The tragedy of recycling is that it only works with one material at a time. Any contaminants introduced in the recycling process can immediately corrupt it, resulting in inferior products. Plastic bottles need to be thoroughly cleaned before they’re recycled, glass bottles need to have their labels buffed off before they can be melted and repurposed, so think of the shoe, a single piece of footwear that has multiple parts glued together to form a cohesive product. Not only are shoes notoriously difficult to recycle, they actually degrade over time too, as microparticles of EVA-foam dislodge from your shoes as you walk, becoming environmental pollutants. Located in Paris, the fashion capital of the world, are two brothers looking to make footwear much more environmentally friendly by factoring sustainability tight into their design process and business model.
Meet the HODEI (Basque for Cloud), a shoe that’s looking to redefine how shoes are made, sold, worn, and recycled. The shoe is looked at less like a product and more like a system, resulting in something that’s more sustainable by default… and it all starts with the HODEI’s business model. You see, with HODEI, you don’t traditionally buy the shoes, you lease them while also paying an Eco-Deposit on them. Shoes are only manufactured to order, which means there’s no material or inventory wastage, and are designed in a way that uses absolutely no glue. When you’re done with your HODEI footwear, you can return them for free (actually incentivizing you to) and the company gives you your Eco-Deposit back, either in the form of a refund, or a 10€ discount on your next pair. The HODEI team recycles the shoe’s parts effectively, using second-hand footwear as raw material for newer shoes to ensure virgin materials don’t unnecessarily enter into the production cycle. This circular economy allows HODEI to keep a tight check on its carbon footprint while actually baking sustainability right into its company ethos. You, as the consumer, also have the incentive to return the shoe – not just because you believe in the company’s values, but because you also end up getting your deposit back.
This circular-economy approach to footwear is reinforced by the HODEI’s actual design, which feels sort of like the spiritual (and fashion) successor to the Crocs. The HODEI footwear boasts a one-piece design that’s made from a single material. Circumventing the need to separately manufacture multiple parts and either glue or stitch them together, HODEI’s single-piece EVA Foam construction is good for the environment because it’s easy to recycle, as well as less prone to damage/breakage. It requires no stitching or glue, making it easier to recycle in the event that you send it back. The HODEI comes in two variants – the Silent Runner Core, which just comprises of the base footwear that can be worn like a pair of slip-ons, and the Silent Runner Kit, which also includes a leather retainer strap and laces, giving the shoes less of a Crocs and more of a sneakers appeal. Both the Core and Kit versions are designed to be recycled efficiently, and come with the cost of production, return, and recycling built into their overall price, with the Eco Deposit as an added measure to keep the business model cost-effective as well as planet-effective. Moreover, they do all this without sacrificing style. The HODEI look rather voguish in their off-white single-piece charm. Pair them with the colored leather retainers and the laces and they go from off-beat-stylish to retro-fashionable, all while reinforcing the message of sustainability and setting the right standard for other footwear companies to follow.