“The future of fashion lies in a reconciliation between nature and industry. OAT Shoes strives to lead the way to that future.” Christiaan Maats, OAT Shoes
Making greener choices is not always easy, especially for the fashion conscious shoe lover. Footwear manufacturing is one of the most chemically intensive aspects of the fashion industry.
Thankfully footwear designers are exploring more eco-friendly materials and methods, and Dutch design company OAT is leading the way with their ‘Shoes that Bloom’.
OAT design and make 100% biodegradable, non-toxic shoes embedded with seeds – so they can be worn and loved, and will then spring to life when planted!
Once in the ground, the natural hemp and bio-cotton in OAT shoes will degrade within a couple of months. The biodegradable plastic elements can break down more than 90% in 6 months.
This is particularly impressive when you consider that normal sport and leisure footwear can contain chemically-derived materials lasting up to 1,000 years in a landfill.
OAT shoes can happily withstand normal wear in rain and mud, and will not biodegrade and break down while they are being worn. The composting process can only begin when the footwear is underground and in contact with subterranean microbes.
After two years of intensive research and development, OAT made its design debut in 2011 with the VIRGIN Collection. This natural canvas footwear range includes classic high-top, mid-top and sneaker styles highlighted with brightly-coloured soles bearing OAT’s distinctive root imprint. Within the tongue of the shoe is a wildflower seed mix including, Black-eyed Susan, Spurred Snapdragon, English Daisy, Catchfly, Corn Poppy and Sweet Alyssu.
In terms of sustainability and good practice, the VIRGIN Collection saves 33% on environmental impact and 25% on CO2 compared to regular cotton canvas shoes, and they are made in Europe at a family-owned factory where the workers get a fair pay and decent working conditions.
Winning a prize at the Green Fashion Awards at Amsterdam International Fashion Week gave the VIRGIN collection a flying start.
It also confirmed that OAT had achieved their aim of creating eco-friendly footwear that does not compromise on style. In terms of sustainability being adopted by the mainstream, you could say it is one small step for shoe design, but one giant leap for the fashion industry.
VIRGIN was followed by LIMITED SKIN, a high-end biodegradable leather footwear collection, the first of its kind to be launched on the market. The vibrantly-coloured leathers, a product OAT developed together with Hulshof Royal Dutch Tanneries in Lichtenvoorde, the Netherlands and a subsidy of the Province of Gelderland, are tanned using non-toxic agents and are 100% biodegradable when planted underground.
When Hulshof approached OAT to make the first certified-biodegradable leather footwear in the world, they jumped at the opportunity to be their launching customer.
The brightly-coloured high and low-top shoe designs are now produced in limited numbers and are a great addition to OAT’s eco-friendly footwear offering.
OAT Shoes have also created the world’s first 100% biodegradable, non-toxic, blooming baby bootees. OATies are made in Europe from organic cotton, flax linen and organic hemp, and dyed using Global Organic Textile Certified (GOTS) dyes.
When OATies are outgrown they can be planted and a beautiful ‘Stone Pine’ will grow. As a ‘tree of life’ memento, it provides an original and imaginative way to celebrate new life and growth.
OAT continues to undertake research and development to meet the inevitable challenges that pioneering eco-design presents. This includes finding biodegradable glue strong enough for shoe-making needs. In the meantime, traditional stitching methods ensure that no structural or environmental compromises are made.
OAT is also in discussion with waste processors in the Netherlands to set up an infrastructure for handling biodegradable products.
Another key focus for OAT is getting their footwear onto the market internationally. As OAT shoes contain seeds, they cannot currently be delivered outside Europe, as introducing foreign seeds into certain ecosystems is a risk to the local plant wildlife. OAT is now working hard on expanding distribution to the US and other countries – where they are eagerly awaited by potential customers.
We look forward to following the progress of OAT, and we wish them every success for the future.
About OAT Shoes
During his studies, Maats explored story-telling as a means of connecting people with their environment in an imaginative way, and this inspired the development of OAT: Shoes that Bloom.
Maats is a regular speaker on design and sustainability and in 2012 received a Beco Sustainable Hero Award for his work with OAT.
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Photo credits: OAT Shoes
OAT: Shoes that Bloom features in the March 2014 edition of Rhine Capital Partners monthly investment updates.
- On 26th March 2014