The Rothy’s woman is “kinetic, energetic, moving around,” the brand’s creative director Erin Lowenberg said as she padded around the brand’s soon-to-open New York City retail location, in between lauding its new handbags.
It’s the footwear brand’s first foray into the category, with five silhouettes including a convertible handbag, crossbody, clutch, tote and range of catchall bags, all in the notable “poppy” colorways that define the brand.
“We’re not trying to chase high fashion because we believe that our products are modern classics. What we want to do is chase the technology and inspiration behind them and remake them and rethink them for her and her life,” said Lowenberg.
That means being on the customer’s shoulder as well as her feet as Lowenberg enthused, which was the plan all along. Also in the plan is a nimble approach to brick-and-mortar, which already includes Boston; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco — and now New York City.
For the handbags, the 100 percent recycled polyester blended knit is made by combing nearby coastlines for ocean-bound plastics to be used in tandem with the brand’s signature thread spun from single-use plastic water bottles.
All bags are machine-washable, and some – like the handbag and dual-zip crossbody – come complete with a wash bag to catch any shedding microplastics during laundering.
Shallow buys, short lead times and vertically integrated factories are what characterize Rothy’s supply chain, similar to its cohort of more sustainable direct-to-consumer brands, ever close to venture capital money in San Francisco. To date, Rothy’s has raised $42 million in funding, almost as many water bottles as the brand has repurposed (at 50 million).
The handbags employ similar construction advantages to the 3-D knitting process that creates the footwear uppers.
Lowenberg’s design inspiration is focused on reducing waste, and the 3-D knitting machines already exceed traditional production in terms of waste — cutting an average of 37 percent leftover textile waste to just 6 percent.
“I can walk through the factory wall, look at the spools and think, ‘Hey — I still have a lot of that really bright blue that maybe we overdyed or I over-ordered.’ Now, that’s actually an important color, and how can I blend it with other yarns to make a beautiful color that’s relevant for a palette I’m working on, instead of: ‘I need the new blue.”’
She also adds that the brand’s head of sustainability, Saskia van Gendt, is working to make sure the full life cycle of its products are accounted for, which could mean a recycling program or take-back initiative down the road.
“We don’t want to start anything that we can’t scale, so we’re doing a lot of research on what that life cycle would look like,” she said.
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