Despite their all-encompassing popularity, most trainers — or sneakers, to use the US term — have a negative impact on the world. They’re either made in unethical working conditions, providing distressingly low salaries to the workers that create them, or built from single-use materials that end up in landfill or the oceans once a new, more sought after model is released.
DopeKicks, a new initiative launched in October 2018, wants to be something different — describing itself as a team of entrepreneurs trying to “disrupt this very dirty industry with 100% vegan, ecological solutions, made with cool materials that everyone can afford”.
The company has just launched a pair of waterproof hemp sneakers on crowdfunding website Kickstarter, offering backers the chance to invest in the product before large-scale production in the summer.
The shoes are made with hemp fibres, which the company describes as the “sober cousin” of cannabis. The strong and flexible material — reportedly kinder on the soil than cotton, while also requiring three times less water — is harvested with special machinery and treated with processes including a “steam explosion” to create weavable fibres used for shoes.
“Anti-microbial” cork is used in the sole of the shoes, which not only repels small vermin and insects but has a waxy quality that makes them water resistant. These liquid- and spill-repellent technologies are enhanced by a special waterproof membrane to provide “100% protection against wind, cold, liquids and dust”.
Similar to most shoes on the market, the soles are made from rubber. But DopeKicks stresses that the company “decided to go the extra mile” and “clean up what our competitors left behind.”
“We have partnered up with experienced Portugues outsole manufacturers to create upcycled soles made from old shoes,” the company adds.
This sustainability pledge is in line with initiatives from other ‘upcycling’ fashion companies, including Spain’s Ecoalf, which recently produced an entire line of recycled clothing for top football team Deportivo de La Coruña, and 4Ocean, which converts garbage from the ocean into bracelets for general sale.
As of early June, $63k had been pledged to DopeKick’s product, despite an initial goal of just $10k.
The shoes — made in Portugal, with an equally firm pledge to provide all workers with a fair wage — are expected to be available from Autumn 2019 at a retail price of around $160.