When brands (and there are many of them) affix terms like “natural,” “organic,” and “fair trade” to their products, it’s easy to get lost in the translation of copy, certifications, and, unfortunately, rampant greenwashing. How does one know what’s been truly made with environmentally friendly and ethical practices? You go straight to the source (and no, I’m not talking about the local storefront or even the warehouse filled with e-tail goods). That’s exactly what Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion, the founders of sustainable sneaker brand Veja, do with their partners and cotton producers in Brazil.
If you aren’t familiar with the French sustainable sneaker brand (pronounced: “vay-zhuh,”), odds are you’ve likely seen the sleek, stylish, and classic sneakers—recognized by the brand’s signature V on the sides—out and about. Or, at the very least, you’ve clocked them on stylish celebrities including Emily Ratajkowski, Katie Holmes, Kate Middleton, and Meghan Markle, who seemingly can’t stop wearing them. (To be honest, neither can I.)
Yes, Veja’s made a name for itself thanks to its long list of A-list fans, but what keeps those fans—as well as the rest of the brand’s large consumer base—coming back is its comfortable fit and responsible practices, many of which start from the literal ground up. Take Veja’s organic cotton, for example. You, as the wearer, might not see or feel a difference, but its impact is significant.
Veja works with small, family-owned cotton producers through Associação de Desenvolvimento Educacional e Cultural de Tauá (ADEC), an organization that only works with farmers who don’t use pesticides in their fields. Farmers are encouraged to go without pesticides to create safer, healthier environments for themselves and their families. Plus, while other areas of agriculture pay farmers based on the resulting amount of product, the price for ADEC organic cotton is agreed upon before planting, which means the farmers have more security in their work. That cotton is then worked into Veja’s shoelaces, mesh netting, liners, and even its insoles. For me as a fashion editor, that’s the icing on the cake of what’s already a stellar shoe.
I recently wore Veja’s Dekkan sneakers on an excursion, and they’ve since become the best walking shoes I’ve ever worn. This particular style has a toe box that suits my foot’s needs for extra room, without the rest of the shoe feeling like it’s going to fall off my heel. Thanks to the sneaker’s Vibram sole, there’s plenty of traction, which I discovered while hiking the side of a mountain. I also love the cushion you feel with each step; it’s enough to notice significant shock absorption as well as stability—you hardly feel the ground beneath your feet. (They certainly aren’t a pair of cloud slides, but that’s a good thing in this case!) Suffice to say, you’ll be able to stay on your feet for literal hours when you’re wearing Vejas.
If you’re planning to add Vejas to your collection of cool sneakers, there’s only one thing I’d advise you keep in mind: sizing. Veja’s sizing can be inconsistent. In the case of the Dekkans, I opted for the next size up from my traditional size as advised on the product page, which felt great on my feet. However, as I’ve checked other styles like the celebrity-loved Esplar, some reviewers shared that the leather sneaker runs large while others felt they were true-to-size. Either way, it’d be smart to prepare yourself for a potential size swap. Once you’ve discovered your perfect size, these shoes are well worth the closet space.
In case you couldn’t tell, I could wax poetic about these shoes—and not just the shoes themselves. Veja crafts sneakers that are stylish and well-made, while maintaining an ethos for better production, from soil to shoe. What’s not to love about that?