Fish-based kicks quietly winning the eco-friendly sneaker game

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In Paris, shoe brand Veja is pulling out all the stops to create sustainable sneakers. While major brands Nike and Reebok are focusing on recycled plastics and corn-based materials, respectively, Veja’s feedstock slate includes sources as outlandish as tilapia.

The company sources wild latex from the Amazon; plastic bottle mesh from Santo Andre; and leather made from the skins of farm-raised tilapia. Every pair requires nine of the fish skins, the company says. It also uses fair trade cotton, vegan suede, and sustainably sourced rubber.

The company has been relatively quiet, however, preferring to offset the higher cost of its materials by saving on advertising costs. “Veja means ‘look’ in Portuguese and we want customers to look beyond the sneakers, to how they are made and by whom,” says Veja founder Sebastien Kopp.