The hip French trainer brand is successfully combining directional design with ethical principles.
Hot off the presses, Veja’s spring 11 look book contains some well-known industry faces.
The French ethical trainer brand persuaded key indie stockists to model its cool, rubber-soled sneakers and flew buyers from Manchester indie Oi Polloi and London indies Diverse and The Three Threads out to its Parisian headquarters to take part in the shoot.
“We wanted to do the look book to say thank you to the stockists for the work they do and for being so creative with their product selection in store,” says the brand’s director of UK operations Aurélie Dumont.
Directional indie The Three Threads started stocking the brand this season. Buyer Heidi Whent says: “A lot of eco stuff doesn’t always keep pace with fashion. Veja sits with product like Converse and Pointer and while the eco bits are brilliant, it is actually trying to make shoes that people like visually.”
Veja doesn’t shout about its ecological message, even though it could be argued the brand possesses better ethical credentials than many other brands trading off the fair trade message. The brand is built on core principles: using eco-friendly raw materials such as fair trade cotton and latex, and paying workers what they deem a fair wage. The best-selling style is the Tauá, which has retro athletic styling and is made using organic cotton. The core range also features hi-tops in tanned suede free of the chromium typically used to speed up the tanning process, with soles made of rubber from Brazil.
“We don’t really introduce Veja as an ethical brand,” says Dumont. “We like the idea of people buying because product is in their price range, comfortable and they like the design.”
In its native France, Veja is fast becoming a household name and has sales of £8m. In the UK, it has 30 stockists and sales just shy of £1m, meaning there is room to grow, and the brand is targeting stockists in cities such as Liverpool and Leicester.
In contrast to the brand’s French business, where sales are split equally between men’s and women’s, in the UK sales are skewed more towards men’s than women’s. To combat this Veja has launched new women’s styles for autumn 11 including four hi-top trainers in canvas and “girly” colours (pictured left).
While the brand is keen to grow, Veja has a “steady growth” policy, as production is limited partly due to the low quantities of organic fabrics available. Says Dumont: “We’ve grown faster than some of our producers so we have to make sure we are [growing] at the same pace, which is good as we have the time to think about where we want to be.”
Veja 020 3355 8355