Sustainability

Cole Haan introduces its first sustainable shoe, made from dandelions

Researching and developing the product took a little over two years, versus the typical 15 months.
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Cole Haan

· less than 3 min read

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When Cole Haan rolled out its Generation Zerøgrand sneaker in 2019, it was a bid for younger consumers. It described the product as “gender-neutral,” designed for “urban professionals” and “always-on lifestyles.” Now, with Generation Zerøgrand II—its first-ever sustainable shoe—Cole Haan is learning what matters to Gen Z. (Ohhhh, we see what they did there.)

“They believe very strongly that climate change is man-made, and that we all need to do our part. You don’t have to look far to understand that,” Cole Haan’s brand president, David Maddocks, told Retail Brew. “So we really want to live up to our customers’ expectations.”

Just dandy: The outsole of the new $130 shoe is partially fabricated with Cole Haan’s patent-pending FlowerFoam, made from natural dandelion rubber. Maddocks said it checked a lot of boxes, given that the material is “incredibly lightweight and provides incredible energy return.”

  • Another plus: The dandelion-extraction process covers much of the same ground as that of natural rubber (no need to completely rehaul manufacturing), but it leaves biodegradable waste.

Still, it took time. Researching and developing the product took a little over two years, versus the typical 15 months, he said.

“First [we] go to nature, see if there’s something found in nature that can deliver the benefits or expectations. Second, go to recycled materials,” Maddocks explained. “And then third, if necessary, go to materials that are available, [what] we’ve been using for some time.”

But, but, but: The shoe, of course, isn’t made from 100% sustainable materials. In addition to the 25% dandelion rubber, there are other eco-friendly-ish ingredients like reconstituted felt fabric made with 85% recycled plastic bottles.

Progress is progress, but is there a future where Cole Haan is closer to using solely sustainable materials? Maddocks admitted that “optimistically, we’d love to see that”—and that there are more green products in the pipeline—but the company’s top priority is “delivering the very best product for consumers. Part of that is how long it will last and the durability of it.”—JG

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