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Sustainable Fashion

Cole Haan Just Made a Shoe Out of Dandelions, And It’s a First-of-Its-Kind Move in the Sustainable Fashion Scene

First we had thrift stores, then we had new clothes made out of old clothes, and then we got new clothes made out of recycled materials like water bottles. And now? The latest material vying for space in your sustainable capsule wardrobe is... dandelions.

Yep, the whimsical weed is a secret eco-friendly powerhouse—and Cole Haan is making it the star of your new go-to pair of sneakers: The Generation ZERØGRAND II. The sustainable shoe uses Cole Haan's FlowerFoam™ material—made from a minimum of 25 percent natural dandelion rubber—to create a light-as-air outsole that puts a literal spring in your step.

What makes dandelions so sustainable, you ask? It comes down to turning something unwanted (like recycled water bottles or pesky weeds littering your lawn) into something fashionable (like the latest sneakers in your closet).

"Dandelions for most people are a nuisance—so it's finding a good use for an otherwise unwanted weed," says Scott Patt, chief creative officer at Cole Haan. "I think the great thing about dandelions, and the creation of dandelion rubber, is that dandelions are a renewable resource. So many of the places that dandelions grow are places that other crops and things can't grow. "

As the inaugural shoe of Cole Haan's Change Forward™ initiative for Sustainable Innovation and Natural Design—the company’s blueprint for actively seeking out naturally derived or recycled materials for its products—the sneakers put the brand's ability to combine style, performance, and sustainability on display. “The Generation ZERØGRAND II for us was a culmination of all of those things coming together,” Patt says. The results? Airy, soft-soled sneakers that make every step you take a little more comfortable, fashionable, and sustainable.

1. They're seriously stylish

If you've been thinking about joining the fashionably green club, there's really no better place to start than with your shoes (they are the foundation of every outfit, after all). But the key here is fashionably green, which is why Patt says the best way to get more people on board with sustainable fashion is by starting with style.

“I think the simple answer is style," he says. "You’re going to lead with the fact that you want to look good, regardless.” He recommends starting your planet-friendly wardrobe with staple items that connect to your daily life—like a pair of wear-with-everything sneakers in a sleek silhouette and neutral color palette.

2. Multiple mindful materials

The lightweight FlowerFoam™ isn’t the only conscious material in the Generation ZERØGRAND II. The upper part of the shoe is composed of 21 percent recycled content (like vegan microsuede fiber) and reconstituted felt fabric—known as rPET—made of 85 percent recycled bottles, Patt says. (FYI: The laces are 100 percent rPET, too). “We're also planning into the future of more sustainable models," he says. "So as a brand, we're continuing to deliver on that promise to be more conscious with the things that we're making elsewhere.”

3. The packaging is conscious, too

While the sneakers are leading the charge for impact, Patt notes that the more sustainable packaging was implemented years before the sustainable shoe was ever conceptualized. “Our packaging is made of a minimum of 75 percent post-consumer recycled cardboard,” Patt says. “We also eliminated any plastics from that packaging.” Here's to less plastic, and more dandelions.

Top photo: Cole Haan and Well+Good Creative

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