When the founders of French brand Veja first went to Brazil as 25-year-olds, the locals called them ‘Os Franceses Locos’ - the crazy French - for buying organic cotton for twice the normal price. Since then, Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion came a long way to establish Veja as the reliable go-to sneaker brand of today.
It all started in 2003 when the founders went to Chinese factories and returned troubled about the workers’ living situation. Soon after, they decided to make their own product. 90s children as Kopp and Morillion are, it turned out to be sneakers - but reinvented and deconstructed, as they say.
Amazon rainforest, Ceará, Porto Alegre. What reads like a backpacker trip was in fact their route to find likely cotton farmers, rubber producers and manufacturers for the new shoes. This route is still today’s production path, and has brought out 2 million pairs of sneakers. Organic cotton is cultivated so it won’t harm the soil. The use of natural rubber is said to be more ecofriendly than synthetic one and the local workers fight to protect the rainforest. Leather comes from areas where no trees were cut down to build the farms, plus it is vegetable-tanned instead of using toxic chemicals. And all the workers are fairly paid and work under good conditions.
Sounds a bit like the wet dream of an eco-hippie? Well, no. As transparency is the brand’s first rule, all the info is made available and checkable. These goody-goodies even publish their limits and obstacles online. To keep the sneakers affordable, the founders chose an ad-free way. Not a new concept to cut costs, but new to the sneaker world.
All the more surprising that Veja is now a solid name in the game. Could be due to the simply classic and spotless designs of the sneakers that can convince even bad boys and girls in the end.