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Christine de Leon

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Sustainable and Ethical: Trainers that Don't Cost the Earth

Posted: 04/11/2011 23:00

I've always been a fan of Adidas Originals, in particular the Gazelle because of its early hip-hop aesthetic. The Chuck Taylor All-Star was definitely a wardrobe staple for many years.

But when I think of the monolithic sportswear brands and their highly questionable supply chains, I just have to resign myself to the fact that the Gazelle and the Chuck T. are both one of those "It was great while it lasted, and even though you're still hot, it just isn't working for me anymore," relationships. Thankfully, there are some great trainers to move toward. At the heart of these brands are ethical and sustainable principles and their green cred makes them very sexy indeed.

Ethletic have been ripping off the iconic Chuck Taylor All-Star silhouette for a number of years now and they do it so well. These ethical fashion trainers are made from certified organic and Fairtrade cotton and the fairly traded rubber soles are certified by The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
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The Brazilian shoe Jinga is a nice substitute for Onitsuka - the retro-chic Japanese trainer. I first came across Jinga about five years ago at The Laden Showroom, an indie designer shop in Brick Lane. Jinga has an up-front, ethical Code of Practice and they provide full-time employment for their Brazilian workers (as opposed to contract work), which means that they are covered by Brazilian employment law, ensuring them basic entitlement to the minimum wage, paid maternity leave and holidays. The company also invests in social projects for the urban poor of Rio de Janiero, one of which is an after-school programme for young people at risk.
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For Your Earth are a French trainer with a quirky street style, but can only be sourced in the UK online at the moment. The shoes are made from a combination of recycled plastic bottles and organic cotton. The Hi-tops are For Your Earth's design strength, offering a nice alternative to the Nike Hi-Top. They get big points for recycling rubber soles.
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Last, but not least on my 'I Heart Trainers' list, is Veja. Where Ethletic, Jinga and For Your Earth hark to the past for design inspiration, Veja's recent collaboration with the uber-chic Parisian boutique French Trotters has a unique look that is minimalist, understated and elegant. Veja work in partnership with traditional rubber tappers, ensuring these indigenous skills are kept alive; and they support a co-operative of organic cotton growers who have learned to diversify their crops in the interest of self-sufficiency.

Veja pay their factory workers above the Brazilian minimum wage and 80% of them are union members. This interlinked, collaborative way of working from design, to sourcing, to production defines a new working model for the 21st century, where the 'luxury' in luxury brand isn't at the expense of the earth's resources.
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