Developing A Sustainable Footwear Brand

with our industry experts

The footwear market is huge, and it does not just include fashion shoes. Think about all of the industries where different shoes are required (we cannot just have one pair each), and then consider all of the materials, components and tools necessary to construct a shoe. In 2019 alone, 24.9 billion pairs of shoes were manufactured globally. It is a complex part of the manufacturing sector, with approximately 150 processes per shoe, and around 30 different components, with each material, and often each process, transported and conducted across the world.

Shoe manufacturing is extremely carbon intensive, primarily from the powering of factories. Yet, as the majority of shoes are made from plastics (derived from petroleum, i.e. fossil fuels) carbon emissions are also found in the materials - so sneakers account for 1.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions (while air travel is 2.5%). A typical pair of running shoes will generate 30lbs of CO2 emissions during its manufacture (MIT), though this figure does not include the full customer use phase. When shoes cannot be recycled - which is estimated at 80% of shoe discard, because that myriad of materials are difficult to separate - they end up in landfill where toxic pollutants from the materials are released into the environment during decomposition.

On top of intensive material use and high energy consumption during manufacture, there are longstanding case studies of modern slavery within the footwear industry. Complex global supply chains are nearly impossible to penetrate, with worker exploitation, child labour, malpractice and factory safety issues difficult to ascertain, and therefore improve upon.

However, with a labyrinthine product comes an abundance of ways to make change. By considering and adjusting just one aspect of the material you use, the construction you choose, how you work with factories, or what engagement practices you have with your customer, you are able to develop a footwear brand with purpose and positive impact.

No matter what your skills and knowledge, this Masterclass will support you in that decision-making. We first introduce you to the terminology and steps involved in designing and producing a more sustainable footwear offering, then examine a variety of business models to inspire how you interact with the product and your customers. Our guest experts provide honest insight into how the footwear industry looks at various price points, covering issues surrounding ethics for people and for materials. The brand case studies will stimulate your notion of what a footwear brand or line should be, revealing opportunities for change - from how you produce, to who the life cycle engages, to the types of materials available to you.

In this Masterclass, you will learn:


  • Low Impact Materials That Conserve Resources And Heritage

    with Rodrigo Lopes
    Summary

    In this Lesson, discover the incredible sustainable stories behind the production of fish leather,  recycled cotton, and BeLEAF, low-impact materials that are being brought to market by Global Green, a premium materials hub based in The Netherlands. 

    We chat to Director Rodrigo Lopes to find out how these materials support local economies, why they offer a far more sustainable alternative to others on the market and how their production succeeds in conserving both water and energy.

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  • Essential Terminology, Tools And Components For Sustainable Footwear

    with Stephanie Steele
    Summary

    This is a read-only lesson so carve out 30 minutes and take notes. Equipping yourself with the terms of footwear design and manufacture will help streamline your time with factories and pattern cutters, and understanding where sustainable alternatives could be found will trim energy spent sourcing. In this lesson we cover the anatomy of the shoe to aid in your recognition of the many parts and components that go into a piece of footwear, and most importantly, the considerations you could and should make when it comes to responsible decision-making.

    Thumbnail image: HOTELMOTEL

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  • Foot Anatomy and Minimal Shoe Design Considerations

    with Payson Muller
    Summary

    This is a 23 minute conversation with Payson Muller, the co-founder of The Last Shoemaker, a small footwear company based in the North of England. Payson is an ex-stonemason who transferred his skills to creating bespoke lasts that adhere to a minimalist shoe design. Though keen not to give health advice, Payson being very interested in the "health" of the foot, shared his knowledge of how our feet can change shape depending on the shoes we wear. In order to provide his children with both comfort and a connection to nature via the feet, as well as professionals who like barefoot shoes yet need to dress formally for work, The Last Shoemaker preserves traditional craftsmanship in modern pared back designs.

    In this lesson, learn interesting anatomical details to spur you into thinking beyond appearances for your product, understand how to really look at the details and materials of your shoes, and recognise what you should and should not remove from your designs for your customer to be comfortable.

    Thumbnail: Bespoke last from The Last Shoemaker

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  • Introduction To Pattern Cutting For Footwear

    with Amanda Overs
    Summary

    This 25 minute practical lesson is led by Amanda Overs, Director and Founder of I Can Make Shoes, a business that provides support and technical skills in developing and designing your own shoes at home or as a fashion business.

