Luxury footwear brand SEVEN FEET APART are launching its latest eco-friendly shoes designed for travel. The new range is designed for the modern traveller by being lighter and more versatile. The entire range is vegan, made of recycled plastic, and is the first sneaker ever to have an eco-friendly sole made from sugarcane. We caught up with Entrepreneur, Co-Founder of SEVEN FEET APART, Matt Bagwell to discuss his latest innovation.
The shoes, known as Sevens, are crafted and engineered to deliver understated style, premium quality and outstanding comfort. SFA’s lastest range of shoes, known as “Flite” are entirely vegan and feature the innovative Sugarcane Sole, a substantial environmental improvement over conventional EVA materials. SEVEN FEET APART is committed to being sustainable, kind and better; the sale of every pair of Sevens affords the preservation of 100ft2 of biodiverse, endangered land, in partnership with the World Land Trust. Let’s hear Matt’s story…
- Tell us a little bit about SEVEN FEET APART, how did it all begin?
My Co-Founder Ian Cartwright and I met a ‘peer mentoring group’. He was managing a shoe company; I ran a marketing agency. It was the summer of 2016 when Ian and I walked through the Gloucestershire countryside and asked ourselves the questions, “what would a better footwear company be like; how would it operate, what would it make and how would it behave?” Our desire to ask and answer these questions was born out of direct experience and a frustration with the inefficiencies of the traditional wholesale to retail business model; where prices were disproportionately loaded over quality or service.
And so, in November 2016, we took the first bold step on our journey and founded SEVEN FEET APART. We were to make footwear of very high quality and by selling it direct to consumer, offer it at fairer prices. Six months later, on May 2017, the first sneaker was sold online.
- Your launching your most eco-friendly shoe to date, can you tell us about that?
The new FLITE is the next step in our brand story. It’s been an opportunity for us to check our compass and ensure we are heading in the right direction. We are well aware and accepting of the responsibilities we have as a maker of products; to ensure that our footwear is long-lasting and lower impact.
The FLITE has been designed to enable people to travel more comfortably and easily. It’s lighter, more cushioned and more packable than anything we have ever made. We are proud of this.
However, we are prouder still that the upper is made of PET recycled plastic, recovered from 8.2 bottles per pair of shoes, meaning we are delivering an animal-free product. We have also removed the box carton and instead, ship FLITE in UNBOX™, a reusable packing tool. No more landfill packaging.
And the sole? Well perhaps this is the best part of the story. It’s formed of a foam called an EVA. Conventional EVA soles are derivatives of fossil fuel. Ours is a derivative of Sugarcane. And sugarcane is an incredible plant, capable of flourishing in C02 atmospheres. It’s so efficient at generating oxygen, that its bi products are considered to be carbon positive.
- As an Entrepreneur, what is your vision for sustainability within the footwear industry going forwards?
Sustainability is a very complex challenge, with so many moving parts and dynamics across the supply chain. There still needs to be a greater collective acceptance of what needs to be achieved, accelerating the velocity of change. This goes for consumers as much as it does for manufacturers.
My vision, within the footwear industry – as a maker?
- That we are able to make products that are neutral in their impact – or even positive
- That we close the loop in terms of total life of the product – from made to recycled to remade
- That we find genuine alternatives to polluting materials and processes
- What practical steps, if any, are you taking to make your company more sustainable?
There are lots of small steps that we have taken to make sure our business ‘thrives’ – a word I actually prefer to ‘sustains.’ A sustainable model for a business has to include where it operates and how it operates, as part of a wider community. Sustainability is absolutely about what we make and how we make it and it is also about who we work with, who we employ and the culture within which we work.
Here are just a few of the things that we do
- We dedicate returned shoes – covered under a 30-day Wear Them Out Trial to local charitable initiatives
- We use a tiny pair of Sevens to raise awareness of causes like Downs Syndrome
- We actively hire from a working parent’s community
- We mentor young people through the Prince’s Trust
- You’re a keen traveller, how has this inspired your design process at SEVEN FEET APART
Wherever I go, for work or leisure, I am constantly observing – I’m a keen photographer – and often chatting to fellow travellers about their experiences, points of view and passions. Connecting with our customers – or potential customers is critical to challenging our personal conventions.
However, it was one walk that I took that had perhaps the most obvious impact.
‘I walked along a short beach in Phuket, Thailand and in just ten minutes – and about 200m, collected dozens of discarded, washed up soles’– SEVEN FEET PART Co-Founder, Matt Bagwell
-talking about his inspiration for new eco-friendly shoes
I laid them all out and photographed them, reflecting on how sad it was that we are damaging our nature this way. And then it hit me – yes, like a bolt – that I was more responsible than the average person in the street because I make shoes. I flipped how I felt to an optimistic realisation; I am also closer to a potential solution. Has this epiphany impacted our designs? Yes, in everything we have done in the year since and culminating in FLITE.
Vision For The Future
- What can we look forward to seeing more of from SEVEN FEET APART in the future?
More of? Innovation for sure. It’s not easy being David tackling the Goliaths of industry norms, but we will. And maybe we will take our quest to the mountains as much as it is in the urban. After all, I love the great outdoors and there are everyday journeys out there we don’t address yet.
Thank you to Matt for sharing his story.