Return your old shoes and get a credit voucher!

Posted on 06 October 2020.

What if our clothes were returnable? The young shoe brand Thousand Fell pays its customers to return their old sneakers for recycling. A first.

Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum tested their product for eight months at the rate of 10,000 steps a day. The results were impressive.

Four to six months: that's the average time millennials wear a pair of white sneakers... but the leather and rubber take decades to decompose. To improve matters, Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum have made it their mission to produce shoes from materials that are as durable as possible.

The uppers of the sneakers made by Thousand Fell, the brand she they created in August 2018 in New York, use recycled plastic bottles with a corn coating that gives the appearance of leather. The sole is made of carbon neutral rubber, while the insole comes from recycled yoga mats.

From her experience working on the Gap brand's innovation teams in 2016-2017, Chloe Songer is confident that modern shoemaking techniques can create more durable footwear without sacrificing performance. Coated with aloe vera, the inner lining of Thousand Fell sneakers is made of soft-touch mesh, allowing customers to wear their shoes without socks at the same time as benefiting from the antimicrobial functionality. To make the sneakers as durable as possible, they are treated with a natural stain barrier and water repellent.

Before their sneakers were launched on the market, Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum tested their product every day for eight months at the rate of 10,000 steps a day. The results were impressive.


A new approach to consumption

If other brands have already created circular sneakers,the young pair's ecological approach does not stop at their choice of materials. By working with local recyclers and composters, they have created the first shoe that can be sent back to its manufacturer to be fully recycled.

The first challenge was to design a product that was as easy to disassemble as possible: the outsole, for example, is fixed with water-based glues so it can be easily removed at the recycling plant. Some components can be reused to make new shoes, while others will be composted or recycled separately. Designers are now exploring ways of going further with models that require even fewer attachment points and adhesives. Not surprisingly, the cost of manufacturing is higher than for a traditional sneaker – the cost of return is also included. But the company is sure there is a demand for this new approach to consumption... and that it will be able to build customer loyalty.

Designed to be as durable as possible and classic enough not to go out of fashion, Thousand Fell footwear is designed to stay on wearers’ feet for a long time. And when the sneakers do eventually wear out, the process is very similar to a deposit system: the customer can use a prepaid shipping label to return them to the company, which will give them a $20 credit towards buying their next pair. 
But what if the shoes are still usable? They will be cleaned and donated to charity... tying up the loop along with our laces.