Footwear is in a transition, one that has seen science, design, and style come together for perfect examples of material alternatives, circulatory programs, eco-conscious versions of our favorites, and much more. It’s a true marker of what footwear can and should look like in the near future. One of the players helping move the industry in the right direction is Johan Olsson, founder of sustainable-focused luxury footwear brand Roscomar.
“Innovation is accelerating, and I think that in the next few years, we will have transitioned entirely to recycled leathers and non-petrochemical alternatives such as mushroom leather,” said Olsson told FUTUREVVORLD.
The global sneaker brand, which was founded in 2017, is continuing its Earth-friendly offerings launching a new collection of key styles, including the Court 50/50 Vegan. The animal-free model is a modern retro-inspired sneaker made entirely with plant-based and recycled materials, such as Seaqual, a yarn constructed from marine plastic waste. The Court 50/50 Vegan is Roscomar’s most sustainable model to date having the lowest cradle-to-cradle carbon footprint currently available on the market at just 5.28kg CO2e (the average being 12.5kg).
It wasn’t an easy process to attain this feat, however. “The trickiest part of creating any Roscomar sneaker is maximizing the recyclability of the overall shoe,” said Olsson. “This means that we try to mix and match materials to elevate the design but also ensure that it can be easily deconstructed and the materials can be re-used.”
“Innovation is accelerating, and I think that in the next few years, we will have transitioned entirely to recycled leathers and non-petrochemical alternatives such as mushroom leather.”
The recyclability of footwear is a big component in Roscomar’s operation. The brand emphasizes being conscientious of the birth, life, and afterlife of its shoes. This commitment for being purposeful for sneakers’ end of life comes in the form of a unique Afterlife ID, a proprietary solution which allows for the shoes to be tracked and recycled back through the brand all while ensuring no Roscomar sneaker ends up in a landfill.
“We will recycle that which can be recycled, such as rubber,” the brand says. “Natural materials such as leather, suede, and cotton, are composted or reprocessed to make new materials. We work with one of the global leaders in textile and footwear recycling who process about 35,000 pairs of shoes every day.” Owners of Roscomar shoes, including this new collection, can simply register their pair online using the ID and kick off the recycling process through free returns.
Other styles of the collection include the Court Recycled Leather, which has been constructed using leather scraps upcycled from glove manufacturing cut-offs, and bound together with latex and non-harmful chemicals. The actual breakdown of Roscomar’s recycled leather is 60% upcycled LWG-certified leather waste, 30% latex, and 10% PU compound.
The Court 50/50 rounds out the new collection and features Seaqual for the lining with portions of the upper being constructed from Econyl, a regenerate nylon made from waste and material scraps like fishing nets and carpets. Similar to the 50/50 Vegan, use of these innovative materials help reduce the Court 50/50’s carbon footprint to just 6.37kg CO2e. LWG-certified leather and suede is also used for the other 50% of the upper in order to reinforce the shoe from wear ensuring it stays in the loop as long as possible.
The three models – Court 50/50 Vegan, Court Recycled Leather, and Court 50/50 – all utilize Roscomar’s natural and recycled rubber outsoles with its midsoles made out of 69% Brazilian sugarcane and 31% EVA.
Roscomar continues to find ways to push what’s possible in materiality whether its utilizing innovative plant-based fabric or ensuring the traditional sourcing practices are done in a certified and ethical way. “[Leather] still does [have a place] today,” said Olsson. “But only as long as two things remain true: (1) it is a by-product of meat production that would happen anyway; this means that less than 10% of the income from raising cattle comes from selling leather; and (2) there is no viable alternative with the same performance qualities.”
“I think that we will increasingly shop for fashion like we do for food, drink, cars or travel – where we’re guided by provenance, composition, health and safety aspects and environmental impact.”
The future to transition to recycled and non-petro alternatives is still the ultimate goal for Olsson. It will take time for the industry to transition away from the reliance on leather, but in the meantime, brands can always do better with the means that are available. “[The industry can do better by] ensuring that any leather used has the best certifications for responsible sourcing and tanning. It’s also important to source materials close to production because a high percentage of carbon emissions in production come from shipping raw materials around the world between factories.”
As COVID affected many industries, it gave Olsson and Roscomar Creative Director Matthew Taylor a moment to pause and reassess the original form of the brand. Olsson and Taylor have committed to a new carbon-neutral model and have recruited a team of industry experts in fields of design, technical development, and branding to drive the innovation of its footwear and ways to offset its carbon footprint emissions, which it does alongside the UN program Climate Neutral Now. Roscomar also launched its Development Advisory Board earlier this year to help guide the brand through research and development efforts and topics including material innovation, sourcing, manufacturing logistics, and communications.
The future of footwear is just starting for Roscomar. The overall shoe industry has shown many of us that change is needed, but many are stepping to the plate to think smarter and bigger. Transparency and circularity are key themes for pushing footwear forward in the best way for all – it’s also what excites Olsson the most of what’s to come. “I think that we will increasingly shop for fashion like we do for food, drink, cars or travel – where we’re guided by provenance, composition, health and safety aspects and environmental impact,” said Olsson. “Recycling materials is not just necessary from a climate perspective, but it makes better business sense. We’re excited to lead the way with our Afterlife program.”
In other footwear news, adidas just released a full-recyclable Stan Smith.