TRADITION IS A POOR EXCUSE FOR DESTRUCTION
What you making those shoes from then?
Why are they better than what’s already out there?
What’s your beef with leather anyway? (get it?!)
Initially the ambition for Grow was entirely focused on building a better product. Tired of marketing over substance we wanted to make something clear, concise and which lived up to its promise. Do you remember when Apple launched the iPod and the advert said ‘40,000 songs in your pocket’, you know what you’re getting with that! A little box that fits into your pocket and can hold 40,000 songs. So why was it with School Shoes that the marketing talked about ‘wholesome, happy, positive, scientific, quality’ etc. etc. But the products just don’t live up to it? They fall apart quickly, are hard to clean and look after, get hot and sticky, the styling looks outdated and chintzy, it seems like you put them on your Childs feet and within 1 month the shoes look totally destroyed. We needed to make an iShoe!
We’ll talk about the old fit myth in another blog post, but it’s so frustrating! Making things deliberately complex so it feels like a science in order to get you to come to a shop so the length and circumference of your Childs foot can be put into a matrix to identify which size they need is a deliberate act of misdirection. The whole thing feels like a necessity rather than a choice - a life tax “we have to do it, we don’t like it, it’s the best of a bad bunch”.
There has to be something better! A school shoe that is truly fit for purpose.
A shoe is basically an upper and a sole unit, the material of upper, (outer material and lining), ultimately gives the shoe its strength, ease of use and foot environment quality.
To make Grow Shoes we looked long and hard to find a magic material, and settled on an advanced microfibre in order to make the shoes - it looks exactly like leather, but gives a far improved performance and quality level.
The tick list was to find a material with the following qualities:
Burst Strength - We wanted a material that won’t scuff, tear, burst, rip or deteriorate as easily as leather.
Anti Bacterial (gross alert) - Little hot sticky trotters are a haven for foot bacteria - we wanted an anti bacterial materials for both the lining and the outer.
Breathable - Air flow is super important to foot health - we wanted to increase the breathability of the material compared to leather.
Ease of care - Come on, who really thinks polishing school shoes with brushes and clothes is realistic! We needed an easy care material that can be cleaned with a sponge and water.
Waterproof - School shoes get wet - we live in the UK! We needed a material that won’t stretch and become misshapen when it rains, keeping the foot dry as well as keeping the shoe looking good. Our material needed to be waterproof.
Plus it has to be approved for use in children’s shoes to the highest level.
We have to recognise the insane harm to the planet that mass produced leather causes.
You do not need us to tell you that we live in a world facing an unprecedented environmental and ecological challenge. Industrialisation of human behaviour has lead to unsustainable levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Raising the Earth’s core temperature, fuelling environmental degradation, natural disasters, weather extremes and food and water insecurity’s. The sea levels are rising as the Arctic ice sheets melt, coral reefs are dying, oceans are acidifying, and forests are burning. It is clear that business as usual is not good enough. As the infinite cost of climate change reaches irreversible highs, now is the time for bold collective action.
Simply put, we have broken the environment and the world needs our help in order for it to regenerate itself. In fact, to be more accurate, the world needs our help in order to sustain our species. No corner of the globe is immune from the devastating consequences of climate change, we need to help the world in order to help ourselves. The greatest race of our existence has started, but the good news is this is a race that we can win, although only if we change our behaviour.
We have to think more deeply and more clearly than ever before, we have to challenge every single thing we know about what we use, buy, wear and eat, we have to stop making excuses and prevent ourselves accepting without consideration that traditions are OK. We have to challenge ourselves to change our nature, and then together we can begin to push back from adversity and create a path to sustainability.
At Grow, our little bit of the world (the mass leather shoe industry), is unfortunately a true villain. We look at these brands with their cutesy images and messaging as wholesome staples of our national culture. Unfortunately the development of globalised supply chains for mass leather shoes makes them quite the opposite.
Let me take a moment to tell you a story about how school shoes are made.
