Eco-Friendly Sneaker Brand VEJA Opens Its First US Store in Nolita

Credit: Brian Ferry

VEJA, the trendiest French sneaker brand of the moment, has crossed the Atlantic. The white and colored athletic shoe has just moved to 205 Mulberry Street, in the Nolita neighborhood of southern Manhattan, for what is only the second VEJA store in the world.

Designed and created by long-time friends François-Ghislain Morillion and Sébastien Kopp, VEJA first became available online and through distributors before opening its first boutique in Paris just four months ago. The brand owes its success to its commitment to the environment and its sneakers, which are recognizable by their clean design. New York architect Paul Van Der Grient of WXY Studio designed a minimalist, simple, worn-in space for this second store. “A used floor tells a story, and it’s more ecological to try to keep what can be reused,” explained Kopp.

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Located in the Nolita, the VEJA shop is large and — of course — powered by renewable wind energy. Just inside, a playing video shows the mission and values of the brand: its history, its commitment to equal pay, its mission and ecological convictions, the manufacturing process of its sneakers, and the innovative materials used. As you look around the wall, you see a sign: “Sustainability is an empty word. We choose reality.” The red brick gives way to a wall of the brand’s flagship models: V-10 Nautico Beijing (blue and red). In the center of the store are the running shoes, whose innovative composition of recycled plastic bottles, castor, rice, and banana oils is the result of four years of research. At the back of the space, a second area with dozens of sneakers, for all ages and tastes, men, women and children. All this is illuminated by two neon works from Brazilian artist Kleber Matheus.

Since March 5, the New York VEJA store has been officially open to the public. “Since our opening, whether it’s during the week or on weekends, it’s always crowded. I think the brand is a perfect fit for the neighborhood’s clientele. People are attracted by the design of the sneakers first, then our eco-friendly message convinces them,” said Niels S. Hirsch, assistant store manager at VEJA. The brand chose New York as its first American destination because of its reputation for fashion and design. The American market is already one of VEJA’s most important.

 

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Starting in April, the space will also serve as a meeting place for debates on environmental and ecological topics, as well as for product and brand launches. “In this shop, we want to go beyond the sneaker trade. We will launch projects we believe in and help people connect with meaningful initiatives,” said Morillion.

VEJA, the present leader of the eco-responsible sneaker trend, hopes to launch a movement and expects support from other sneaker brands in this market. “The fashion and footwear industry is highly criticized for being polluting and a source of waste. We hope to deliver a clear message that it is possible to produce sneakers that are 100% natural and recycled,” concluded Hirsh, just as a couple walks through the store door.