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Overview

Counter to the tumult of the global political landscapes, we are in the age of increasing democratization for capitalism. At no point in history has it been more acceptable to have an original thought, find funding through populist support and, through hard work, see a tangible product come to fruition.

Even with the brand behemoths like Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Vans, and Converse, the footwear industry is no exception.

For years, the world’s largest brands owned the market by controlling the supply chain and flooding limited media streams with massive marketing budgets. Now, social media platforms have provided cheap forms of advertisement and access to quality, fair craftsmanship around the world has greatly increased.

The result, a passionate entrepreneur like SAOLA creator Guillaume Linossier can quit his full-time job and set out on a journey to create the world’s most sustainable footwear brand.

Intro

I have had my eyes on SAOLA for a year and in particular the Semnoz II Dark Denims. In terms of men’s footwear, it is a casual style of shoe that I have not tried yet. My footwear style has not varied outside of two categories, either running shoes or casual leather loafers.

For some reason, I thought the casual design would not work with my wardrobe but I was wrong. SAOLA has built a shoe brand not just around a casual look but also around intentional design, something I believe not only fits my wardrobe but any conscious consumer.

In order to create a sustainable shoe, the process must start with intentional design, manufacturing and material procurement. The Semnoz II, like the other SAOLA models, only has six major components that make up the structure, comfort, and aesthetics of the shoe. Each of these components is constructed of four sustainably sourced materials not have not only been consciously chosen for minimum environmental impact but also add to the overall comfort of the shoes.

The Structure

Most of the upper part of the shoe is constructed out of woven recycled plastic, specifically recycled PET bottles. While a very common type of material, using more recycled plastic in the production will continue to be a boon to the recycled plastic industry.

What I enjoy about the Semnoz II’s design and use of recycled plastic is the construction of the upper part of the shoe. The upper section protecting the toes is woven to provide a course, textured exterior while maintaining a softer feel for the interior.

As the upper transitions into the tongue of the shoe, the weave becomes much finer and softer. This is my favorite part of the Semnoz II’s.

The recycled plastic weave starts at the tongue and then hugs your ankle and Achilles tendon like a sock. This provides additional comfort but also some protection against nefarious terrestrial items trying to dive their way into your shoes. The protective sock is also supported by the organic cotton shoelaces.

The Feel

To some, this next statement can sound ridiculous but I can feel the difference of organic cotton. Organically grown cotton produces longer fibers which make higher quality yarns and textiles.

Yes, there are environmental benefits associated with using organic cotton such as decreased chemical emissions but in this case, it just makes for a better footwear experience. What is often overlooked is tying your shoes with quality laces. These laces, in particular, are the perfect thickness for proper knot grip and also very soft.

The comfort does not stop with the upper half of the shoe but also the most important part of the shoe, the support, and sole of the Semnoz II. SAOLA got innovative when designing these components of the shoe. Both the insole and the outsole are made from algae.

While algae growth can be a natural and critical in any healthy ecosystem, rising temperatures and excess chemical emissions from agricultural and industrial runoff can cause algae blooms. These blooms can kill plant and animal life in any affected body of water by causing an imbalance in the natural photosynthesis and respiratory cycles of the ecosystem.

The Difference

SAOLA has actually taken sustainability design a step further by harvesting excess organic algae material for a more resilient production cycle. They partnered with the team at Bloom Foam to remove harmful algae from the water and put it through a process that dries, crushes and converts it into powder.

This powder is then mixed with EVA (a synthetic material) to become Algae Foam, used for sole construction. The result is a sturdy foam that is soft to the touch but also resilient to abrasion from the pavement.

To complement the soft but supportive algae foam, SAOLA also designed a top inner sole layer constructed from cork. Contrary to a rumor that circulated the news cycle in 2018, Cork is actually in good supply and is a highly renewable material harvested from the bark of the cork trees without having to fell the tree.

The process of harvesting the bark extends the life of the trees as removing the older cork bark promotes the growth of healthier new cork cells underneath. Just like the legendary properties of cork used in Birkenstock sandals, SAOLA cork insoles mold to the shape of your feet, reduce joint stress and are odor resistant.

Final Thoughts

The SAOLA shoe has become my preferred travel shoe. I know that I can wear this shoe in almost any environment from sustainability industry conferences to the beach. The Semnoz II’s are also very flexible while being supportive.

I can pack them into the last bit of space in my backpack for just in case I need a more comfortable shoe along my commute or travel day. Overall, these shoes are of great value. Priced at under $100 dollars, they are resilient to anything you can throw at them while also providing environmental support every consumer should consider.

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PRODUCT SPECS

Notable Material

Canvas 100% Recycled + Knit 90% recycled PET,  Natural Cork (liège) + Bloom Foam, Recycled EVA + EVA

Distinct Features

Recycled EVA + EVA Outsole

About Author

Brandon

Brandon

Has a serious passion for changing the way people discover and wear clothing.

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