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Fancy coffee? Fancy coffee-made sneakers? Finland-based Rens Original, founded by Vietnamese duo Jesse Tran and Son Chu, takes your leftover coffee and upcycles the discarded grounds into seriously fashionable environmentally-friendly sneakers.
Born in Ho Chi Minh City, Tran moved to Finland to study international business and logistics major while Son came to Finland’s Helsinki to study information systems. In 2017, the Vietnamese pair that have a shared passion for sneakers discussed the possibilities of a brand that uses sustainable materials in its production.
Finland consumes more coffee per capita than anywhere else in the world (who knew?), approx. 12 kg yearly, and the discarded coffee grounds are sent to landfill where they emit methane, a greenhouse gas 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide contributing to global warming. The founders of Rens saw an opportunity to tackle this issue on trend. decided to effectively tackle this problem.
As a result, the shoes are made from coffee polyester yarn, a mixture of coffee yarn and recycled polyester (made with post-consumer plastic) and for each pair, 26 cups of coffee and six plastic bottles are upcycled.
Another reason for Rens to choose coffee in their production is because the beans have several technical functions like ensuring airflow inside the shoes as well as its antibacterial properties that makes the sneakers odor-resistant for long hours.
The design of the slip-on shoe is waterproof and is available in nine different colours, with the company’s signature hashtag logo on the base of the shoe which according to the founders stands as a symbol of a community for the brand.
In an interview with Cheddar, Tran, who is also the CEO of the company, said: “The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry. We want to change that.”
Chu, Rens’ CTO, said that the pair found a hole in the market where fashionable and sustainable shoes intersect. “Sustainable shoes, sustainable apparels were there, but they’re not cool for the young generation. So we decided Rens should be the first in the world that dominates that market.”
Other features of the shoes include being lightweight, UV-resistant, meaning no unwanted yellowing, and doesn’t use any animal-derived ingredients making it 100% vegan.
According to the company, Rens has 80% less impact on the environment than leather shoes and 60% less impact than its textile conterparts.
A few years ago, the Vietnamese pair won Finland’s Summer of Startups 2016 with their Factory Finder project, an online platform that connects European fashion brands with Vietnamese factories.
With its coffee collection and shoe-making processes presently managed in China and with customers in over 57 countries, the company’s plan is now to accelerate production and broaden their reach.
Sustainable footwear and vegan sneakers is having a moment around the world with several brands launching new products, for instance, Hong Kong recently welcomed homegrown eco sneaker label Lono, which are created with 100% vegan, eco-friendly and natural materials.
A New York-based sneaker company Kengos Lace-Up, currently in beta phase, recently launched its new biodegradable and vegan-friendly shoe, made from 98% plant-based materials.
Other companies in this space include London-based material science company Pangaia, which unveiled its first zero-waste sneaker made from waste like grape stalks, skins, and seeds, and New York-based Thousand Fell, which developed the world’s first completely recyclable shoe, made from biodegradable, recycled waste and plant-based materials.
Lead image courtesy of Rens Original.