Oct 17, 2023
by Karl Smith
With Its Latest Shoe, Flamingos Life Is Elevating Plant-Based Sneakers
by Karl Smith
Oct 17, 2023

Not to talk down the industry at-large, but Flamingos Life is that rarest combination of things when it comes to Earth-friendlier footwear: not only well-made and well-intentioned, but also well-communicated and well-designed. Essentially, the Spain-based outfit is a good all-round brand that, without a hint of crustiness of sanctimony is cultivating a worldwide community, and which – in terms of aesthetics and “vibe” – easily has the potential to compete in the much broader sneaker sphere, along with the biggest of names.

What Flamingos Life has on those other brands, though, those household names which benefit from the status quo, is the desire for change – to reimagine the footwear industry for better. And its latest offering – a high-top sneaker in four low-key colorways – is a showcase for this and for all of those qualities listed above.

“Elevate is our latest collection, reimagining the classic basket kicks of the 90s,” explains Alejandro González, the brand’s Chief Marketing Officer. “A new silhouette made from innovative plant-based materials, the upper of the sneaker is made from corn waste, a material developed from a non-food part of the plant, used as the base to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to leather. The inner lining is made from bamboo, an easy-to-grow plant that requires no chemicals or pesticides and that absorbs greenhouse gases. Other parts of the sneakers are made from organic cotton and nylon made from plastic bottles.”

The result of what González describes is a sleek, minimal shoe that avoids falling into the trap of reinventing the wheel: in tapping the basketball-style silhouette, Flamingos Life isn’t so much courting nostalgia as it is showing an understanding of what consumers want – essentially, something that looks and feels familiar but which, at the same time, offers something new. Something better, even.

“Our intention is to create a sneaker made from 100% plant-based materials because plants are the most sustainable resource there is and the key to reducing our footprint. We use innovative materials such as corn, bamboo and cotton as a base. The properties of these plants themselves and the processes involved allow us to drastically reduce our impact in terms of water use, greenhouse gas emissions and fossil resources consumption,” González tells FUTUREVVORLD, offering an insight into what makes the “Elevate” sneaker a worthwhile product in a world where overproduction and newness are a huge part of the problem.

With this in mind, while sensible, Earth-minded people will tell you that new products aren’t the answer – that we need less, not more, in order to alleviate the environmental stressors on our planet in any measure way – brands like Flamingos Life are able to demonstrate how that isn’t quite so black and white. For starters, it has only six available silhouettes – including “Elevate” – and steers clear of the hype-and-drop machinations plaguing footwear. In using mostly plant-based materials and only (very minimal) recycled plastics, the brand is also able to demonstrate a better, more sustainable mode of production.

The fact is, bigger brands aren’t planning to suddenly cut back and rethink the ways they work – there is, realistically, no chance of an immediate switch between the industry we have now and the better, more progressive industry that we’d like to see happening overnight.

Yes, all-in-all, we need less – but we also need better, more mindful and more circularity-oriented solutions. And, when it comes to footwear, Flamingos Life is leading the way on that change. Not only in terms of eco-friendlier credentials, but also in terms of the essential human element. “The Elevate collection is made in a small town in northern Portugal,” González notes, discussing the shoe’s production. “Safe and fair working conditions are maintained throughout the process. Experienced craftsmen involved in the production are paid a living wage and have the right to paid holidays. The facilities where the sneakers are made have all the latest safety measures in place to ensure the wellbeing of the workers.”

And, while it isn’t perfect, it is a step forward. We need to keep taking those.

The “Elevate” sneaker – which comes in “White,” “Vanilla Navy,” “Cocoa,” and “Burgundy” – is available now, directly from Flamingos Life and priced at $190 USD (down from $240) in the mid-season sale.