Counting Luka Sabbat as a fan, and $24 million in backing, Cariuma is a Brazilian footwear brand that is aiming to challenge the sustainable direct-to-consumer space.
While Cariuma doesn’t prefer to be grouped with competitors, there are nuances that make the brand an enticing comparison to Rothy’s, Allbirds or Veja. The brand uses natural and renewable materials in its core products, enlists recycled and recyclable material for its packaging and is taking strides to lower its impact wherever possible.
Since December 2018, the brand has increased revenue by 20 to 30 percent month over month. In spite of using more costly materials (an average of 35 percent more to create a product) it keeps an affordable selling price (ranging from $79 to $159 between its men’s and women’s lines).
At present, the footwear industry relies heavily on synthetic materials such as plastics, rubbers and adhesives. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the footwear sector is attributed with a natural capital cost of plastic use of more than $4 billion per year, or 6 percent of the total natural capital cost of the consumer goods industry. This was in 2014, and as reported, the global apparel and footwear industry grew at a rate of 4.5 percent in 2015 to $1.6 trillion and 3.8 percent in 2016 to $1.7 trillion.
This presents not only a consumer interest in alternative materials, but a brand’s vested interest in exploring sustainable alternatives in materials and production methods.
“It’s about designing for an aesthetic that’s still going to matter five to 10 years from now,” said Fernando Porto, cofounder and chief creative at Cariuma, in an interview with WWD. Porto and cofounder and chief executive officer David Python are from Brazil and find the Amazon fires as a call-to-action to everyone.
While the company’s factories are located in Argentina, Thailand and Brazil, the company aims to ensure its processes are vetted (both of Cariuma’s chosen tanneries are Leather Working Group gold-certified) and maintain quality, but not to the detriment of the sensitive forest ecosystems.
“It’s not about buying carbon offsets, we are supporting initiatives we think make sense.” This includes a project devoted to conservation and protection of biodiversity in the Amazon while another initiative is Soles4Souls, which supports the donation of shoes, as well as a reforestation initiative.
All of the water during production is reused and more than 80 percent of the energy is solar. While a shift to renewable energies can only tackle 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, as a September report from Ellen MacArthur Foundation indicated, the brand is mitigating its impact in other ways.
“Sustainability — it starts with the people. And there is no well-being if we are not in harmony with the environment,” reiterated Porto.
Carbon neutral shipping is another component of Cariuma’s brand. “Offsetting the shipping transportation is the minimum we could do,” stressed Porto, and now they are taking their carbon-neutral program to the next level, but work is still in progress.
Mitigating waste not just in product but in its places, even Cariuma’s pop-up shops (operating in one to two-and-a-half-month stints in The Grove in Los Angeles, Venice Beach and SoHo) were designed with sustainability top-of-mind. In one instance, the brand opted to rent tropical plants for decor and otherwise tapped upcycled foam and wood, as well as found objects (chairs from Brazil) for storytelling moments.
The brand is exploring the use of green EVA and for every one ton of the green EVA, two tons of CO2 are removed from the atmosphere.
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