Sustainable Fashion

Vivaia’s Shoes: Sustainable Innovation or Greenwashing?

Vivaia's innovative approach transforms recycled plastic bottles into fashionable and comfortable shoes. However questions remain about the true sustainability of using a highly recyclable material in a way that prevents further recycling.


Alexandra Wolff

Five women showcasing diverse fashion styles, including sustainable shoes by Vivaia, radiating confidence and joy

Vivaia is not just another name in the footwear industry; it is a brand that combines sustainability with style in an innovative and captivating way. When consumers slip into a pair of Vivaia shoes, they are greeted by elegant silhouettes and a sophisticated colour palette. These shoes are not your typical eco-friendly shoes – they are fashionable pieces that combine environmental awareness with aesthetics. The shoes are made from recycled materials yet offer great comfort with every step.

Vivaia seems to have found a way to turn discarded plastic bottles into fashionable and comfortable shoes. This process is at the centre of the brand’s mission to create sustainable footwear without compromising on design or comfort.

Jessica Harumi, sustainable fashion blogger, praises Vivaia for its commitment to using fully recycled materials and emphasises the brand’s innovative spirit. “I’m a big fan of any brand using fully recycled materials. Each pair of shoes consists of fibers created from six recycled plastic bottles collected from ocean and city waste,” she notes, highlighting the circular approach Vivaia is taking to reduce the fashion industry’s environmental footprint.

However, it’s important to note that by using recycled plastic bottles, Vivaia is helping to keep waste out of the landfill. The main material used by Vivaia, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), is one of the most recyclable plastics. Turning PET into shoe material limits the ability to recycle this plastic after the shoes have reached the end of their life.

PET plastic can generally be recycled several times, with estimates ranging from 2 to 3 times to around 10 times before the quality deteriorates significantly. By using PET to make shoes, Vivaia is essentially making a single-use product from a material that could potentially have been recycled several more times in its original form.

This paradox raises the question of sustainability when a highly recyclable material is used in a way that prevents further recycling. Furthermore, the potential for increased interaction with microplastics – an issue that Vivaia has yet to address – adds another layer of complexity to the issue of sustainable fashion.

Vivaia uses advanced 3D knitting technology to create seamless, flexible shoe designs that are designed to mould naturally to the wearer’s feet, ensuring breathability with every step. The brand places particular emphasis on the insoles, which support the arch of the foot and contain moisture-wicking materials to prevent fatigue during extended periods.

These features, designed to improve the wearing experience, are praised for reducing foot fatigue and providing a breathable fit. However, the true measure of these technological advances lies in the diverse experiences of Vivaia customers, whose feedback paints a vivid picture of whether the brand can deliver on its promise of comfort and style.

The brand’s commitment to comfort is confirmed by one customer who said: “What impressed me most during this trip was their resilience. Despite being made of plastic, they remained comfortable, breathable, and miraculously odor-free, even after an unexpected dip in a Venetian canal!” This and other testimonials emphasise Vivaia’s ability to redefine how sustainable fashion can look and feel.

Vivaia’s collection challenges the notion that sustainable fashion can’t be stylish. It includes a range of styles, from elegant flats to chic boots, to suit different occasions and personal preferences.

With seamless lines and an eye-catching colour palette, each pair is a versatile piece that can be worn effortlessly from casual outings to formal occasions, complementing a variety of wardrobes with its eco-chic appeal.

Another blogger who shared her experience on Cosmetic Proof expressed her satisfaction with the brand’s offering, “All in all, the fact that I have SIX pairs of Vivaias now MUST mean that I have been enjoying them! I put the black Arias to the ultimate test in Paris as those were my “comfortable dress shoes” that still looked work appropriate, but still be able to do 30,000 steps around Paris in! It rained a few days too,but my feet were fine and they packed SO WELL in a suitcase as they packed flat and I didn’t have to worry about them getting damaged since the knit is so flexible.”

As sustainable fashion continues to grow in importance, Vivaia has expanded its presence beyond online platforms to physical pop-up stores in various countries. Modern Retail reported on Vivaia’s retail strategy, quoting the brand’s General Manager Howard Herman: “Initially, Vivaia was very single-minded in focusing on its online business. Now that it’s opened temporary locations, Vivaia is setting its sights on permanent stores in Japan and Singapore and in U.S. states such as New York, California, Florida, Texas, and Washington over the next several years.”

Vivaia’s innovative and exciting approach to transforming recycled plastic bottles into fashionable and comfortable shoes has sparked a broader movement towards environmental responsibility within the notoriously wasteful fashion industry.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental costs associated with traditional fashion production. As this awareness grows, sustainable brands like Vivaia face a growing challenge: meeting consumer demand for high-quality, fashionable products while raising the bar for sustainability. Finding the right balance between these three elements – quality, design and eco-friendliness – is becoming increasingly difficult, but is a necessity for brands that want to remain relevant and competitive in the evolving landscape of conscious consumer behaviour.

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