From London to Paris, New York to Newcastle, pavements the world-over are being pounded by white tennis-style sneakers emblazoned at each side with a logo in the shape of a V. Even those that aren’t familiar with VEJA will recognise its now-ubiquitous designs; they’re the ones worn by everyone from the British monarchy to Hollywood royalty, as well as Instagram influencers, fashion editors, and quite literally, the girl (and boy) next door.
With a minimalist aesthetic and an accessible price point, VEJA appeals to a wide audience, from streetwear kids to suburban moms and the traditional luxury consumer. In the past few years it’s carved out a unique niche; its signature V has made the brand recognisable, much like Adidas’ three stripes or Nike’s swoosh.
The French fashion brand was set up in 2005 by childhood friends and former bankers Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion. The pair were inspired after their visits to clothing and food factories in South America, Asia and Australia while running a non-profit organisation that studied corporate social responsibility policies. During their visits, they became deeply concerned with how products were made and resolved to do something about it.
Aiming to manufacture sneakers made of the most ecological materials and involving ethical suppliers, VEJA was the first fully sustainable sneaker brand — its styles are crafted in Brazil from organic cotton with Amazonian wild rubber soles. VEJA means look in Portugese.
Sébastien said the idea behind the brand was to:
……rethink the creation of a popular product.
The pair took the most symbolic object of their generation, to deconstruct and reconstruct it differently. Sneakers are an interesting product economically because for the big brands, most of their costs are in advertising (70%) while only 30% are in raw materials and labour. This simple equation is at the heart of VEJA. By forgoing advertising, the company could create sneakers 5 times more expensive to manufacture while offering them at the same price as the big brands in stores.
Though even today, many who wear the brand aren’t aware of its ethical credentials — VEJA doesn’t market it. The company has sold over three and a half million pairs of sneakers, stocked at 2,000 retailers in 60+ countries. In recent years, the privately owned company has experienced significant double-digit growth from its Parisian HQ and employs over 190 people. Not too shabby for a company that started out with €14,000 of self-funding, a €15,000 bank loan and one sneaker silhouette.
Not content with their conquering of the fashion sneaker industry, however, Kopp and Morillion have set their sights, and VEJA’s future, on the US$181bn performance wear market; the duo recently unveiled the company’s first-ever running trainer. Titled the Condor, it was four years in the making; Veja wanted to disrupt the technical sneaker market by making the first post-petroleum running shoe.
We succeeded in doing a sustainable trainer that you wear for everyday, and we thought OK, the next logical step is sports, as technical shoes are mostly made from virgin plastic.
What Kopp says is logical if actually something of a rarity. While sports sneakers have become a mainstay in fashion circles — Adidas’ Stan Smith tennis trainers were made fashionable once again by ex-Céline designer Phoebe Philo — it’s much less common for fashion brands to attempt to infiltrate the performance wear market, competing against Nike and Adidas.
Breaking into the running market isn’t easy. It’s expensive and highly technical. Most fashion brands partner with a big sports label, such as Nike with Junya Watanabe, Puma with Jil Sander, and Reebok with Chanel. Kopp and Morillion soon realised they had entered a whole other ball game. They were like a car company trying to build a Formula One racer.
VEJA’s materials [including recycled corn waste, banana oil, plastic bottles and sugar cane] are technical, but their shoes are not that technical because they are very vintage, very plain. Entering this world was much more difficult for them. They spent one year on the rubber sole alone and it was a big failure because it was too heavy, and far too easy to damage. They also discovered that aesthetics were not that important, as every gram counts in a running shoe.
Developing the Condor running shoe was advantageous in other ways, it made the pair realise what improvements they could make to the sneakers less stiff and lighter. The pair also decided to take a step back and appointed outsider Laure Browne as the group’s new CEO. Browne, with over 30 years’ experience in French and international groups, wanted to join a company that allowed the convergence of her personal and professional values. Her mission at Veja is to support the co-founders on both strategic and operational levels, and to lead the young VEJA talents to the next level.
More recently the company has opened its first Test Hub in Bordeaux dedicated to clean, recycle and refurbish old pairs of VEJA shoes. It will also offer customers prototypes of the brand’s shoes that hadn’t made the cut to go to market, which will be sold at reduced prices, as well as pairs from old collections.
Meanwhile, VEJA continues to grow independently with no outside investors and it’s the intention of the brand and its owners is to keep it that way. Long may they thus continue.
Now I have plenty of songs in my archives in response to Jim Adams’ prompt for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday Challenge which is Songs with one word Titles. The big question is which one to choose? Given the current discussions around women’s safety, I thought I would choose Mercy by Duffy.
