It’s hard to compete with a pair of white sneakers. Ideal for all seasons and perennially on trend, low-key low-tops make for effortless styling. This is just one of many reasons we’re head over heels for Veja, a line of minimal sneakers with a decidedly ecological focus.
Launched in 2004, the French sneaker brand is celebrated for its vintage-inspired silhouettes and unmatched sustainable practices. Founders Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion, friends since high school, were looking to marry their enthusiasm for footwear with their love of the environment and found themselves inspired by the power of fair trade. “We love sneakers, but we couldn’t feel good about our kicks without feeling guilty about where they were made, how they were made, and with what materials,” say Kopp and Morillion. “So, as wide-eyed business school grads, we decided to change this. And, somehow, it worked.”
Establishing a firm commitment to use only environmentally friendly materials and practices, Kopp and Morillion thought about how they could reconstruct the traditional production methods of one of the biggest footwear industries in the world. “Our model began in Brazil, sourcing natural rubber, and we continue to experiment with sustainable materials and practices,” they say. “We use recycled plastic bottles and upcycled fish-farmed tilapia skin in our shoes. We’ve also started using silk—a fabric with an extremely low carbon footprint.”
The result is a luxury sneaker made using the finest materials available, with a surprisingly affordable price thanks to Veja’s commitment to word-of-mouth marketing. Now in its 14th year of business, the brand doesn’t advertise and eschews traditional marketing techniques. Instead, Kopp and Morillion have chosen to focus on the quality of their products and pass on any savings to their customers—including those at Barneys.
Barneys footwear buyer Jane Baek Sheen saw Veja as an opportunity to offer Barneys’ customers an environmentally friendly sneaker option with a subdued look. “I think it’s super important for companies to start becoming more involved in what goes on around us,” Sheen says. “Veja stood out to me because they prioritize their business on the good welfare of the environment and of the people. Their products are made in organic cotton, using vegetable-tanned leather and wild rubber from the Amazon.”
Sheen also adores the versatile, understated styling that plays to a customer’s more feminine sensibilities. “The wonderful thing about Veja is the simplicity and subtle detailing, which means they can truly be worn with any look. Veja is really great at creating a fresh take with feminine color combinations that really resonates,” she says.
For first-time Veja customers, Sheen recommends starting with the basics. The classic Esplar is “a clean and easy option that will go with anything you wear.” Another worthy style is the recognizable V designs you’ve probably seen on Instagram and all over town. Sheen says, “We had many favorites within the Veja styles, but the V-10 and V-12s have a bit more character and a chunkier sole, which is why it’s my favorite style.”
In other words, a perfect fit for investing in your wardrobe—and the environment.