Sustainable shoe brand Thousand Fell’s mission is clear: close the loop in the footwear industry and never send another sneaker to the landfill. It’s a grand goal that’s not only necessary but also easier said than done, as we’ve seen with many brands. Despite the presumably long road to full circularity, Thousand Fell has been making strides with its natural and plant-based materials, vegan design, and formalized takeback program led by exclusive partnerships with recycling and supply chain partners. The brand’s newest addition to its sneaker lineup is its first fully recyclable model, the retro-inspired Court.
Currently available in six different color combinations – White; Black and White; White and Black; Washed Acid; White, Ed Grey, and Washed Acid; White, Black, Kelly Green – the Court ($110 USD + $20 recycling deposit) combines the design sensibilities of a basketball high top while maintaining the functionally and ankle exposure similar to a low top tennis trainer. It’s what Thousand Fell refers to it as a “classic built for the street, recreated to be recycled.”
The new Thousand Fell Court uses a durable and breathable bio-leather alternative fabric made from recycled plastic bottles, which is also coated with a bio-based resin made from corn waste. The entire upper is then coated with natural quartz to withstand stains and water. Recycled PET is also used to develop the shoes tonal flat laces.
A plush insole constructed from recycled rubber yoga mats provides comfort, support, and cushioning for all-day wear, and the innerlining uses a soft mesh liner coated with aloe vera for a fresh, antimicrobial treatment if wearers want to go sockless. The outsole and back heel is both made from recycled rubber sourced from a net zero emissions natural rubber supplier, as the brand notes. The shoe’s structural and support details, which are traditionally plastic-based, are constructed using plant-based materials sourced from Brazil such as renewable coconut husks, flexible sugarcane fibers, and minimal water consuming palm leaf fibers.
Thousand Fell shoes are designed in New York City by a team led by co-founders Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum and made in a family owned factory in Franca, Brazil with three decades of high end shoemaking experience. The brand aims to only use materials that can either biodegrade, be recycled to make new shoes, or be upcycled into materials for new projects. “We’re dedicated to push circularity and responsible design mainstream. Our team has more than five decades of combined experience at the cutting edge of the footwear industry,” the brand states on its site. The team of industry experts are committed to creating products with end-of-life in mind.
Along with the new Court sneaker, Thousand Fell’s other innovations toward footwear circularity include the brand’s recently launched digital recycling program called SuperCircle. The new experimental platform allows customers to easily register, track, and recycle their worn Thousand Fell sneakers and earn $20 back towards their next pair. The brand states, “All new Thousand Fell sneakers now include NFC tags that allow the brand to streamline the recycling process and for customers to track the recycling journey of their worn sneakers through end of life.” Thousand Fell has also developed a proprietary reverse logistics infrastructure in order to properly recapture and recycle clothing at scale. Last year, the brand finalized an exclusive partnership with private recycling company TerraCycle and supply chain management company UPS to power the takeback program.
“By driving a continued drumbeat of conversation, it keeps customers engaged. They send it back and they stay with Thousand Fell,” said Songer told WWD. “The more units we’re able to drive through, the more efficient our systems can be.” Ahlum also added, “One of the biggest costs is how you collect product back one for one. Fifteen years ago, no one did that. The next 15 years are really going to be the reverse of that. This isn’t like a resale or rental platform where you’re grading sneakers that come back…What we’re trying to figure out is this equation: How does it make sense for retail businesses to do this and drive top-line revenue?” Thousand Fell’s pledge to help end textile waste by redefining the footwear industry through circularity is a large effort meant for even greater impact on the global retail industry.
In other footwear news, designer Stella McCartney and international soccer star Paul Pogba co-created adidas’ first-ever vegan soccer boot.