Now, the sustainable shoe company’s done the seemingly impossible: Made corn—a vegetable most known for getting stuck in your teeth—into a sleek, stylish sneaker. (That A-plus alliteration was deliberate.)
So how did corn—again, a generally messy vegetable that our bodies can’t even properly digest—become such a chic shoe? I mean, look at these. Would you ever think corn? No. But corn, as it turns out, is a really durable and sustainable material for manufacturing shoes. “Campo is made from a canvas waxed with 50 percent corn waste from the food industry—the husks that humans do not eat—mixed with polyurethane,” explains Veja’s co-founder Sébastien Kopp, who started the brand with François Morillion. Polyurethane (or PU), in case you were wondering, is a leather alternative.
Together, the combo is called CWL, and it’s a bio-sourced material that’s also 63 percent biodegradable, Kopp and Morillion explain. The brand spent five years searching for an alternative to leather. They discovered CWL two years ago at a factory in Italy. “As always, when entering this industry, we want to follow the supply chain closely,” Morillion say. This meant running a bunch of tests and going to Italy to visit the factory twice.
“It’s nearly impossible to describe with words,” he continues. “It feels incredibly similar to leather in terms of touch and elasticity. It’s hard to believe it isn’t the real thing.” CWL is a bit of an overachiever—in addition to mimicking the look and feel of leather, it’s also tougher than animal hide. Plus, it’s a lot easier to keep clean—an important point given that all the Campo sneakers ($142) are white with muted accent colors—mustard yellow, rust red, navy, and dove grey. Of course, I had to ask if there was anything funky you need to do to keep such optic white sneakers in their original state. Luckily, simply using soap and water will work. “We believe it is going to be more durable than traditional leather, which is quite a fragile material,” Kopp says.
Because of this, he says that he and Morillion hope to work with CWL even more moving forward. “Launching the Campo is not the end of the development process, rather, it’s only the beginning, as we continue to make improvements to aspects like sourcing,” they tell me. While we all wait to see what innovations Veja comes up with next, I’ll be over here practicing not sounding smug when I say, “Thanks, they’re sustainably made from corn,” in response to the inevitable compliments these sneakers will draw.
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