To the uninitiated, a vegan shoe might seem like a kooky concept: sure, some kicks look good enough to eat, but we don’t actually start biting their tongues. Animal-derived fabrics though, while suitable for veggies, aren’t wearable for plant-based folk, leading to a $25bn market that’s continuing to soar in popularity. Brands that are part of the industry swap suede appliques, leather tongues and wool uppers for cruelty-free materials, experimenting with everything from fruit leather to recycled plastic bottles.
While many big brands have jumped onto the bandwagon, we’ve been keeping two beady eyes on Clae. Born in and inspired by Los Angeles, the brand’s ethos is built on minimalism, luxury materials and a commitment to sustainability. Their vegan range is extensive, swapping traditional leather uppers for a myriad of substitutes.
First up is their Cactus range, switching suede for succulents, available in the dark green of its raw material. Other silhouettes, like the August, use organic canvas for a lightweight, summer fit, while a recycled range repurposes marine plastic for a knit upper. Then there’s a tree-hugging Hemp range and a vegan suede collection, not to mention recycled mesh…
The breadth of options available is testament to Clae’s determination to do vegan sneakers right. Rather than sticking to one gimmick, they’re constantly innovating, upcycling and remixing, trialling all kinds of cutting-edge fabrics to see which has the greatest appeal and the lowest impact on the planet. Considering that we’ve already seen cactus, shored plastic waste and reclaimed mesh, we’ve got no idea what to expect next: whatever it is, though, Clae will hit the ground running.