VEJA is in a state of constant transformation, and we're aware of the limits inherent to the project itself.
ADEC organic and agro-ecological cotton bales. Ceará, 2016
© Studio VEJA
© Cédric Amiot
Drought and insect attacks limit the production of organic cotton. In 2015 and 2016, we had to use recycled cotton as an alternative.
Since 2017, all the cotton we use is organic. And to diversify production sources, we now also work with Peruvian producers.
Since VEJA started, we have always tried to stick to banks that don't have branches in tax havens. Therefore, NEF has always been our partner of choice to finance our operations, and we also work with Crédit Coopératif.
On the other hand, our e-commerce website still relies on banking partners with branches in tax havens. In essence, VEJA sells all over the world, and our usual partners don't offer that level of service.
The pigments used to dye leather, rubber and cotton aren't natural products.
We used natural dyes made from plants and minerals in 2012 and 2013 on 40% of our production, but the quality of the reds wasn't up to our standards.
In order to get stable color, without fading, for now VEJA needs to use conventional dyes, which meet European REACH standards.
Why did we decide to stop renewing our Fair Trade certification ?
In 2012 and 2013, fair trade certification for our cotton branch cost 25,000 euros. During the same period, we purchased nearly 62,000 euros worth of organic cotton from the different producers we work with.
Certification cost more than 30% of the total amount, while the whole point of the VEJA project is to buy directly from cotton and rubber producers, and for as much of the economic value as possible to end up in their hands. Since 2004, the VEJA team has been managing its relationships directly with producer associations according to fair trade principles. It seemed useful to go through Max Havelaar at the time, to validate our processes and benefit from an external perspective. During our various meetings, the Max Havelaar France team was impressed by our work in the field; they would tell us: "VEJA is the only brand in the world who does that kind of work." After collaborating with them for 3 years, the certification cost made us dizzy, when it was actually the VEJA team doing the work in the field.
© Studio VEJA
The Max Havelaar certification wasn't suited to smaller producers (a production between 30 kg and 1 ton per year), which seemed like a contradiction of the idea behind fair trade: making trade with the 25% most underprivileged farmers on the planet more equitable.
We have a lot of respect for the work Max Havelaar accomplishes in the field; it simply doesn't suit our project.
So we decided to go our separate ways. However, the situation could change if Max Havelaar recalibrated their certification according to the size of the producer.
From 2008 to 2015, 100% of VEJA leather was already vegetable-tanned leather.
However, since 2015, given that the costs were prohibitive and the quality not up to par, we turned back.
Now, vegetable tanning is used on 10% of VEJA styles. All of our leathers are now tested and meet REACH standards ; they do not contain any chrome VI.
1 VEJA model out of 4
is 100% vegan.
Out of the 81 models included in the 2018 collection,
20 models 20 models don't contain any products of animal origin.
We're actively searching for an alternative to leather with environmentally friendly materials.
Selecting hides for tanning Porto Alegre, 2011
© Cédric Amiot
Esplar tongue after silkscreen printing Porto Alegre, 2015
© Studio VEJA
C.W.L is an alternative material to leather that we have been using since January 2019 on the Campo model. It is bio-sourced and composed of corn waste. After the success of the first season, our Italian partner told us he was unable to stabilize the material for a bigger production of vulcanized trainers. The vulcanization is the process of “melting” the sole to the upper by putting the shoe into an oven for 1H. On a bigger scale, the fabric was more unstable and the heat was damaging the C.W.L vegan fabric. The shoes did not pass all the physical quality tests.
After 3 months of battle, the conclusion was on the table : we were unable to produce those shoes on a bigger scale, it was one of the biggest failures of the VEJA history. But we realized that some of our best-selling shoes are not all vulcanized, some of them are just glued and sewn together. It would work with the C.W.L. So we decided to produce the Campo in a new ecological chrome free leather and to put the C.W.L vegan material on the V-10, a worldwide hit, to propose it to our clients.
Campo chromefree White Natural
© Photo Nicola Avanzinelli
© Photo Mario Simon Lafleur
Today, it is difficult to trace the corn production sector. Due to the large size of its players, the bio-plastic industry lacks transparency. We are looking for solutions to create a chain for wastes from organic farming.
We know those chains exist. But the corn and the sugar cane, cultivated with and without GMO, are often mixed during the fermentation process in the storage tanks.
Also, the C.W.L is composed of 50% polyurethane, needed for the extrusion of corn on the cotton canvas.
Working with natural materials can sometimes compromise durability. Our goal is for a pair of VEJA to last even longer.
While we're proud of our sneakers and the way we make them, other questions beg to be answered. Do we really need to buy so many pairs of shoes? We're aware our product is fashionable, but is it necessary to fetishize them in such a way? To always own the latest style?
Lookbook, Spring-Summer 2017Centre National de la Danse
© Vincent Desailly
VEJA is an LLC; the 2 founders are the sole shareholders.
In terms of governance, we have chosen to remain organized in a way that may seem old-fashioned for a growing company, since we believe democracy can become diluted under the pressures of capitalism: thus, bringing outside investors into VEJA's capital could risk undermining the project's integrity.