    In this lesson, Amanda explains what a shoe last is, and then takes you through the steps in taping up your last and designing on it, before showing you how to create a full pattern for a heeled court shoe - knowledge that can be easily transferred to other styles.

    Please note, if you are listening to this as an audio file, there will be sections of silence as this is where Amanda is showcasing particular techniques.

    Find more Masterclasses from I Can Make Shoes at: https://icanmakeshoes.com/

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  • Social Sustainability Considerations In Footwear Manufacture

    with Rodrigo Lopes
    Summary

    A 13 minute lesson that looks at key social sustainability considerations you should make when manufacturing footwear. Director of sustainable materials solutions marketplace Global Green, Rodrigo Lopes, joined us to give insight into how footwear manufacture operates in his home Brazil, where he also operated shoemaking factories. Learn about how to ensure skilled footwear producers retain and pass on their skills, the importance of pushing for fair trade manufacturing principles, and what footwear production looks like in South America.

    Thumbnail image: Bolivian footwear factory via Voa News

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  • How To Prove Where Your Products Come From And Why This Is Important

    with Oritain
    Summary

    In this 20 minute lesson from fibre science company Oritain, learn from various members of the Oritain team about how to prove where your products come from, and why this is important in fighting counterfeiting, greenwashed marketing claims and ethical production issues.

    This is part one of a two part lesson from Oritain; part two looks at the actual science behind how they use traceability methods to provide data.

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  • 3D Printing For Footwear And Marketing A Niche Product

    with Philippe Holthuizen
    Summary

    In this 15 minute lesson, designer and maker Philippe Holthuizen gives his insight on how 3D printing can work for footwear, particularly within a sustainable setting. His brand FUSED Footwear offers super cool sneakers all printed with his own tinkered with 3D printer, all of which can also be returned and recycled. Philippe provides honest advice on launching and growing a business that offers a niche product, including what you should consider when it comes to scaling, pricing, finding your audience and how to grow as a creative business person.

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  • Avoid Counterfeiting With NFC Tags and Blockchain

    with Collect ID
    Summary

    A bitesize 8 minute lesson that looks at why counterfeiting is bad for business, and how to avoid it using transparency-through-technology solutions like NFC tags and blockchain. Presented by CollectID co-founders David Geisser and Sergio Muster, you will understand why authenticity is key for footwear brands and consumers. They also explain the fan community surrounding footwear hype and why finding your footwear audience is important for loyalty.

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  • Achieving A Transparent And Circular Business Model With Repairable Footwear

    with Stefan Mathys
    Summary

    Experienced footwear designer Stefan Mathys, and now co-founder of repairable footwear brand VYN, joined us to give insight into how footwear design and production costs work in reality for mid-range fashion footwear brands. He gives thoughts on how a footwear brand or line could be implemented to consider the full life cycle of materials and product, how to engage customers with repair practices, and the ways in which fast fashion brands could adhere to similar systemic design shifts. This is a longline 40 minute interview that dives deep in to many questions, and will leave you feeling inspired and motivated, as well as better equipped in knowledge when it comes to repair models.

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  • How To Conduct Good Research

    with Malin Ekengren
    Summary

    Malin Ekengren is a denim specialist with years of experience designing for well-renowned denim brands, including Levi Strauss & Co. In this bitesize 7 minute lesson, Malin takes you through how to conduct good research so that your product is rooted in the past, but innovates for the future. Though Malin has a background in denim, this advice is applicable to all product design research.

    This webinar was edited and renamed with permission by Transformers Foundation, where this presentation originally aired as part of TransformersED, and by Malin Ekengren themself.

    Thumbnail image: from Malin's presentation

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  • Understand Your Customer Profile To Design Products With Longevity

    with Sue Barrett
    Summary

    Sue Barrett is the founder of Denim Forum, a creative strategy, trend and advice agency focussed on helping creative businesses and brands unlock their purpose to anchor their business for growth. In this 11 minute lesson, Sue takes you on a journey of trend forecasting, and how you yourself can profile customers to build a brand that can sell, be trusted, and be desired. Though Sue's background is denim-product focussed, the inspiring learnings from this presentation cross over into all product categories, and especially those where consumer tribes are more notable, for instance, footwear.

    This webinar was edited and renamed with permission by Transformers Foundation, where this presentation originally aired as part of TransformersED, and by Malin Ekengren themself.

    Thumbnail image: from Denim Forum

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Interviews


Technical Tutorials



Additional Reading