Sustainability Never Looked so Stylish: Uppers are Made of Plant-Based, Recycled Materials.
Article by Greg Dutter
IT’S LONG BEEN sustainable shoe design’s Achilles’ heel: as good as the products may be for the environment, when it comes to looking good…not so much. Until now, aims Mirco Scoccia, founder of O2 Monde, an Italian crafted brand featuring a plethora of eco-friendly materials and best practices packaged in couture-worthy styles.
Take, for example, the Celia pump (pictured above) that’s made of Pinatex pineapple leaf fibers leathers and PLA, a bio-plastic sourced from renewable resources. On the green side of the ledger, the material requires no additional land, water, pesticides or fertilizers. It also provides pineapple famers with additional income and leftover biomass to be used as fertilizer. In addition, the insoles are made of Freska, a vegan lining made of corn and cereal that is sustainable as well as functional as it’s extremely breathable, absorbent and resistant for enhanced comfort. It’s also self-molding and more than 60 percent lighter than traditional leathers of equal thickness. Aesthetically, the Celia (named after American conservationist Celia Hunter) features fine Italian craftsmanship in an elegant construction. Suffice to say, this isn’t your typical chunky, eco-friendly trail shoe.
Other highlights of the women’s collection (each style is named after notable female environmentalists) span sleek driving mocs to sporty slip-ons and hi tops. Eco-friendly materials and manufacturing process include uppers made of Vitigna, a 100-percent plant-based, bio-engineered material sourced from Tuscany’s wine industry leftovers; Bioveg, a vegan leather made of recycled water bottles; Thunit outsoles, a flexible and durable, water-resistant and recyclable vegan fabric made without hazardous or harmful substances that also recaptures depigmentation of water waste; and wood from ethically managed forests.
Scoccia has done his eco-friendly materials homework, which has involved reaching out to hundreds of vendors, including ones from the automobile and furniture industries. “I’m committed to creating luxury sustainable shoes in a vegan and clean way,” he says, even if it’s not always easy convincing partner factories to join in his revolutionary approach to shoemaking. “I’ve had to convince families that had done their work the same way for generations to shift to a better mentality,” Scoccia adds. That effort extends to educating and enticing consumers as well, starting with O2 Monde’s more affordable luxury pricing (SRP: $268-$398) and a focus on seasonless styling. “By making high-quality footwear at a third of standard retail, women can afford luxurious, long-term staples to elevate their everyday outfit,” he says, adding that for every pair purchased, one percent of O2 Monde’s profits are donated to 1% for the Planet to offset environmental impacts. The brand is also an official supporter of the animal rights group PETA.
It is as if Scoccia has been preparing for this O2 Monde moment since childhood. Hailing from a footwear making family, his father was his first inspiration to become a shoemaker. “I spent the afternoons working close to him and other old-school craftsmen to learn as much as I could about the shoemaking process,” he says. “That led to my footwear design calling. Most importantly, it instilled in me the idea of creating something on my own one day, as my dad did.”
Like any good apprentice, Scoccia first gained valuable experience designing for Bottega Veneta and Tory Burch over the span of two-plus decades. At Bottega Veneta, he pushed the bar to make luxury shoes of the highest quality and reflect the brand’s heritage, while at Tory Burch he learned a great deal about the U.S. market and trends. The combination of experience, Scoccia says, is reflected in O2 Monde’s contemporary luxury design aesthetic. As for the sustainable angle, that’s a personal mission to change the industry for the better. “After working for more than 20 years for top luxury and contemporary brands, I wanted to come up with a disruptive footwear project, while combining the best of my experience with today’s consumer values,” he says. “I’d like to permanently shift the luxury accessories paradigm by offering design-forward, truly sustainable, cruelty-free and exquisitely handcrafted footwear that honors the earth’s heritage and protects its future.”
Just who might O2 Monde appeal to? Scoccia believes the target customer is someone similarly mindful about whatever they buy. “They are self-described ‘conscious consumers,’” he says. “They’re deliberate with their purchases, preferring artisan-made items and hand craftsmanship, with sustainable undertones whether shopping for single origin coffee, natural wine, art books, candles or fashion.” One of Scoccia’s top priorities is to get in close touch with this audience—to listen to their feedback and needs and exchange opinions. “I want to create a community around my brand and not be just another ‘shoe brand,’” he says, adding it’s just the beginning for O2 Monde. The five-year plan includes creating a proprietary sustainable material as well as evolving into a lifestyle brand that spans men’s shoes, handbags and ready-to-wear. “My overall focus is on creating a brand that is sustainable at 360 degrees,” Scoccia says. “And I hope that my work inspires other brands to take more action around sustainability.” —Greg Dutter