Is it possible to create another world? This was the question posed by founders Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion when they considered their grand ambitions for footwear and accessories brand Veja.
With an innate interest in ecology and cultural change, they set about creating a visionary brand that combined a simple and stylish aesthetic with ambitions to create a new mode of retailing. The Conran Shop takes five minutes to focus on this revolutionary brand. Having launched with a small collection of trainers in 2004, Veja has quickly grown to include a stylish series of leather accessories including bags and purses that have graced the pages of many fashion glossies and design blogs. With its fair trade initiatives and signature paired back design ethos, Veja is the ultimate marriage of style and substance.
A few facts that make the Veja project extra special...
1. In contrast to the monoculture farming system in the small Brazilian state of Ceará , Veja works with 320 families whose agro-ecology principles ban chemicals and pesticides. These are small cotton growers who make a living from their organic farming and work within fair trade conditions. You can check it out here in a Veja video on their cotton farming.
2. The rubber on Veja trainer soles is predominantly tapped from sustainable rubber trees that grow in the Amazonian rainforest, the only place where rubber trees grow naturally. The rubber tappers live in the forest and use a process called Folha Desfumada Liquida – Liquid Smoked Sheet, which turns latex into rubber sheets without the need for any industrial intermediary processes. Watch this inspiring process in the rubber video here.
3. By using vegetable leather tanning agents such as Acacia extract, Veja decreases the water pollution that is found when traditional chromium or other heavy metals are used. Veja is transparent about its limitations and openly admit that it is hard to prove the origin of the leather itself but it strives to work towards an objective where it can be in complete control of their supply chain. For further insight into leather tanning watch the video.
4. Veja operates a no advertising policy which means that it maintains competitive pricing despite having fabrication costs that are 3-4 times higher than other footwear brands. In addition it only produces what is needed for a season and only six months in advance, there is no wasted materials and no stock loss. Take a sneak peak inside its factory here.
5. Transportation between Brazil and France is via boat, the goods then travel by barge to the Parisian suburbs. Once at their warehouse destination, Veja works with the Atelier Sans Frontières association who help people facing social exclusion find work. Workers store and prepare orders before dispatching them. It is all about promoting social, professional and personal development, watch it happening here.
As you can see, we are big fans. Any brand that can make seriously cool products, AND do it in a way that leaves a lesser environmental footprint, deserves a medal. Or at the very least an award, and Veja won two of these in 2012, The Guardian Sustainable Business Award (Supply Chain Category) and The Observer Ethical Award (Fashion Category, awarded in association with Vogue UK). Is there an end to their list of accomplishments?? We hope not, Veja deserves to go from strength to strength.