Hemp is the sober cousin of marijuana - but do you know of it's many benefits for creating the ultimate sustainable sneakers?
Today's chat is with Blac Sneaker Co's inspirational founder, Katherine, who's mobilised her tech passion to create one of the finest sustainable shoe brands in Australia.
This interview is bound to intrigue the sneakerheads out there - so be sure to read on if your shoes are the main focus of your outfits!
And if podcasts are more your thing, listen to the audio version of our chat with Katherine on 'Striding Forward'. Listen now on your preferred podcasting platform below:
• Apple Podcasts
• Google Podcasts
1. Tell us about Katherine, Blac Sneaker Co and your love for sustainable footwear?
Katherine: My background is actually in technology and people change for organizations. I have a passion for change through people in technology.
So that's really where I'm passionate about social and environmental change. I find it really exciting time where innovation, technology, sustainability and diversity are driving these incredible breakthroughs and challenges in fashion for consumers.
This is where I kind of came along in creating a sustainable shoe brand in Australia!
2. Have you always been into the vegan sneaker culture? Are you a 'sneakerhead'? And what's your view on 'junners'?
Katherine: I do definitely see them as functional, but there's definitely an element of fashion to them.
I am the sort of person that I need a type of sneaker for each type of outfit. So there's the casual sneakers, sporty sneakers, there's the high tops, etc and they all have their place.
That's why I say that the function crosses over between the straight sneakers, which are more of a flatter sole, compared to the sporty ones that have more of a curve to help you run.
Casual sneakers with jeans are great, so I wear casual sneakers with jeans all the time... but this is where the complexity comes into it.
There's different types of sneakers for different types of outfits. So the flat sole sneakers, that are probably more of the canvas type, they go well with jeans.
I would probably say particular ones, that like the Ultra Boosts, have kind of the more running sort of aspects of it. Probably better off for a tracksuit.
3. With a variety of materials available for creating sustainable footwear - why did you choose hemp?
Katherine: So I really believe that hemp (and hemp sneakers) is the underdog in the fashion industry.
It's always had its peaks and troughs for its popularity over the tens of thousands of years it's been cultivated.
It's just got such great benefits to both the environment and to the fashion item. The yarn is incredibly strong, lightweight, breathable, and it also helps stop your shoes from becoming smelly. It's also UV resistant and mould resistant.
So there's a bunch of reasons that it's incredibly versatile and adaptable to these issues, but it's also incredibly environmentally friendly and really helps a lot of farmers and carbon in the atmosphere.
So for us, it was a bit of a no-brainer.
4. Why was having environmentally friendly shoes so important to you?
Katherine: I honestly think it's the only approach for us.
We only have one planet and we simply think that pollution is gross, to be quite honest. But we really set up the company around a bunch of values that are about inclusivity, social change, and environmental change.
And that is really just kind of looking at that through the lens of being kind of that same kind of environment to the animals, to the people around you - to have a sustainable approach is kind of the centre of that.
I think it's really important for the longevity of the brand and for everything else around us.
And the reason we set up Blac Sneaker Co is to make a bigger and more positive impact on society, the slow fashion industry, and to the environment. So being able to do things like plant trees, do carbon offsets and provide training and education and sponsor social enterprises.
That's why we said, okay, let's make it so that sustainability footwear goes hand in hand with that.
5. In terms of other global sneaker brands, what should consumers look out for to ensure that they find sustainable and organic footwear? Such as the materials, make, biodegradable, etc
Katherine: I think it's really interesting because I think the question goes broader than just the materials.
The materials are a great input into a shoe and we use hemp because that is great for the environment. However, there are also other factors in that a lot of the carbon and the negative impacts from creating a shoe is actually, or for any industry, given that is actually from the manufacturing process.
So you've got to look at the whole supply chain and that's really difficult for a consumer to do, even with the amount of questions and research that you can do.
Looking at the bigger picture as well and thinking: what else is the company doing in society? Are they carbon offsetting? What is the kind of the messaging and the pieces that they have to that?
And so it can be really hard to know what the secondary and third impacts are of some of the materials.
Probably closer to the natural or the biodegradable aspects of the materials is better than to think of the bigger picture of what else is the brand doing to kind of to get the whole industry to step forward closer to sustainability.
You'll never look at shoes the same again after this... there's so much more that goes into making the clouds on your feet, courtesy of Katherine and Blac Sneaker Co.
The point that really hit home for us is the holistic nature of her approach - yes, the materials are very important, but we also need to consider the secondary and third impacts of the supply chain.
After all, ethical footwear is just as important as sustainable footwear.
It sure shifted our perspective, and we hope it evolved yours too!
Click the links below to shop other sections of our footwear range:
• Men's vegan sneakers
• Women's footwear
• All sustainable footwear
The big question remains though: are you for or against junners?