|Building a Green Brand From the Ground Up and Underground
By: Clifton Simmons
When it comes to shoes, brands like Nike and Converse have taken the green initiative with programs like ReUse A Shoe, where shoes are recycled to create playing surfaces from playgrounds to tennis courts. A new overseas shoe brand OAT wants to put the green initiative in your hands, rather at your feet. They’ve created a brand of biodegradable shoes embedded with seeds. So instead of discarding a worn-out pair, plant them in the ground and watch wildflowers spring up.
According to oatshoes.com, the seeds are a paper “seedsheet” in the tongue of the shoe and will sprout mostly red wildflowers. The hemp and cotton shoe degrades within a couple of months, along with the plastic in about six months.
Based in the Netherlands, OAT has been growing a fan base before they generated a shoe sale. For nearly two years, their blog chronicled the adventures of a start-up company with a seed of an idea and a desire to find an environmentally conscious audience to buy into it. Readers take part in watching a green brand build from the ground up.
The company’s desire to save the earth two feet at a time has created a small, but devoted following. They garnered praise and buzz for their shoe prototypes at events, such as the Green Fashion Awards during the Amsterdam International Fashion Week. On the social media front it’s been a struggle, with roughly 2,700 likes on Facebook and less than 200 Twitter followers. Each one is clamoring for a pair or happily announcing they got them in the mail or at a store. Daily OAT fans are discovering shoes planted in new stores and window displays across the Netherlands.
So once you get shoes, the next phase is to wear them out and see if they will grow, which sparks the opportunity for viral growth. For example, OAT says their shoes won’t sprout if they get wet, but one has to wonder. If you constantly walk/run in puddles, is there no reason why you won’t see shoes bloom above ground with “a little encouragement"? Or imagine a secret OAT beautification project, where fans bury their shoes anywhere they feel needs help. Then all of those red flower pop-ups are captured on Facebook and Flikr pages. (Talk about keeping the conversation going long after you've made the purchase and no longer use the product.) Because the flowers seeds aren’t native to the U.S., OAT cannot ship their inaugural 900 shoes to American customers. (That’s not stopping their U.S. fans from getting their hands on pairs.)
So is it green or gimmicky? As this company grows, it's an interesting journey to watch making tree-hugger fashions the new black.
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