Veja keen to continue to 'tread its own path'
In recent months, French sustainable sneaker brand Veja has dropped several collaborations, with Marni, Ciele Athletics, Sea Shepherd and Mansur Gavriel.
“It’s true that we have recently presented a spate of collaborations, this is mainly due to a bottleneck caused by the Covid pandemic, as some of them should have been dropped earlier,” said Sébastien Kopp, who founded Veja in 2005 together with François-Ghislain Morillon.
Remembering the Covid period and the first lockdown, Kopp added that “it was a very complicated time in terms of logistics but above all personal safety. To safeguard our employees, we had to close our logistics hub on several occasions. And working remotely was emotionally tough, though we did push all our projects forward.”
In June 2020, when France had barely emerged from a strict lockdown, Veja inaugurated a new retail concept focused on repairing and recycling, at Darwin, a former military barracks located in Bordeaux’s right bank area. And five months ago, Veja opened its second store in Paris.
The brand now operates three stores in France and one in New York, and is additionally available at 3,000 multibrand retailers. A new store will be opened in July in a European capital. “I won't say anything more for the time being, because at Veja we prefer to talk about what we have done,” said Kopp.
In 2020, Veja’s sales were worth €100 million, and a whopping 50% increase is forecast for the 2021-22 financial year. The bulk of Veja’s sales is generated in the UK and the USA. In the latter, Veja is present at some 500 retailers.
Alongside France, China and Brazil are also major markets for the brand. It is in Brazil that Veja sources part of the organic cotton it uses for its shoes’ canvas uppers and laces, as well as rubber for soles. A sustainability pioneer, ever since its inception Veja has combined fashion, ethical projects, economic justice and the use of sustainable materials. Its trainers are also produced in Brazil, a country with which Veja has close ties.
Of Veja’s 350 employees, 80 are based in Brazil. Seven of them actually work in the country’s Amazonia region, looking after local sourcing. Veja has recently opened new offices in Sao Paulo.
Veja is a limited liability company, and in July 2019 it hired its first managing director, former Auchan Retail executive Laure Browne. “We have something of an artistic streak, and Laure Browne gives us a more rational perspective, forcing us to set priorities. She is an experienced executive as well as an elite athlete, she gives us structure,” said Kopp.
A B-Corp certified company, Veja is happy to see that sustainability has become central to corporate strategy. A shift that no longer rates a mention at Veja, which prefers to continue to “tread its own path.”
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