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The footwear brand is bringing “circular fashion” with it.
Thousand Fell, a NYC-based brand, says it has created the world’s “first recyclable sneaker.” Made of materials like upcycled clothing, plastic water bottles and even food waste, the brand has filled a gap in the notoriously wasteful footwear industry. The minimalistic vegan shoes have generated a lot of buzz and racked up hefty waitlists — and as of September 22, they’re available in Canada, too.
Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum founded the online sneaker brand in 2018, and have since seen strong demand from the Canadian market — specifically in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Edmonton. The founders had hoped to make the brand available in Canada from the start, Songer tells FASHION, but it’s been challenging to figure out the logistics for the brand’s “take back” business model. When customers are done with the shoes, the brand encourages them to return the used footwear. Thousand Fell has a recycling centre in New Jersey (another in Texas is in the works) that collects all of the returned shoes, so they’ve had to figure out how to get Canadian customers’ shoes back to those facilities. For now, that method is by mail.
“When you’re done with your sneaker, you send it back to us — we’ll pay for the recycling, we’ll pay for the shipping — and we’ll shoot you a $20 credit towards your next pair,” says Songer. They call it their “SuperCircle” program — aimed to get consumers familiar with the concept of circularity in the fashion industry.
What is circular fashion, you may ask? Songer says it’s basically the opposite of our current linear economy model, where we “take-make-waste.” With this model, materials are collected, transformed into products, and used until they are discarded — adding to already high levels of waste in the fashion industry. But the circular economy, as its name suggests, aims to generate a lifecycle for products where they aren’t put to waste after their initial purpose is fulfilled. “We see the circular economy as the biggest opportunity for the retail industry in the next decade,” says Songer. Big brands have taken notice of this shift towards environmental consciousness in fashion — with retailers like H&M and Tommy Hilfiger announcing commitments to circularity as well.
It’s estimated that only about 13 percent of footwear textiles can be recycled, with the rest of that going into landfills. But Thousand Fell’s shoes are designed to be taken apart, says Songer. “Seventy percent of the weight of the shoe can go back into new shoes. So the SuperCircle process is to pull products apart, segregate the fabrics, recycle the fabrics and put them back into our new materials for new products,” she says. “The other 30 percent of the shoe is either upcycled, downcycled or industrially composted.”
Thousand Fell’s sleek designs come in slip-on and lace-up options and make for a classic trusted sneaker. The shoes are stain-proof (red wine doesn’t stand a chance), water-resistant and incredibly comfy — the brand reports they’ve been tested to last for 2.4 million steps. Canadians can order them now at ThousandFell.com.