One pair of Our Choice sneakers can save up to 70kg of CO2 emissions, the circular startup says. (Photo: Our Choice)
From one eye-opening afternoon walk to an innovative business model: plastic-free fashion startup Our Choice wants to pave the way for sustainable footwear.
While picking up plastic from a beach on the Swedish West Coast around two years ago, Filip Westerlund’s frustration over the amounts of plastic that land in the ocean every day sparked his desire to make a change.
Around the same period, vegan leather made its entrance on the runways around the world. However, one unsatisfactory purchase of supposedly eco-friendly sneakers later, Filip began digging, soon finding out that around 89% of eco-friendly sneakers are made from plastics and this is precisely where his quest for a 100% plastic-free and recyclable shoe began.
The psychology student started sketching his ideal sneaker on a piece of paper while also beginning to research raw materials. “It was a very organic process,” he says, admitting that he had the ideas whereas his business partner and neighbour, a chemical engineer, was the master mind behind the production process.
“In order to buy less, you need to be able to buy quality”
The result? Our Choice, a plastic-free fashion brand specializing in sneakers made from vegetable tanned leather and natural latex, entirely biodegradable and recyclable. The shoes are the first of their kind worldwide Filip says.
They are only made on demand, avoiding unnecessary production and when the sneakers need an upgrade, customers can send them back to Our Choice using the same bag they came in. The startup will then resole them, put new laces in and polish them up so that they can be worn for several years to come without having to buy a new pair.
The fast fashion industry has created “a fashion addiction that is triggering the same behaviours as alcohol or drugs, we get this feeling of always wanting more” the psychology student says, a behaviour that is just not sustainable. He therefore sees the future of fashion to be dependent on a twofold responsibility, on the one hand, that of fashion brands to promote more sustainable products and solutions and on the other hand, the responsibility of consumers to make more conscious choices.
For the latter to become a reality Filip argues that “we need to give people the tools to be able to consume sustainably”. And this is precisely what the two Swedes are trying to do with their circular business model. “Usually companies will say they’re picking up plastics to make up for using plastics but that’s a linear perspective,” Filip notes. But by partnering up with Empower.eco to pick up and recycle ocean plastics to compensate for all CO2 emissions related to the production and shipping of the sneakers “we are moving from linear to circular, connecting the dots by not using plastics and picking up plastics,” he explains.
A team effort with the University of Luxembourg
With the support and help of the University of Luxembourg’s incubator programme, the Our Choice founders were able to put these visions into reality. As Filip is currently pursuing his postgraduate degree in the grand duchy, the startup was able to get accepted into the incubator scheme whose main mission is “to provide a physical space for university-based startups as well as the support which they require to develop their business,” the university states. Accordingly, through the programme, Filip was aligned with mentors in specific fields which he says enabled “a great collaboration between the startup and the university.”
As a result of this collaborative effort, Our Choice will launch its first campaign on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter on Monday 23 November until 11January 2021. Luxembourg startups have been scarce if not inexistent on Kickstarter so far, Filip notes, which is precisely why he wants to take advantage of “the super global exposure” the platform offers and also plans to rely on other crowdfunding websites for the promotion of his brand once this first launch campaign has ended.