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These Veja Sneakers Are Stylish AND Good for the Planet

These Veja Sneakers Are Stylish AND Good for the Planet

By Tina Popowski
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Photo Courtesy: Veja

A chance meeting in childhood, an investigation into corporate social responsibility and...wild Amazonian rubber? While these ingredients may seem pretty dissimilar, they’ve been expertly combined into a recipe for eco-friendly success. The master "chefs" behind this globally green concoction have cooked up something that’s shaking up the fashion world (and plenty of other places): sustainable sneakers that are as outfit friendly as they are kind to the environment. That’s the premise behind Veja, the footwear brainchild of Sebastien Kopp and Francois-Ghislain Morillion.

In today's world, sustainability is more important than ever, and many companies are creating products or enacting policies that aim to make less of an impact on the environment. Sustainability in fashion is also becoming more important to consumers looking to buy products and support companies that are helping — not hurting — the planet for future generations. But that’s just one reason why the independent fashion brand from France is becoming quite popular with celebrities and other customers. Veja’s footwear is casual and comfortable, too, so you’ll find plenty of reasons to love adding a pair or two of these classically cool kicks to your wardrobe.

Why Veja Is One of the Top Sustainable Sneaker Brands in the World

Kopp and Morillion founded Veja in 2005 after starting a nonprofit that analyzed the social responsibility policies of companies around the world. The childhood friends grew up together in France and worked in the finance industry before forming their NGO, which saw them visiting various clothing and food factories in South America, Asia and Australia to study whether those factories were engaging in ethical practices. During these trips, Kopp and Morillion realized the footwear industry was missing something: the drive to create durable footwear in a more innovative and ecologically responsible way.

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Photo Courtesy: Veja

They started accomplishing this goal in a variety of ways. Veja is the first brand to use fabric made entirely from recycled plastic bottles. The brand also uses wild rubber from rubber tappers in the Amazon, recycled plastic bottles from Brazil and other eco-friendly, recycled and natural materials to offer better-for-the-earth footwear alternatives to fashion lovers. On average, it takes three plastic bottles to make a pair of "upcycled" Veja shoes, which are light, breathable and waterproof due to the fact that they’re made with these materials. Even Veja’s sneaker boxes are made from reused cardboard; plus, they don’t contain glue and use very little ink so they’re easy to recycle.

The company not only prioritizes making sustainable sneakers and checking footwear for hazardous chemicals, but it also works to ensure that the people who are employed in its factories are treated and paid fairly. It’s no secret that the fashion industry has struggled and continues to struggle, particularly when it comes to fast fashion, with unsafe working conditions, child labor, unfair wages and other violations of labor laws and human rights. Veja is committed to combating this by providing healthy working conditions for its factory workers in Brazil, along with decent pay and benefits. That commitment to employees truly makes Veja stand out.

Because of this and the brand's use of fair and ecological materials and processes, however, the sneakers cost five times more to produce than other brands’ footwear. Veja also incurs costs due to investments in research and development and in new technologies to continue to improve the shoes for customers. Reinvesting in this way may be costly, but this company couldn't see it happening any other way.

In addition to the higher costs, Veja sneakers take a lot of time to design and produce because of the materials they utilize, but fans of the brand have praised the comfortable fit and the wearability of the shoes, particularly compared to other big brands. Of course, the effort put into running an environmentally friendly footwear brand also stands out — it’s this care and attention to detail that ultimately defines Veja as a company.

A Low Top for Faster Mobility

What’s more sustainable than getting the most wear possible out of a pair of shoes? Considering the brand's focus is sustainability, Veja offers a range of stylish shoes created for (and that can stand up to) day-to-day activities and long-term wear. One of these designs, the Veja Esplar Low Sneaker, is a clean-lined, minimalist shoe that’s virtually guaranteed to go with everything thanks to its retro athletic styling. It’s made of 33% organic cotton and 67% recycled polyester, which sticks to Veja's mission of creating sustainable shoes. Fans of the shoe have noted that the Esplar sneakers need time to break in but are quite comfortable and easy to move around in once that’s happened.

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Photo Courtesy: Amazon

The primary color of this specific low-top pair of sneakers is extra white, but there are two other basic versions, one of which includes a splash of maroon and another that’s brightened up by a touch of orange in the shoe's logo. In addition, Veja offers other variations of the shoe that come in other colors. Because the shoe is so sleek, it works with just about any outfit and adds some sporty flair.

A Hightop for More Ankle Protection

Veja Roraima Sneakers offer a little more ankle protection and warmth than the Esplar sneakers thanks to their high-top design that blends hiking and skater styles for a supportive, retro silhouette. The shoe's inner lining is created with flannel and recycled cotton and polyester for some added coziness in colder weather. The outer calfskin gives the shoes a more rugged look that appears prime for outdoor activities; however, this is still meant to be more of a fashion shoe that provides a bit of extra comfort than Veja's low-top options.

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Photo Courtesy: Amazon

Like Veja’s other shoes, the Roraima is made in Brazil, and its sole incorporates the brand’s signature wild Amazonian rubber. Some pairs of this style also feature recycled water bottles in their uppers. Because of the softer calfskin incorporated into these shoes, Veja recommends treating your pair of Roraimas with a leather-care cream or spray and dry-brushing the suede applique "V" patches.

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A Popular Option for Eco-friendly and Sustainable Fans

One of the most popular options that the brand offers is its Veja V-10 Sneaker. Fans rave over this style of the shoe, which comes in various colors like white, pink and even a vibrant, metallic finish called "Unicorn." Pictured here is the "Nautico," with its red and blue details that recall the coloring on nautical flags and sailboats and give these shoes a preppy edge.

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Photo Courtesy: Amazon

Named the V-10 to celebrate "10 years of love" and Veja’s 10th anniversary with the shoes’ introduction in 2015, this design is decidedly more of a tennis shoe than the Esplar, which has a similarly low profile. But again, they incorporate the brand’s signature wild rubber, along with a soft inner lining made of light jersey for breathable comfort without the added coziness that the Roraima’s flannel provides. These low-top sneakers do run large, so you may want to size down a full size with this shoe.

For Running

Veja offers a variety of running shoes if you’re looking to get or stay active while making more sustainable choices. One popular option is the Veja Women's x Rick Owens Runner Style Sneaker in Wool Beige, which was a popular collaborative effort between the brand and the fashion designer Rick Owens, who’s known for his glam-goth-grunge sensibilities.

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Photo Courtesy: Amazon

These runners lean more towards the glam side with a classic, athletic design that’s comfortable for activity but also stands out with its sleek grey colorway and playful details that’ll pull you in for a closer look. The pull-tab on the ankle is exaggeratedly large, and you’ll notice, maybe after a little careful examination, that the laces have four rows of eyelets instead of the typical two.

Veja Training Shoes for Children

Veja doesn't leave out the little ones when it comes to its footwear offerings. Though the brand offers a few laced sneakers for children who’ve mastered tying the bunny’s ears, many of its sneaker options for the younger crowd have Velcro closures, like the Veja Small V-12 Low-Top Velcro Trainers for Girls. Resembling the V-10s but in petite proportions, the shoes are cute and also easy for both kids and parents to put on.

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Photo Courtesy: Amazon

As with Veja’s shoes for grown-ups, the kids’ V12s are made in Brazil using natural Amazonian rubber in their soles and insoles. They’re also constructed with ChromeFree leather, which involves an innovative production process that tans the leather without the use of the chrome, heavy metals and acids that factories often use to make leather more durable.

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