TEXT BY NATALIE YIASSOUMI
The label, founded by Sam Jones, specialises on the perfect summer wedge.
Raíz Atelier focuses on the perfect summer wedge. Images courtesy of the brand. Photographed by Caroline Irby.
What makes an ideal pair of shoes in 2021?
They’re chic, functional – and once you’re done with them, they biodegrade instead of ending up in landfill.
The environmental crisis we’re navigating has meant that there’s a whole new set of criteria we are now considering when shopping for new shoes. But the good news is that a host of young, future-facing brands are entering the market and answering all of these needs.
Raíz Atelier is one of them. The shoe label, which is just over a week-old, is the brainchild of fashion industry veteran Sam Jones and it has launched with a compelling offer: The perfect ’70s-inspired summer wedge, that also happens to be fully compostable. This is big news for the footwear sector, where fully circular labels are few and far between.
The shoes contain no plastic, the leathers used are bi-products of the meat industry and they are dyed using toxic-free, vegetable tanning techniques.
Jones spent over a decade working across fashion and footwear, heading up buying and product development for the British cult brand Pied a Terre. She then moved into buying roles for a variety of multi-brand retailers, where she sourced a variety of luxury brands and got to know their missions and stories.
“Discovering these incredibly creative brands, all of whom had a story, purpose and sustainability mission, inspired me to go for it. I had a burning desire to create and build something sustainable that I could call my own,” said Jones, in an interview.
The ‘Haya’ ‘Cedro’ wedges. Images courtesy of Raíz Atelier. Photographed by Caroline Irby.
To make sure that her new venture was part of the solution to fashion’s waste issues, Jones spent a lot of time doing her homework and ensuring her products were fully sustainable: She started with coming to grips with what circularity and sustainability really mean; learnt from sustainable footwear pioneers like Veja; and discovered a composting plant which would help her assess every single component of her shoe and determine whether it’s compostable.
Everything, including the glue, has now been tested and the brand will be offering customers the opportunity to return any pre-loved Raíz shoes they no longer need, for the company and its partner to take care of composting and returning the materials back to nature.
I didn’t just want to work with conscious materials and manufacturing processes, but also address what happens to the products once consumers no longer want them. The idea of contributing to landfill in any way was not an option, so designing with natural materials and components that could be composted was a must,” explained Jones. “I love the fact that our shoes can be turned into nourishment for soil.”
The shoes contain no plastic, the leathers used are bi-products of the meat industry and they are dyed using toxic-free, vegetable tanning techniques. In line with the brand’s conscious ethos, Jones is also inspired by natural colors and effortless beauty, which is why you’ll find the brand’s chic wedges come in earth tones and channel laid-back summer style.
“All the wedge silhouettes in the collection are iterations of original 70s wedges that I’ve found and bought over the years,” added the designer, who always turned to cork wedges and clogs in the summer and wanted to offer a fresh take on these all-time classics.
Look book images courtesy of Raíz Atelier. Photographed by Caroline Irby.
Jones has been juggling homeschool and spearheading the launch of her business, ever since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Lack of time and tiredness is how I will remember the pandemic,” she said. “Homeschooling meant my working day didn’t start until 3.30pm and often finished well into the evening. I was lucky that I had done a lot of the groundwork, research and sample prep before Covid hit. The factories were able to stay open for the most part of 2020 and I decided to delay the launch until early 2021, so the decision actually gave me more time to finesse all the other parts of the business.”
Post-launch, Jones is turning her focus on growing the label’s ecommerce platform, partnering with select retailers like chic French boutique By Marie, and slowly introducing new styles – starting with a wicker wedge this summer.
“Layering in small product drops at the right time is how we want to grow and is the antithesis of over-production, mark down and sales culture.” she added.
As for the future of the footwear sector, Jones is staying positive about sustainable innovation, speaking of “a new dawn” in retail and shopping attitudes – but there’s still a need for more progress and joint goals.
“I’m so impressed by the progress being made by brands, material suppliers and manufacturers in becoming more sustainable but there’s still so much work to do. It’s hard when the conversation is still largely based around differing opinions of what is and isn’t sustainable.”
This article contains commercial, affiliate links.