Louis Vuitton emphasizes eco-design with a unisex sneaker
PARIS – In the wake of its LV Trainer Upcycling men’s shoe, unveiled at the start of the year, Louis Vuitton is launching the Charlie, its first unisex sneaker, made from 90% recycled and bio-sourced materials.
In what the brand has described as a test model in its continued efforts to move to a company-wide eco-design process, the French luxury house developed the sneaker after conducting an analysis of the life cycle of five of its men’s shoes last year, said Christelle Capdupuy. , Global Head of Sustainable Development at Louis Vuitton.
More from WWD
“This allowed us to identify the levers to reduce the environmental impact of our shoes, and the Charlie is the result of all this scientific and technical work that has been done,” Capdupuy told WWD.
The Charlie, due for launch on November 12, features a sole made of at least 94% recycled rubber, which the executive described as “a huge technical feat in the sneaker market.”
The upper is made of a smooth, grained synthetic material, made from recycled polyester and a layer of Biopolioli, a corn-based plastic. The tongue patch, the back of the shoe and the LV logo are made from regenerated Econyl nylon created from nylon waste such as fishing nets, fabric scraps and industrial plastic.
Although Vuitton’s sustainable product offering remains limited, it is growing steadily, in accordance with the commitments set out in the brand’s sustainable development plan, entitled “Our committed journey”, presented in September 2020.
The company actually showcased its first recycled collection, Be Mindful, in 2019. It featured silk scarves from previous collections that had been given a second life with the addition of fringes, or used for bracelets, earrings. and other accessories.
Giovanni Giannoni / WWD
Virgil Abloh, artistic director of men’s collections at Vuitton, has been the policy’s most visible advocate, introducing a new Upcycling Signal Logo emblem with his Spring 2021 collection, which ushered in a multi-faceted sustainability initiative, where the work can be recycled, upcycled and even reissued. in its original form.
This logo, which resembles the well-known recycling symbol originally attributed to Gary Anderson, has been adopted company-wide for all products that are either recycled or contain at least 50% recycled raw materials. and biobased, said Capdupuy.
“The objective is not to design capsule collections. The objective is to gradually transform all our processes, all our raw materials, ”she declared. “It’s like a huge freighter changing course.
By 2025, Vuitton aims to use 100% responsibly sourced raw materials; switch to 100% renewable energies in its production and logistics sites and enforce an eco-design approach for all products. This puts the brand ahead of the “Life 360” program of the parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Detailing the progress made so far, Capdupuy said that at the end of 2020, 52% of Vuitton’s raw materials were already of responsible origin. Of these, 78 percent of the leather used came from tanneries certified by the Leather Working Group, and 67 percent of the cotton was certified.
“It’s not easy to change the way we do things,” she admitted. “So at one point, it’s very interesting to test yourself on a product. The Charlie is the result of a collaboration between marketing, the environment division, our production site in Italy and our suppliers. This has allowed us to test and source the most ambitious raw materials, in terms of environmental impact, and now we are learning.
Speaking shortly after the launch of the LV Trainer Upcycling, Abloh also described the shoe as a “case study”. Launched in five colourways, it was made from LV Trainer sneakers from its first home collection in 2018.
Given the designer’s reputation as a sneaker guru, with a very successful continued collaboration with Nike, the buying team assumed this inaugural style would be a runaway success.
“We ordered a lot more than the market was ready for a new design, so we had the ones in stock that weren’t originally sold. And I was like, instead of it being negative, I immediately thought to myself, “This is a great way for us as a luxury house to think about the history of this shoe,” Abloh said. .
“With that overstock, I reinterpreted it, and I think for us as a luxury house in terms of value, it doesn’t depreciate no matter what. Especially in sneaker culture, if you see what’s going on on StockX, shoes sell for 10 times their value when they’re older. So there are a lot of new things at stake, ”he added.
Grégoire Vieille / Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
Abloh, who doesn’t define himself as a designer, but rather as an “art director for a new and different field”, has long subscribed to the theory that modifying an existing object by three percent turns it into “something special. “. While this approach exposed it to accusations of copying, it naturally lends itself to recycling.
“The design doesn’t stop,” he says. “Just because it was seen, and it was there, doesn’t mean you have to crumple that piece of paper and start from scratch. Just because he’s older doesn’t mean he’s devalued. I’m just trying to find a new system, especially with the work at Vuitton.
LVMH has marked its confidence in the designer by broadening its remit beyond fashion, announcing this week that it would have leeway to launch brands and seal partnerships in all of its activities – a decision that has earned it comparisons with the late Karl Lagerfeld. .
Capdupuy noted that there was a real demand from luxury consumers for products of responsible origin, even with high price tags.
“We’re not just talking about fast fashion consumers and 20-year-olds,” she said. “Every luxury brand uses recycled and upcycled raw materials and it’s always something really luxurious, because it’s rare. Raw materials are scarce, and everyone realizes it today. In fact, not using recycled raw materials would be a waste.
For example, LVMH earlier this year launched Nona Source, an online resale platform for the group’s dead fabrics and leathers. Meanwhile, thanks to technological advancements, recycled materials are able to meet the highest quality standards, said Capdupuy.
“To be honest, I think it would have been difficult to create the Charlie 10 years ago,” she said. “Today, we are able to produce shoes with low environmental impact with raw materials that meet our requirements in terms of quality, durability and comfort, and this obviously represents years of R&D from our suppliers.
Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
The Charlie sneakers will be available in US sizes 3 through 13, priced at $ 1,080 for the low version and $ 1,130 for the high style. They come in a 100% recycled cardboard box, which can be used as a shopping bag thanks to its handle made of Tencel fibers from renewable wood sources.
Earlier this month, Vuitton launched a line of bags designed by Abloh in eco-friendly felt, made from a range of organic and recycled fibers, with prices ranging from 2,000 euros for an extra-small Keepall to 4 100 euros for a large weekend.
“I’m just happy my studio is part of the conversation. We’re investigating, if that makes sense, rather than saying, “This is it.” And I love that people can feel me trying new ideas. It’s the heart of my creativity, ”he said.
LVMH expands Virgil Abloh’s role beyond fashion
LVMH emphasizes eco-design with new Life 360 targets
Virgil Abloh takes a look at the “Ethical Fashion” podcast
Sign up for the WWD newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.