We take a quick look at footwear material trends for A/W 22/23 and three ways brands can meet growing consumer expectations for sustainability.

The Covid-19 pandemic might seem like a distant memory to most, however, it has been a slow recovery for many industries. In the footwear world, the impact of this has driven design towards more functional, comfortable products that last, and are made more responsibly.

The unsettled start of 2020 heightened concerns amongst consumers, especially the younger generation, about sustainability. Fast fashion, over consumption and a throw away society is at last becoming a thing of the past – or at least people are awake to the issue and ready to change. Another demand coming from consumers is the need to have transparency about the products they buy; where they’re from, how they’re made and who by.

This filters down through brands and material suppliers, making it crucial to demonstrate responsible sourcing of raw materials, a transparent supply chain and the use of lower-impact materials. Brands are increasingly demanding full traceability of the leather they use and many are looking at full Life Cycle Analysis of materials. This ensures they are treating water use, waste and carbon emissions responsibly and sourcing materials with the lowest impact possible.

As circularity becomes a fundamental goal for virtually all businesses, people are beginning to understand the importance of waste as a valuable resource. There is an abundance of waste out there. In leather waste alone, up to 75% of all are hides are wasted and often destined for landfill – this can’t go on. Rethinking, recycling and reusing waste can create a sustainable, high-performance leather alternative that is the perfect solution for footwear materials.

Three ways footwear brands can become more sustainable:

1. Embrace lower-impact materials
Assess the material impacts of your products and replace with more sustainable solutions. Challenge tanneries, mills and material suppliers to innovate on responsible materials. Look for suppliers that can offer real data behind their environmental claims and don’t wait for perfect, select materials that can make a difference today.

2. Guarantee responsible sourcing and transparency
Responding to consumer demands for transparency will help retain loyalty and brand engagement. Be authentic and thorough on sourcing, and look for material suppliers that can offer the same level of transparency and ethical standards as you set out.

3. Cater to the consumer need for comfort, longevity and ethically produced footwear
Create a sense of comfort and familiarity through designs and finishes that give a tactile feel but offer the functionality that consumers are looking for in footwear. Select materials that meet their need for being ethically produced and radically better for the planet.