SAOLA's all-new fall line just dropped. Featuring old classics with new twists, and the exciting new sneaker boot styles, we are loving fall's lineup of eco-friendly kicks. We checked in with founder, Guillaume Linossier, to learn more about the inspiration behind the new shoes, and to get a sneak peek into what's to come!
S: What are the inspirations behind the FW19 styles?
G: I’ve really liked the sneaker boot concept that’s come to market over the last several years, bringing together outdoor performance with urban style. But most of those are really performance first – still a bit bulkier and heavier than what I would want to wear in my everyday life. Because of our algae-foam outsoles, we were able to design a couple of styles that aesthetically look like a boot, but feel like a lightweight sneaker. I like that you can wear them in so many settings – work, play, weekending. Overall, those are the kinds of silhouettes we focus on designing - one-quiver sustainable shoes that simplify your life.
S: Which model is your favorite?
G: This season I am most excited about the Niseko. I love the clean style of the upper paired with the red hit on the eyelet. It’s modern and just looks cool. Plus, traditionally this type of boot would be heavy, but again, because of the algae outsoles, it’s so lightweight so they’re easy to wear for travel.
S: What did you learn from the first full year of sales?
G: Ha! So much! Well first, that people do want to buy sustainable shoes…especially vegan shoes. There just aren’t many options out there, so the positive response we received from retailers and new customers was encouraging. Also that the athleisure concept is alive and well. The Semnoz has been the most popular model every season since we launched, so it’s clear that people really like that clean athletic style.
S: How do you choose colorways?
G: Our designer is on top of color trends, so he’ll present me with a bunch of different concepts and combinations that are in line with the market. From there, we then whittle it down, surveying the rest of the SAOLA team for feedback, asking friends and family, sometimes retailers and SAOLA customers. It’s a several month process to get it down to the ones we ultimately think achieve what we want from a brand standpoint and what our target audience will be excited about.
S: What is the process of researching new materials?
G: As a small team that’s collectively passionate about progressing sustainable manufacturing, we all play a role. I’m constantly researching new sustainable materials that are coming to market, as is our product developer and even some of our interns. Sometimes our marketing manager will learn about new technologies through trade media and send them our way. We’ll meet with suppliers at trade shows, find out about options from friends at other sustainable brands. It’s truly a group effort.
S: What's down the road?
G: We’ve been very focused on eco-friendly materials, and the shoes we’ve developed thus far really are some of the most sustainable on the market. But there’s so much more room for improvement. From a materials standpoint, we’re researching renewable bio-based technologies. As we continue to grow, we aim to also bring new innovations in packaging that would reduce our carbon footprint. Long term, we hope manufacturing closer to home will be an option as to minimize transportation emissions. There’s a lot of work to be done and progress to be made, but we’re in it for the long haul.
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Like everyone else, we have been heavily impacted by COVID. Fortunately, the whole team was able to be responsive and pivot at a moment's notice.