Amy Anne Duffy is a Welsh singer, songwriter and actress. Her debut album, Rockferry, released in 2008, became the best-selling album in the UK that year and led to worldwide attention. It spawned the successful single “Mercy”. In 2009, Duffy received the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album for Rockferry, one of three nominations, and won three out of four Brit Awards nominations, for British Breakthrough, Best British Female and Best British Album.
Mercy was produced and co-written by Steve Booker, the song is allegedly autobiographical, it’s about “sexual liberty” and “not doing something somebody else wants you to do”. Just a few months after the song’s release it was a staple on VH1 and had been featured in the season finale of the American television medical drama Grey’s Anatomy as well as being on the soundtrack album for Sex and the City: The Movie.
In 2010, Duffy made her acting debut in the film Patagonia and released her second studio album Endlessly to moderate success. In February 2011, Duffy announced an indefinite hiatus from music. She briefly returned in 2015, appearing in the film Legend and contributing three songs to its soundtrack, but has yet to make a full return to music. In 2020, she explained her long term absence from the music industry, saying she had been abducted and raped.
This is a salad I’ll make regularly throughout autumn, winter and spring. Indeed, just as long as I can get organic, fresh celeriac. This creamy, mustardy slaw is a a typical French hors d’oeuvre. It used to be a bistro stalwart but you’re now more likely to find it in a supermarket chiller cabinet. Its fresh crunch and sweetly nutty, faintly celery flavour makes it the perfect base for a salad. Next time you’re reaching for a tub of coleslaw, give this a whirl instead.
It only takes a few steps to turn this brute
1.Peel the celeriac, trying to leave it squarish. Slice thinly, then cut into matchsticks. I generally use my food processor. As you work, periodically the lemon juice on top of the cut celeriac to stop it discolouring.
2. You can use the celeriac as is, but I like to blanch it to soften it. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil, dunk in the celeriac for a couple of seconds, then immediately rinse under cold water, drain well and pat dry.
3. To make the dressing, put the mustard in a small heatproof bowl, beat in 2 tbsp boiling water, then whisk in the oil and vinegar. Season to taste. I tend to make this in my Nutribullet. Alternatively, use a good quality mayonnaise into which you mix some Dijon mustard.
4. Mix the dressing into the celeriac, coat thoroughly. You can now serve the remoulade but, like many things, I think it’s best left to allow the flavours to mingle. Top with chopped herbs before serving. Now what could be easier than that!
5. Remoulade pairs particularly well with cured meat and fish. If I’m serving it with fish, I might add in a few chopped cornichons and capers. However you eat it, though, it should be in the company of a crunchy baguette. That’s non-negotiable.
I might have run out of doors but fortunately that’s not the case with statues/sculptures. There are a number of local civic ones I want to show case but they’re situated on roundabouts and I typically have to dice with death (French drivers) in order to secure their photos.
Meanwhile, here’s another one from my beloved’s bithday trip to Mallorca two years ago. He’s already moaning about spending a second birthday in lockdown!
I’ve chosen a photo of a work by one of my favourite sculptors Eduardo Chillida (1924 – 2002). This one, made from concrete and called “Lugar de Encuentro V” (Meeting Point 5), is at the foot of the stairs leading up to Plaza Mayor, Palma de Mallorca.
I’ve already featured a number of Chillida’s works, most notably those in San Sebastian, his birthplace. Though, interestingly, he started his working career as a footballer. He was the goalkeeper for Real Sociedad, San Sebastian’s La Liga football team, before a knee injury ended his promising career. He then studied architecture at the University of Madrid from 1943 to 1946. But in 1947 he abandoned architecture for art, and the following year he moved to Paris, where he set up his first studio and began working in plaster and clay. He never finished his degree and reamined in France until his marriage in 1951 after which he returned to the Basque Country, where he remained until his death.
Chillida’s sculptures concentrated on the human form (mostly torsos and busts) though his later works tended to be larger and more abstract, and included many monumental public works. Chillida himself rejected the label of “abstract”, preferring instead to call himself a “realist sculptor”. Upon returning to the Basque Country, Chillida abandoned the plaster he had used in his Parisian studio and he began to work mainly in forged iron.
Chillida’s sculptures enjoyed public recognition early on and, in 1954 he produced the four doors for the basilica of Arantzazu, where works by other leading Basque sculptors – Jorge Oteiza, Agustin Ibarrola and Nestor Basterretxea – were also being installed. The following year, he carved a stone monument to the discoverer of penicillin, Sir Alexander Fleming, for a park in San Sebastian. By the early 1970s, his steel sculptures had been installed in front of the Unesco headquarters in Paris, the ThyssenKrupp building in Düsseldorf, and in a courtyard at the World Bank offices in Washington
At their best his works, although massive and monumental, suggest movement and tension. Much of Chillida’s work was inspired by his Basque upbringing, and many of his sculptures’ titles are in the Basque language Euskera.
