Watershed Brand
Location | Rio Grande do Sul
Description | Preserving the Rainforest
Photographer | Diego Lourenço Gurgel
Words by | Jack Drummond / Highsnobiety

In October 2016, Highsnobiety traveled across Brazil and deep into the Amazon rainforest with the Parisian sneaker company, Veja, to meet the people who make its sneakers. From the factory workers Veja employs in the south, to the families in the far north-west who score the rubber trees in the rainforest for the sneaker’s soles, the experience was awe-inspiring.

VEJA SNEAKERS

making veja footwear

Yet it was also one that was grounded in reality. Even though the rubber tappers lived in the remote north-western state of Acre, they fully knew their place in the world and the global economic supply chain. It was an understanding that stretched from their homes in the forest to Veja’s headquarters in Paris, some 6,000 miles away. Their work literally sustains the forest by helping assign a real value to the trees remaining up rather than being cut down so that cattle can graze.

gluing the soul on some veja sneakers

veja footwear collection

This is the essence of sustainable fashion. As long-held assumptions about our collective global future continue to unravel while the effect on the planet of several decades worth of hyper-consumerism finally seem to be resonating with people, words like ‘sustainable’, ‘ethical’ and ‘transparent’ are appearing more and more in the fashion world. From small-scale LA thrift stores to one of the world’s largest and most powerful clothing brands, everyone seems to be getting on board the sustainable business agenda bandwagon. After all, the fashion industry is a useful one to judge the state of the world as well as our own response to it. This is because of the high amounts of various natural resources the fashion industry uses, the several stages of production it takes to produce a garment, as well as all the differing types of labor the industry needs to carry this all off (capitalism only really kicked off with the industrial revolution of Victorian Manchester cotton mills, after all).

Yet Veja knows this and, as a brand, it has quietly operated a sustainable business model for the better part of a decade. In fact, it was the very reason why the company started in the first place. Yet it hardly ever talks about it. Why?

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