TOAST Magazine

Veja: An Honest Company

STYLE & STORIES

We’re very glad to have come across Veja, a company who combine high social and environmental standards with contemporary, everyday style. Founded in Paris in 2004 by Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion, Veja was born out a desire for a new kind of fashion – an ethically strong kind that would respect both the environment and human rights.

The company’s back-story is a fascinating one. Childhood friends Sébastien and François studied economics and management before beginning their careers at American banks. After just a few months, they realised that the world they wanted to shape was difficult to grasp from within these organisations. So they quit their jobs and instead offered their services to large French companies, travelling the world to audit corporate social and environmental projects. They visited Chinese factories, South-African mines and the Amazon rainforest looking for solutions to the problems of our times: massive deforestation, exhaustion of natural resources and labour exploitation...

During this time they worked with the French fair trade food brand Alter Eco, which, among other things, sources palm hearts from Brazil. They were intrigued and impressed with the way the company managed to simultaneously sustain livelihoods, preserve the environment and create a viable product for the French market. Suddenly Sébastien and François found their values and career ambitions could combine. Veja was the logical result: a new kind of fashion business with a radically different approach to production and sourcing. The pair had both been trainer fanatics since their teens, so they choose to begin with these and in 2004 they returned to Brazil to meet associations of small-scale producers. What became the backbone of the Veja project – an ecological and solidarity chain of production – was begun.

Now, working with cooperatives and social associations in Brazil and at home in France, Veja’s range of trainers, plimsolls, bags and wallets are made using organic cotton, wild Amazonian rubber and vegetable-tanned leather. They transport their products by boat from Brazil to Le Havre, and then on to Paris by canal boat, where they are packed into recycled boxes. The consequence of this care and attention to detail is a production cost that is three or four times higher than most other footwear products, however to achieve their ambition of keeping costs low for their customers they off-set this with a strict no advertising policy.

We have been both astonished and inspired by the clarity of Veja’s production, their commitment to ethics at every level, and their honesty and transparency about those areas they can’t yet affect. Very importantly, we also love their designs – what they make looks great and works well: light, comfortable, chic shoes and simple, practical, colourful accessories.

In 2012, Veja sold 120,000 pairs of trainers in 21 countries, which corresponds to 23,000kg of organic cotton and more than 11,000kg of wild rubber from the Amazon.

Shop the Veja collection here.

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