Jun 06, 2023
by Karl Smith
Veshin Factory and Natural Fiber Welding Are Scaling Sustainability
by Karl Smith
Jun 06, 2023

When we think about impactful collaborations in fashion and footwear, the tendency is to think about big brands and big products. The mind immediately travels to a universe of legacy fashion houses making links with comparatively upstart streetwear brands – a place where traded logos is the pinnacle of artistry and innovation.

This, for all its baubles and its marquee names, and with a few notable exceptions, is a pretty gray place. A liminal space of sorts. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

It may seem strange, but to find collaborations that really mean something – that have the potential to really change the way we look at fashion, or even the way fashion itself works as an industry – we need to look in less obvious places. Away from the limelight. Not at end product, birthed into being more-or-less exclusively in order to feed the drop culture machine, but back at the source. The building blocks. The materials.

This, then, is where Veshin Factory and Natural Fiber Welding’s recently-revealed joint venture comes in. Rather than a brand, Veshin Factory is – as you might have guessed – a manufacturer; an outfit producing sustainably-minded, cruelty-free and planet-friendlier goods for high-end labels looking to transition their high-end products.

In this sense, there is no “drop” associated with the collaboration – no “big reveal,” per se. Instead, what this represents is an effort to do good rather than be seen to be doing good – or even just to be seen. As a white label offering, the Veshin Factory x NFW catalog isn’t a direct-to-consumer event but, rather, geared towards providing the best possible leather alternative to Veshin’s current client base of brands and to the industry beyond those names.

In this case, that material is NFW’s flagship product – the animal and plastic-free leather alternative known as MIRUM.

Rather than show, this is about scale. It may seem less exciting on the face of it, but scale is an issue frequently cited by animal-derived leather proponents who claim that plant-based or bio-based or otherwise alternative leather options cannot be produced at the volume and the price point the industry requires. Taking that question out of the equation altogether is a huge step forward.

The catalog includes more or less every kind of leather accessory you could think of – from bags and wallets to dog collars (the kind for dogs, not people, although to each their own) – but with the added benefit of being more environmentally friendly and without a hint of animal cruelty.

On its dedicated MIRUM page, the Veshin Factory website bears the tagline “More good, not less bad.” In producing these in-demand goods through a more sustainable process and with next-gen materials subbed in, it’s fair to say they’re making good on that.

To mark the launch, FVV spoke to Veshin founder and co-owner Joey Pringle and Natural Fiber Welding founder and CEO Luke Haverhals about its potential impact, alignment on philosophy, and a better future for the fashion industry.

Let’s talk about MIRUM. Of all the animal-free materials on the market (fruit leathers, cactus leather, etc.), why go with MIRUM?

Joey Pringle: Our goal at Veshin is to transition a pre-existing leather goods factory to a soley alternative leather factory. We were starting to notice a lack of enthusiasm for materials that used PU & petrochemicals in their composition. In addition the industry now really is putting its foot down on the “Vegan” messaging in fashion, knowing “Vegan” is just a cover up to sell PU.

Lastly the next generation material movement is very exciting however not many companies are commercially ready. With the word “Vegan” in fashion now being deemed as simple greenwashing we needed to find a solution for our clients that was animal free, plastic free, void of greenwashing terminology & commercially ready. Enter MIRUM that solved this equation.

Luke Haverhals: NFW has built roll-to-roll MIRUM production and we will be fulfilling orders in the second half of 2023 with this new production capability. The roll-to-roll proofs coming from Peoria are now also enabling giant manufacturing partners (e.g., in Asia) to adopt production globally.

All of this will feed the NFW x Veshin partnership. Together, NFW and Veshin have created a vertically integrated model that enables brands to efficiently scale like never before…and is only possible because of the combination of: performance x volume x cost points that meet market and consumer needs.

Is there a philosophical or ideological link here, then, between Veshin and NFW? One that perhaps isn’t quite as strong with other brands?

JP: The biggest connection between Luke & I is that we are both looking to scale our companies. We understand the roles both companies play and that both companies are dependent on each other to do this. Our holistic goals are different. Veshin is transitioning away from leather whereas NFW is tackling the plastic issue.

Veshin is not limited to just one material, but the industry is demanding one solution which MIRUM answers. We believe through our partnership we can open more doors quicker to multiple sectors rather than both waiting for the industry to slowly adopt.

The saying is you can lead the horse to the water but you cant make him drink it. Before we were both waiting for the horses to get to the water and now we have brought the horse to the water together. If the horse drinks it that’s the big question now for both companies, but we are quietly confident.

These aren’t bags and accessories churned out at speed or without thought; they’re proof, in a sense, that “next-generation” materials and processes don’t necessarily mean the end of craftsmanship or artisanal heritage by any means.

JP: The Veshin model is not artisanal but heavily craftsmanship. At this early stage it’s fundamental that next generation materials have dedicated experts specializing in making the materials work.

I think one of the issues with why fashion is so slow to adopt is that they are trying to push the process through factories that don’t have our mindset to transition from leather to next gen. Many factories lose patience because they don’t have the passion for alternative leather. After a couple of bad trials they go back to what they know best. Which is why to me it’s vital that next generation suppliers work very closely with experts in manufacturing before even bringing brands into the equation.

This is proven now through the Veshin Factory x NFW partnership. This has been almost 2 years of R&D to ensure MIRUM is performing at its highest in the accessories world.

What does this mean in terms of scaling MIRUM to a wider market?

JP: We strategically designed the catalogue to allow fashion brands small, medium and large to get quick access to MIRUM to test their markets by setting a low MOQ & controlled price point. However what we are also excited about now is stretching into new markets. The catalogue can now be adopted by home & pet markets as well as cooperate gifting & traditional white label for retailers.

LH: Scale always has an impact. Positive impact cannot happen without scale. NFW and Veshin have teamed up to create positive impact through scale that delivers what brands require such that consumers get what they want – but without the negative externalities. The Veshin catalogue is evidence of our desire to ‘be’ and ‘do’ the change we wish to have happen in the world.

The public-facing impact of a white-label project like this is fairly low-key compared to a marquee-name Brand adopting MIRUM because of its industry-side nature, but a project like this has much wider implications than people will realize.

JP: As much as a marquee-names create a big splash its not relatable to the majority of the industry. Brands are left a bit deflated saying how do we get access. Now the catalogue is accessible to all. The momentum of producing multiple collections quickly proves that both NFW & Veshin are commercially ready companies. No games, no marketing hype but a party that everyone can be a part of!

LH: This (NFW x Veshin) is a huge moment because of what it means for the ‘next gen’ materials market/space. MIRUM the first truly zero-plastic, regenerative material available with the combination of performance x volume x cost points that meet market and consumer needs. There are many websites claiming ‘next gen’ materials that are “coming soon”, but without specifying pricing which is telling with regard to true availability, performance and ability to scale (through normative pricing).

Veshin Factory x NFW are, together, making products available to the market TODAY because we are checking all of the relevant boxes for designers and brands.

Visit the Veshin Factory website to browse the full VF x NFW catalog and explore the offering in full.