Dec 28, 2022
by Karl Smith
by Karl Smith
Dec 28, 2022

What a year! Aside from seemingly walking out of a global pandemic and stumbling right into a global recession, the world made some important and inspiring strides in combating climate change, even within the fashion, footwear and greater design industries.

Granted, there is still much to do–just take a look at these two reports from Remake and from earlier in the year–but our optimism remains intact as it always is–remember, our motto is”progress over perfection.”

This year, we’ve seen the launch of many new bio-based material innovations, while pioneers of the game begin to scale production to meet industry demand. In 2022, Earth-friendlier footwear hit the market at a level we have yet to see, from fully recyclable modular kicks, to ones made of emitted carbon, and others 3D-printed to a wearer’s precise needs.

In fashion, the power of collaboration revealed itself as our greatest collective weapons in creating a more sustainable industry, from a legendary clothier partnering with a tech giant to help solve the micro-plastics problem, to a long list of household brands, legislators and activists coming together to map out a better future.

It was truly an exciting year full of Earth-friendlier projects–believe us, we started the year scouring the internet for relevant stories to share, and now we can’t keep up with them.

It was hard, but we wanted to round up some of our favorite projects from the past year, with the hope of sharing some of that optimism with you, our community.

So without further adieu, here are FUTUREVVORLD’s favvorite projects of 2022.