Simply put, it works like this:
You need a lot of cows - really a lot - so many in fact that the required herd sizes are ‘hedged’ way in advance. Yes, the cows are bred to order. One of the few places with pasture sizes big enough to cope with the demand is Latin America. Which is OK, because you just cut down the tree’s and replace them with pasture land where you can graze cows or grow sugar beet to feed them. The other benefit here is that the cows can be produced at a much lower cost and with less welfare control than you have in the EU or UK. But the problem with lots of cows is of course lot’s of carbon and methane that is released into the atmosphere, and the problem with the removal of the tree’s is that there is no way for the atmosphere to rid itself of all the additional carbon and methane that cow production creates.
When the animals get to the right size so that their skin produces a maximum yield of leather, they are processed, this is often thought of as a bi-product of the meat industry, it is absolutely not! It’s a totally different production process to meat - this is the leather industry. Again tanning cow hide to leather on a mass scale is highly polluting, using lots of water that is released into the water systems and ends up in the rivers and oceans harming these unique environments.
Oh sorry, one second - my copy editor has just walked in.
Me: Hey mate.
CE: Hey dude, what you working on?
Me: That blog piece about our materials you asked me for.
CE: Oh, cool, let’s have a read………
What on earth is this?
Me: What do you mean?
CE: It’s like a horror story - who do you think is going to want to read this?
Me: Errr - sorry, maybe I misunderstood, I thought you said be ‘factual and honest’ and that we should never hide from the truth, just lay it out as it is?
CE: Yes, but dude - people are sitting at home, clicking about on the internet, they don’t want to read stuff like this ? Come on man.
Me: Oh sorry.
CE: Imagine it, you’re sitting on the sofa queuing up an episode of Death In Paradise, waiting for your partner to come back from the loo, having a little browse around and suddenly you’re reading about destroyed environments, dead cows and cutting down rainforests? It’s not exactly ‘let’s get into chill’ mode is it?
Me: Sorry, I see what you mean, I didn’t think about Death in Paradise. I was just trying to……
CE: OK, stop, you’re being sarcastic now. It’s not about Death in Paradise, although on that subject I do maintain that if you just gave it a go you might actually like it. It’s about how you frame this blog post in a more positive light. But also while we’re on the subject - I just saw that Death in Paradise is moving to a primetime Friday night slot anyway, so I think you are literally the only person who doesn’t watch it now.
Me: Look, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to antagonise honestly, I’ll rewrite the post and you’re right, I’m going to give Death in Paradise another go, I’ll do it tonight, I’ll just watch it on catchup rather than waiting until Friday night.
CE: Mate - stop being facetious and write the dam post OK.
Me: OK. Sorry.
Our materials are quite amazing, European sourced microfibre giving incredible technical performance. It is far more abrasion resistant than leather, which means that the shoes stay looking good for longer, they won’t scuff or get out of shape like normal kids leather shoes, our materials are even resistant to harmful chemicals. Also microfibre’s have a far superior level of breathability, six times more than leather, this means that the feet have fresh air all around them, so they don’t get hot and sticky, creating a more healthy environment for better foot health. On the subject of the foot environments, all the upper and lining materials in Grow shoes are treated to make them antibacterial, meaning there is no bacterial build-up inside the shoe, again this helps create a super healthy environment for growing feet. Also the materials we use are waterproof, keeping the foot free from damp on the inside. Cleaning and caring for the shoe is as easy as wiping it with a sponge and water - there is no need for all that polishing and brushing anymore. Microfibres are like a wonder material, developed to improve performance. It offers a more environmentally considerate solution to high performance material needs in things like safety products or transport interiors. Whilst the appearance is almost identical to natural cow hide the performance is far and away more impressive, and the reduction in environment impact is huge. Our materials and accredited to Oco-Tex Standard 100 Class 1 which gives and independent seal of approval that the materials have passed stringent controls and been declared free of agents harmful to the environment.
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