This follows a Kickstarter pre-order campaign last autumn by the UK company that claims a world first for its products. Crowdfunding has raised £41,000 – double the original target. The classic, retro tennis-style shoes (from £130) use organic materials including long-lasting natural rubber from sustainable plantations, conifer resin, some vegan products and artisan manufacturing techniques.
The business is forecasting a £250,000 first year turnover after investing £150,000 of seed capital.
Founders clean oceans campaigner Ed Temperley and footwear designer Damian Quinn say they decided to push on despite the Covid-19 lockdown and temporary ban on outdoor activities because “ours are mega comfy kicks and people still want shoes.
“They realise the unsustainability of fast fashion and the need for us all to take more care with our resources.”
Some 24 billion pairs of unrecyclable plastic-based shoes are produced each year. Shoe sole abrasion is now recognised as one of biggest contributors to the growing tide of micro plastics polluting the planet.
WAES’s supple soles are cured with a slow-cooking method that embeds a network of bubbles. “Feet feel they have wings. We are thinking about footwear production in an entirely different way and our designs took many iterations”, adds Temperley.
The collection currently offers two styles. Hope is made of organic cotton, while the 1970 line features organic-tanned, metal-free leather.
Production is in Portugal and overseen by Quinn, ex-Puma and a former London College of Fashion and Cordwainers graduate.
The business, which is looking at further applications for its plastic-free product concepts, is now working with experts on a plant-based replacement to leather.