Juicy Sneak Couture: Veganism’s Entry Into The Sneaker Business

Juicy Sneak Couture: Veganism’s Entry Into The Sneaker Business

From materials including grape leather and corn-waste leather to pineapple leather, here is a juicy edit of plant-based, vegan sneakers that are flagbearers of sustainability.

In this vast digital landscape with umpteen branches of social media platforms, new terminologies are coined and popularised every day. No, we are not talking about FOMO, IRL, ngl, tbh, AMA, or s2g. I mean it was fine till regular mentions of languishing, greenwashing, bigotry, and more were spotted but veganism in sneakers? We have to admit, it felt a little outdated to not know that, triggering an urge for a quick brush up.

It’s no secret that we have successfully scarred our planet as consumerism clad us in insanely expensive animal fur, uprooting hauntingly riveting flora and fauna to make space for our duplexes and disrupting animal habitat with capitalist infrastructures. Sorry (not sorry) for the attack but a quick privilege check never hurt anyone, right? So, veganism came into place to eschew the usage of animal products and obstruct their commodification which sadly runs rampant in today’s society.

Animal usage has been an essential part of fashion ever since expensive fur became a status symbol, a leather jacket made you a bike-riding pop star and extravagant elephant tusks became high fashion. With fashion on its way to make amends, coming-of-age designers bred from a digital environment of hyper knowledge, bombarded with the deteriorating impacts of fashion brought the concept of veganism in sneakers. We promise it’s not as creepy as it may sound.

Vegan sneakers are essentially stitched from using plant-based materials or from synthetic materials like polyurethane (PU), microfibre, and rubber that leave little to no carbon footprint, making Gen Z’s sneaker obsession as earth-friendly as it can be. So, what makes these sneakers vegan is that they have successfully divorced themselves from using animal-related products like leather, suede, or wool. And don’t worry, vegan sneakers are as dipped in finesse as your jane doe Yeezys with little to no compromise in the physical appearance. A little unbelievably too-good-to-be-true? (*coughs trust issues coughs*) By all means, check out these revolutionary and path-breaking vegan lines from brands most associated with the drip culture.

1. Veja

Clear-cut finishing, muted color palettes, supreme craftsmanship, minimal, geometrical details, and of course, ethical sourcing practices paint a fair image of the French footwear brand, Veja. The brand has fabricated a stand-out image of responsibility by releasing sustainable, animal-free sneakers using organic cotton and even recycled plastic bottles.

Making a comeback into the vegan sneaker game in their Fall/Winter collection of 2020, Veja concocted a line made from veggie scraps. The Urca, made from corn waste leather is a sustainable cousin of the brand’s classic V-12 leather trainers. To clear out the jargon, corn waste leather is a biodegradable material is extracted from a waved canvas of 50% corn waste, emanating from the worldwide food business. Apart from the body of the shoes, the laces are made from 100% organic cotton to further shift into the sustainability specter.

2. Nike

Hoarding a bag of ammo filled with Jordans and Air Force 1s, Nike still does not stop from dropping bomb sneakers every now and then. Nike adopted sustainability way before it became a buzzword in fashion but misses a shot or two still, like when it received backlash for using kangaroo leather. Moving on, Nike already has 9 sustainable sneakers including two Air Max 95s, two pairs of the Blakers Mid ‘77 Vintage, and more, in the cards for 2021, stitched with Nike Grind outsoles and recycled synthetic leather.

Nike being the opportunist it is, snatched the first-ever collaboration with the new-generation vegan pineapple leather brand Piñatex, inaugurating the vegan Happy Pineapple trainer collection. Drenched in five vivacious hues, it features timeless Nike Air Max 90s, the Air Max 95s, and the Air-Zoom Type. Fun fact: Piñatex leather promised to be derived from 95% renewable resources, using pineapple leaves. And yes, the collection is exactly as, pardon the pun, juicy as it sounds.


PANGAIA is called by multiple names - a material science company or sustainable lifestyle brand or a global collective using bio-engineered materials. PANGAIA is taking the sustainability game up a notch with their collections using bio-based, recycled fibers from recycled plastic bottles and using natural botanical dyes to keep it fresh for longer. Their recent venturing into the sneaker business caused quite some uproar.

With a minimalist design, available in only black and white, emblazoned with its classic text aesthetic, PANGAIA launched no-waste vegan sneakers made of grape leather last year. The idea of grape leather originated from the wine waste in Italy including grape stalks, skins, and seeds that PANGAIA decided to morph into wearable art. The grape leather covers the upper, lining, and insole of the sneakers. With a 100% recycled rubber sole, bio-based water glue, and natural cotton laces with 100% recycled plastic ends, making it undeniably impressive eco-fashion.

4. Thousand Fell

Only three years old, the New York-based start-up, Thousand Fell is already marching to close up the loop in the sneaker business and championing circularity. Thousand Fell has successfully engineered the world’s first totally recyclable shoe, pieced together from biodegradable, recycled waste and plant-based materials.

“Each pair combines thoughtful design with modern and sustainably sourced materials, making them durable, comfortable, and recyclable. Our products are made to last – and built to recycle,”

Thousand Fell

As a cherry on top, their recycling program refurbished old sneakers given by customers in exchange for gift cards and offers them to underprivileged communities or are taken in for upcycling.

5. Native

The Canadian footwear brand, Native separates itself from the herd with its “Beast Free” motto which translates into a loud declaration that it does not use animal-derived materials on any of its shoes.

Their infamous Plant Shoe made from plant-based fibers, which they made abundantly clear from the name, other than being 100% compostable also assigns no gender to the sneakers. The biodegradable “modern sneaker” has components like a eucalyptus lasting board, natural latex-based glue, pineapple husk, and organic cotton upper and shoelaces. And finally, when you’ve flaunted them off on your ‘Grams to death and worn them out completely, you can bury them in a compost bin where they’ll decompose quietly.

The hypebeast culture as glamorous as it is has a dark underbelly with almost 300 million pairs of shoes ending up dead in landfills annually. As extravagantly expensive as your sneakers might be, they come with a higher price tag that costs the environment more than we can imagine. Veganism in sneakers hence acts as a safe keeper of true sustainability against supposedly sustainable leather materials which are masqueraded as natural.

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