When childhood friends Sébastien Kopp and Ghislain Morillon set out to create a brand over a decade ago, VEJA was born. From beginning to end of production, every piece they create is made eco-friendly. This month, Parvati Magazine talked with them about their beginning, their process, and what they have in store for the future.
Parvati Magazine: How long did it take to build the foundation of VEJA?
VEJA: VEJA started more than twelve years ago. In general, people start from the design and then produce, but Sébastien and Ghislain did the contrary. They spent six months in Brazil to find organic cotton farmers and Seringueiro [rubber tree tappers]. They started the whole production in Porto Alegre and began the collaboration with a rehabilitation association for the logistics. We are working every day to be more transparent.
PMAG: How long, roughly, does it take to make one pair of shoes? Can you describe the shoe making journey?
V: First, the studio in Paris draw sketches to send to Brazil, where the prototypes are made. Then they return the models to France [for approval]. Once validated, the shoes are produced in Brazil and shipped to France to be distributed all over the world. We produce on demand to avoid stock [issues] and because we depend on the raw materials. Our 1200 retailers buy the collection six months in advance.
PMAG: On February 8, in Rio Grande do Sul, Southern Brazil, the co-founders of VEJA made a speech in front of their factory workers about their hard work and the path of VEJA, and how important it is to make these shoes differently. A lot of other brands aren’t as close to the factory side of things. Do you think that having these talks and discussions with every part of the team and creating that encouragement and closeness within the workplace can make a big difference in how a brand works and portrays itself?
V: We are convinced that motivating employees and sharing our vision for the future with them is beneficial for the whole company. More than this, it’s very important for us to know them and control the production to make sure that everything is well made, with good working conditions. We usually go to Brazil every four months to see our producers, the factory, the farmers, etc. Each one has to be proud of being part of this adventure, by understanding his personal impact.
PMAG: You’ve done a lot of different colours and styles for different seasons. Can you tell us what’s in store for summer 2018?
V: This summer, you will find natural colours as our V10 Multico Nude, some silver or gold shades, lots of white models but also a few [printed] butterflies in our collaboration with the French taxidermist Deyrolle. We still keep our minimalist design and adapt it for every taste.
PMAG: Have you ever thought of branching out into clothing or accessories?
V: We already did some accessories like bags and purses, but we decided to focus on sneakers as it’s what we prefer and can control more. Nevertheless, in 2010, we launched Centre Commercial, a concept-store in Paris that is selling 70 transparent and organic brands produced in US or Europe.
PMAG: What is the end goal for VEJA? What do you hope to accomplish in five years?
V: To be more transparent and true. We can tell that more collaborations are coming soon. The goal is to push the limits and find new innovations for our materials.
Sébastien Kopp and Ghislain Morillon had a vision in mind when they founded VEJA in 2004. That vision was sustainable, fashionable, fair trade footwear using organic agroecological and fairtrade cotton to make the sneaker’s canvas, wild rubber from the Amazonian Forest for its soles, and recycled plastic bottles to create an innovative mesh.