This challenge is kindly hosted by Susan Kelly over at No Fixed Plans.
Share a photo of a statue or sculpture – go on, give it a go, you know you want to!
For the next two weeks, the Friendly Friday Blog Challenge is asking us to share a story, photographs, poem or recipe on the theme: Something Fishy.
Fish have always loomed large in my life. My father was a fish wholesaler and consequently could identify a good piece of fish at 20 paces. Any holiday would always involve a trip to the local fish market with my father pointing out what to look for to ensure you were buying the freshest fish and seafood. Lessons I have never forgotten.
Obviously we ate fish regularly at home and I still have nightmares about when I was served fish fingers for lunch at a friend’s house. Apart from making the obvious coment about fish not having fingers, I was at a loss to understand how these woolly day-glo orange sticks were considered fish.
Understandably, I am very picky about the fish I eat. It has to be sustainable. I love having conversations with my local fishmonger about the provenance of his offering and on more than one occasion he’s complimented me on my knowledge – praise indeed. As an occasional fish-eating vegan, I choose where I eat fish with care. There’s surely nothing worse than overcooked fish.
So, here’s my selection for something fishy!
This year the girls are are opening up the challenge, making its focus not purely on photography but making it a little more varied, a little more open and interesting.
Are you joining in this year? Go on……you know it’ll be fun!
This is such an enjoyable exercise, showcasing beautiful flora – flowers, shrubs, trees, bushes and leaves – throughout the year.
Cee’s challenge is all about bringing a little beauty and colour into our daily lives. Who wouldn’t be in favour of that?
Challenge rules, why not join in?
1.Feel free to post every day or whenever you you feel like it. You can either post new flower photos or dig back into your archives.
2. Depending on the time of year, you can post any of these types of things for your FOTD.
Sadly once again we’re not down in the Basque Country enjoying bike racing though at least I get to watch this year’s race on the television. Indeed, thanks to my beloved’s broken, hip, pressure of work and Covid, the last edition we saw was (unbelievably) 2016! Here’s what happened.
Despite the wet and windy weather we had a great time watching the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. Typically, the weather was fine both before and after the race.
With this year’s race falling after Easter, I thought I’d have no problem booking our usual hotel in Getaria.
Sadly, there was no room at the inn and I had to look elsewhere. That’ll teach me to give it glowing reviews on booking.com! Instead, I decided to head for the hills and picked a hotel slap bang in the middle of the race’s parcours. My beloved said I’d found possibly the wettest spot in the entire Basque country – no mean feat! However, he also agreed it was a wonderfully relaxing place with a fabulous restaurant and great WiFi.
We typically go the start and finish of all the stages but this year there was no WiFi available in any of the press rooms which posed rather an issue for us. On the wetter stages, we watched the riders set off, found somewhere for lunch and then headed back to the hotel to work, and watched the stage conclusion on the television. Usually, we eat lunch in the press room but the lavish pintxos buffets were much more modest this year. I like to think that savings made on the press pack were expended on better safety measures for the riders.
In any event, it gave us an opportunity to try out a number of restaurants’ midday menus which are typically 11-15 euros per head for three courses, including wine, water and coffee. I fared well – though I often had to skip dessert – with plenty of mixed vegetable platters, salads and assorted fish dishes. I even found a restaurant in Lesaka which served a quinoa salad!
This year’s race visited regular stage venues such as Etxebarria, Markina-Xemein, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Eibar with a couple we’d not visited during previous editions such as Lesaka (in Navarre), Orio (a fishing village just outside of San Sebastian) and Gerrastatxu (a new summit finish). That said, we did spend a memorable vacation in Orio a couple of years ago and welcomed the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the town.
This year’s edition of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco seemed particularly tough and, of course, the biting cold weather and rain made it even more treacherous. Tension was maintained until the final stage, a hilly time-trial won by Alberto Contador who also took the overall. He’s a very popular figure in Spain, even in the Basque country where they have plenty of their own riders to support. He delighted the crowd by saying he might not retire at the end of the year.
On our travels we also visited a couple of new places, such as Tolosa and, in particular, Azkoitia and Azpeitia with their magnificent churches and basilica, many honouring Inigo de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.
We also found time to have a quick wander around the old town of San Sebastian, to which we’ll return at the end of July for the Clasica San Sebastian. But that’s not all. We’ll have a third visit to the Basque country, to Bilbao, in early September during the Vuelta a Espana.
I’m finally hors doors and am going to be dipping into my archives for red doors, posh doors, really really old doors, wrought iron doors, gates, church doors etc etc
Here is another curated selection this time it’s of rather handsome old wooden doors.
Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Dan’s site https://nofacilities.com, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).