Nike ISPA Link
A product led by function and completed by form, the Nike ISPA Link is probably the only shoe capable of honestly claiming to not only disrupt but also dismantle the sneaker industry. Created without the glue or other bonding elements that traditionally keep footwear flexible and durable, the latest ISPA iterations are entirely modular – made from interlocking parts that can be easily disassembled to simplify recycling and remove high-impact industrial processes from production altogether.
Frank Ocean – the elusive deus ex machina of contemporary culture, more often pictured riding his bicycle through New York than playing shows, or in the studio, or giving interviews, or doing whatever else one might expect an artist of his calibre and standing to be up to. But that doesn't mean he hasn't been busy. Having launched his luxury label, Homer, in 2018 – which includes a 2021 link with Prada – Ocean pushed the high-end envelope this year with a different kind of collaboration: working with cutting-edge scientists to release a line of lab-grown diamonds. Not fake diamonds – not knock-off stones – but serious gems, guaranteed free from conflict origins or the kind of mines that spew pollution and are harbingers of deforestation.
Helen Kirkum x Footpatrol
Where Helen Kirkum goes, we follow. At the forefront of sneaker sustainability, the London-based designer uses off-cuts and deadstock to reimagine unwanted materials as unmissable pieces. Case in point: this year's collaboration with the retailer Footpatrol – an extension of her ongoing work with ASICS – offered up a selection of vibrant, patchwork sneakers which wore their one-of-a-kind credentials on, well, whatever the footwear equivalent of a sleeve is. And, what's more, with one eye on sustainability, this collaboration kept the other on humanity – benefiting YoungMinds UK, a youth-focused mental health charity, with the sale of Kirkum's creations.
Heron Preston x Zellerfeld
American streetwear designer Heron Preston has never shied away from futuristic collaboration – an illustrious list which includes, of course, NASA; a name pretty much considered the pinnacle of scientific progress. But, this year, Preston has more earthly desires: coming together with the 3D-printed footwear progenitors Zellerfield, the two labels designed and released a seamless, glueless, recyclable shoe – the HERON01. He also made a mycelium fruit bowl, if that's your kind of thing.
The Fashion Act
Not everything worth celebrating this year is a product; in fact, when it comes to sustainability and impact in the fashion industry, one of the most important moments of 2021 was more about curbing production. First introduced at the start of the year, the Act – designed to force the fashion industry into transparency and accountability – came back bigger and better than ever in November. Backed by a whole host of big names, from Patagonia and Reformation to support from local labor unions, the new and improved Fashion Act demands strict targets be met when it comes to the environmental and human cost of the industry's opaque supply chain.
On Cloudprime
Nothing beats the outdoors; there's no feeling in this world quite like a rush of clean air in your lungs when you're out in the world. To that end, and many others, we're used to thinking that emissions are basically the enemy. But what if the enemy switched sides? That's the question Swiss footwear brand On posed back in September, when the label – best known for its cushioned running shoes – revealed the CLOUDPRIME: a new silhouette made with new technology. A new kind of EVA foam which takes emissions as its raw material, CleanCloud uses carbon capture to turn those harmful vapors into the basis for a victory lap. (Naturally we'd still esther there weren't any emissions and that this shoe didn't have to exist – but as long as there are, we're glad it does.)
Nike B.I.L.L.
Basically all robots have jobs, it's just that some have more interesting jobs than others. For example: somewhere in the world right now, a robot is picking a grocery order from a warehouse. But somewhere else – thanks to Berlin-based PCH Innovations and Nike – another robot is cleaning sneakers. The Bot Initiated Longevity Lab – B.I.L.L. to his friends in what can only be described as true 90s style – uses 3D scanning, robotic arms, and an arsenal of cleaning tools to such an effect that it can clean and process a pair of Air Force 1s in an impressive 45 minutes. More than B.I.L.L.'s speed, though, it's his targeted efficiency – and the philosophy behind it from the folks at PCH – that really puts this robot ahead of the game: a quick and thorough clean-up means a shoe that once seemed ruined beyond repair (with a toothbrush and some soap) can be totally revitalized and give sneakers the TLC they need to stay in circulation for longer.
Museum of Space Available
On the face of it, Brutalism and ecology make for unlikely bedfellows – but there are plenty of examples of the green and the gray snuggling up together which prove that assumption wrong. The Barbican in London is a prime example, but Space Available's latest construction may well take the crown one day. The Museum of Space Available, which combines a previously derelict concrete structure with a facade of 200,000 waste-plastic bottles, is effectively a gallery; a platform to showcase the brand's own artistic and scientific community, pushing their behind-the-scenes efforts – in areas like radical recycling, bio-innovation and future craft – into an aesthetically striking foreground. Essentially, it's a tribute and a record of the the hard work being done right now to improve the outlook for tomorrow. Hang that in the Louvre.
Patagonia x Samsung
A collaboration of oceanic proportions – and no one saw it coming. The certified B-Corp effectively given away to charitable causes by its billionaire founder earlier this year and the South Korean technology giant; not exactly a match made in heaven at first glance. But here we are: it's a time to expect the unexpected – especially where the environment is concerned – and the two household names have come together to clean up (you guessed it) the oceans. With more effective, less polluting cleaning products and an impressive new water purifier coming from Samsung on the technology side, Patagonia is throwing its weight behind the research and building a network of likeminded and much-needed network. Not the link-up we necessarily expected this year, but absolutely one we need.
UNLESS Degenerate
In a world of rampant throw-away consumerism, you'd be forgiven for thinking that a sneaker called the "DEGENERATE" was the last thing we needed in solving that problem. Forgiven, but still wrong. The product of a heavyweight link-up between UNLESS Collective – the world's first plant-and-mineral-based fashion brand – and Natural Fiber Welding, the bio-based materials company. Using all – yes, literally all – of NFW's technology, the UNLESS DEGENERATE is a zero-waste, zero-plastic sneaker with an eye-pleasing form and high-end functionality.
Honorable Mention: Mission Deadstock
To reinvigorate the lost spirit of sneaker culture, FUTUREVVORLD launched its first real world experience, Mission: Deadstock. With the help of contributors from across the fashion and footwear industries, we curated a collection of vintage sneakers, each with their own special reason, and put them on displayed at Extra Butter’s Lower East Side store in New York City. Our goal was to retell the founding principles of sneaker culture, where stories, technology and community trumped hype, price-tags and social media clout. We wanted visitors to see the importance of connecting with the products we buy, however we do, as a means to fight overconsumption. We may not have changed the game that weekend, but we did inspire some friendly patrons who stopped in and chatted sneakers with us. If there's anything to take away from Mission Deadstock, it's wear your kicks, connect with your kicks, and love your kicks.