Veja is the traceable trainer brand leading the way for sustainable sneakers

Veja: leading the way for sustainable sneakers

Veja is the traceable trainer brand leading the way for sustainable sneakers

By Fiona Ward

Thankfully, sustainable trainer brands are much more prevalent now than they used to be – but one of the first labels to break through the likes of Adidas and Nike as a mainstream option was Veja, the French sneakers with their signature ‘V’ panel.

Launching back in 2004, it wasn’t until 2018 when Veja trainers became the casual footwear of choice for millions, after Meghan Markle was pictured wearing a pair of the brand’s V-10 styles at the Invictus Games alongside Prince Harry. Since then, Veja has seen incredible growth, with the likes of Kate Middleton, Emily Ratajkowski and Reese Witherspoon jumping on the hype.

But despite this, Veja co-founders Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion hadn’t spent any budget on marketing – and have never gifted celebrities their product, they say in interviews.

Of their sudden viral success back in 2018, Kopp told Harper’s Bazaar in 2022: “[it wasn’t] sad, but … it meant something about our society,” adding: “we didn’t go out to do this at all.”

Both founders are firm on the fact that main focus of Veja is its ethical compass. “We like to be proud of ourselves in the mirror and know that there [are] no atrocities in the supply chain,” said Kopp.

Impressively, the brand has only become more transparent about its sustainability initiatives. Since Veja’s core trainers are made of leather, the brand has openly stated that it aims to continually improve its processes – and for maximum transparency and traceability, it now shares all details with the customer, from farm to tannery.

Veja’s core leather is an ‘Organic Traced’ leather from Uruguay, while it also sources bovine leather from Brazil. All leathers are tanned using chrome-free methods with low water consumption, at Leather Working Group gold-certified tanneries. The brand is now committed to traceability, too, mapping all the farms it works with to ensure it is not sourcing cattle from the deforested Amazon region. Most of VEJA’s leather is farmed on the Pampa biome in South America.

The brand also uses organic cotton and Amazonian rubber to craft its sneakers, sourced in Brazil – where its fair-trade factories are also based. While most of the world’s trainers are manufactured in Southeast Asia, where working conditions are often considered to be poorer, Veja has adamantly kept its production in Brazil, which has stricter labour laws for workers.

Since its humble beginnings, Veja has gone on to introduce countless new innovations – from recycled material-based running sneakers to designer collaborations with the likes of Marni and Rick Owens. As for where the brand is going next, the founders are pretty adamant on the fact that the future isn’t up for discussion. “We’re growing, but we don’t care about it. We didn’t do Veja for the money. So if Veja stays the same for 10 years, we don’t care,” Kopp has said.

And while I’m not 100% sold that’s entirely true, Veja’s commitment to ethical growth has to be admired. ‘The Meghan effect’, or not.