainable fashion and or mouth-to-mouth is stronger than traditional advertising. We invest rather in innovations and improvements in ecological and social terms, than in expensive advertising campaigns. Perhaps we are idealistic dreamers, and this will not work, but it does just not with our values to advertise in the traditional way.
We also have the resources not to star free shoes to send or pay for publicity. When someone like Marion Cotillard spontaneously share a photo via Instagram, then that’s of course very nice for us.
Bought my first pair 10 years ago #partofmylife since then !HappyBirthday!@veja #ihavenothingtodowiththisbrandthisisnotpublicitythisisjustlove
You bring the V10, a new sneaker, on the mark for your ten year anniversary. What is so special about this new model?
We have long worked on the design of this sneaker. One of the most important evolutions is that we these sneakers have made in such a way that they will not be destroyed. The previous editions you can, depending on how often you’re wearing, one, two, or three years, but of the V10, you can forever have fun. They are therefore the most sustainable sneakers from Veja until now.
And we also keep a lot of the design, the sneakers are cool and universal: everyone can wear them. We have them already sold to older ladies who like to be in the city to wander around to young people who are in the mode to work. They remain fashionable and we also hope that people who buy them for many years will cherish.
What are the biggest challenges for a sustainable brand?
We have the same difficulties as conventional brands, but we have as a sustainable brand, of course, also to contend with some limitations. We have the usual commercial game on the one hand, play and on the other hand, our own imposed limitations do not lose sight of. Still, I see this more as a strength. It gives us the chance to slowly, but steadily to grow. I compare it with the growth of a tree, which, without good and solid roots not strong, and big.
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