Having just released a collaboration with IWC and Gisele Bundchen, Natural Fiber Welding is back with yet another joint project, this time with vegan footwear brand Brave GentleMan. Taking its newest material out for another spin, NFW and Brave GentleMan have launched the Brave GentleMan x MIRUM capsule collection. Creatively led by Joshua Katcher, the collection features wallets, belts and footwear, all made with MIRUM.
The focal material is an innovative, low-carbon, all-natural textile, developed by Natural Fiber Welding. It lends itself to multiple applications with its versatility, and it has the ability to replicate the look of an array of different materials, such as leather and carbon fiber. With MIRUM, the lifecycle of the pieces are much more considerate for the planet, being possible to either recycle them into new MIRUM textile or returned to the earth.
Brave GentleMan was created in 2010 with the goal of delivering expertly-crafted, vegan footwear to the market, and since then, it has created an impressive array of styles, which are now being redesigned in MIRUM. Alongside all its classics, the brand is introducing a brand new style, the Sculpture Sneaker. Imagined by Katcher, the shoe has an original 3D designed sole and also has an injection-molded, fairly harvested natural rubber, and a cork insole. These will be manufactured in Brazil at a cutting-edge all-vegan shoe factory.
This collaboration has been a long time coming, with the Brave GentleMan designer having been attentively following NFW’s growth. We got to ask Head Designer, Joshua Katcher, about the whole experience of developing this capsule collection, so we’ll let him tell the story.
How did the collaboration come about?
I’d been writing about all of the exciting developments in circumfaunal materials for years (I coined the term circumfauna to describe the macroeconomic phenomena of bypassing animal inputs), teaching about them at Parsons, and including them in my book Fashion Animals. Natural Fiber Welding was a company whose progress I’d been following closely, so when I reached out to them about doing something together (in March of 2020, of all times) it felt like the culmination of something very exciting!
What was it like to work with NFW?
NFW was responsive, engaged and offered a lot of support and expertise when it came to prototyping with MIRUM. It felt like we were doing more than just operating as business and supplier. Instead, we were sharing a passion for the design application of sustainable, beautiful and high-performance materials and now we’re both excited to see MIRUM out in the world.
How does MIRUM feel, wear, perform, etc?
Before I received any swatches or samples, I was suspicious – I wondered if a plastic-free, animal-free vegan leather was too good to be true? But once a prototype was made, I knew that at least it could look good. Then I started wear-testing my prototype Advocate Tassel Loafers and Sculpture Sneakers about 6 months ago, and while I don’t wear them every day, they have held up really well and the material softens and breaks in with with use and age.
How do we get consumers to consider more sustainable footwear options?
First and foremost, we have to lead with design – both with familiar classics and inspiring creations. If consumers can identify with not just the way a product looks and performs, but how that product was made, then I think we have successfully answered the question of “what is good design today?”
And what challenges do we face in making this happen?
There are powerful industries who don’t want solutions like MIRUM or brands like Brave GentleMan to exist. Whether it is a lack of meaningful fashion legislation or the marketing of false binaries (the most popular being that we must choose between “authentic” animal skins and “fake” plastic), many people are getting heaps of misinformation and disinformation about material impacts, especially on social media. Unfortunately, a lot of that disinformation originates from industries that profit from maintaining harmful supply chains and is then shared by well-meaning people.
Regarding the footwear and fashion industries, what’s making you optimistic?
It’s all the innovation that is happening! It feels like we’re entering a bio-based materials renaissance that will surely lead to visionary solutions and mind-bending design outcomes. We’re just scratching the surface.
You can pre-order the collection now at bravegentleman.com.