The world’s first circular sneakers. Here is the promise of the Luxembourgish startup that starts the year with a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter that ends soon. It exceeds all expectations. So far, so good? The backers still have a few hours to show up to unlock the latest features. Your last chance to make a sustainable impact. Delivery of the first copies in March.
Photo: You will probably not walk the same way in a few weeks with Our Choice’s sneakers created by Filip Westerlund / Credits © Our Choice
More than 150 backers and 18.000 euros collected for this natural and plastic-free sneaker. “We are fully funded so that’s good news. We still have the ‘stretch goal’ to reach 200 backers. That’s part of the concept: to unlock new features such as more colors. It has to do with our suppliers looking for quantities and volume. So the more backers we get, the more colors we can unlock,” says Filip Westerlund, Founder of Our Choice. Finishing his Master in Psychology at the University of Luxembourg, the student-entrepreneur has a strong interest in sustainable behavioral change. In short, shopping and consumption can also induce addiction, just like drugs and alcohol.
It’s also no surprise that he decided to start his company within the University of Luxembourg Incubator. Filip has always been close to business at some point as his parents had their own business. At the University he can benefit from the Venture Mentoring Service program run by the incubator and surround himself with experienced advisors and mentors on a pro bono basis. A good way to kick start a startup.
“The challenge for us is to do everything with nothing. We don’t have any funds, no investors, our plans to raise funds abroad was cancelled due to covid situation, so we went for this idea of crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.”
The story of Our Choice started two years ago when Filip looked at his wardrobe and saw a big pile of broken plastic sneakers. As he has been a pro environment for a long time and love nature he has always try mending the sneakers himself. He tried to bring the sneakers to local cobblers and ask them to mend the sneakers but everyone said no, because they are all made from plastics. Plastic is not mendable, not durable and that’s how the idea came about. Filip wanted to make something that is high quality that would last for many years to come. The sneakers are repairable, so that the environmental impact becomes much lower than if one were to buy multiple plastic sneakers.
How did Filip Westerlund turn his idea of circular sneakers into life ? The team is the first point he mentions at a glance. “I have a business partner. He is a chemical engineer and we know each other for years. That was the step number one to start the projet and expand on the knowledge. I’m not a fashion designer, nor an engineer but I started by building a team, on boarding advisors and members to really push forward,” details Filip. Another major part of the project is the manufacturing. Our Choice’s team has an agreement with a factory in Portugal to produce the first pair of sneakers. “It is very challenging to find the first manufacturer because they all want to produce high volumes and we want people to buy less !”, tells the founder. The partner we found appreciates sustainability and circularity. The timing is right and the trend is there. Sustainability is everywhere. “The challenge for us is to do everything with nothing. We don’t have any funds, no investors, our plans to raise funds abroad was cancelled due to covid situation, so we went for this idea of crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.”
The campaign is a real success and the energy spent by Filip had a lot to do with it. What will he do the day after the closing ? “I will catch my breath for a day or two and the move onto after sales”, reveals the founder. “We will make sure that people can still reach out to us and that they can still get a product if they wish”. The grand plan for Our Choice is also to launch an e-commerce platform, expand in France, potentially run more campaigns and develop new products. What about the materials used and to be used ? “One of the core aspects is that regular products are made from plastics and it’s very hard to find a plastic free material that is not made from animals. We would like to develop something that is vegan but also plastic free. That’s a big challenge,” wishes Westerlund. This will only be possible with funds according to the founder. The startup currently uses an Italian vegetable tanned leather which is manufactured under ISO in Portugal.
“I just spoke with a journalist and she’s been wearing her grandmothers old leather boots for 65 years. I see that same thing happening with our seekers because you can mend them time after time.” The average consumer buys plastic sneakers and use them for a year maximum. If we could all wear our sneakers for longer that would have a huge, positive impact on the environment” emphasized the entrepreneur. We need materials that are not plastic and not hurting the environment. The next step and future challenge would be to give vegan people an optional material to leather that is also plastic free.
“At Our Choice we’re cleaning up plastics and we’re not adding more plastics to the system.”
The Our Choice backers will get an excellent pair of sneakers that will last for many years. How to support the project? Just go on the Kickstarter page and choose an offer. It’s that simple. If you really believe in the circular economy and this new way of getting sustainable shoes, the first deliveries will be made in the first quarter of this year. “As a sustainable business model, we produce after people order instead of producing and putting goods onto shelves and wait for people to buy them,” details Filip.
“We can really do something for the environments. People say that materials are problematic and that we should not use plastic or leather but the main problem is that we’re consuming too much. We’re buying three pair of sneakers each and every year, on average. We want people to buy less. In order to do so we need to have high-level quality standards at an affordable price,” continues the startup founder. “Our core message right now is: let’s properly do something for the environment and let’s stop mass consumption. That’s also the best thing we can do to signal to the market that we don’t want fast fashion.”
Circular economy projects have the upside of consuming less CO2 but also compensating for it. The startup’s good idea is to have precisely calculated that a pair of its sneakers can save 14 kilos of CO2. So every time people don’t buy plastic sneakers they are doing a good deed for the planet. “We clean up one kilogram of ocean plastics for each and every pair sold. We have partnered with a Norwegian company called Empower. We don’t use any plastic but we clean up plastics. A lot of brands are producing garments and sneakers from recycled ocean plastics but they’re still using that same plastics to manufacture low-quality sneakers with a linear business model which results in more landfills and plastic in the oceans,” concluded Our Choice founder Filip Westerlund. “Instead, our equation results in a positive impact. At Our Choice we’re cleaning up plastics and we’re not adding more plastics to the system. That’s what we do to compensate the offsets that we are responsible for.” You will probably not walk the same way in a few weeks!