Valentino’s New Vegan Sneakers Kick Old-School Pleather to the Curb

Valentino just launched two of its most iconic sneaker designs made with vegan leather and sustainability in mind.
Photo shows the new sustainable, vegan, Valentino Open sneakers.
These new sneakers from Valentino are sustainable and vegan. | Valentino

Valentino is the latest luxury brand to introduce its own unique take on vegan, sustainable sneakers.

The Italian fashion house has “re-designed and re-dedicated” two of its most iconic casual shoes—the Rockstud Untitled and the Open—to acknowledge a more conscious ethos moving forward.

The reimagined sneakers feature recycled and bio-based leather alternatives manufactured using corn-based polyols. Historically used as sugar-free sweeteners, polyols are naturally occurring sugar alcohols derived from carbohydrates.

Recently, they have been deployed by tech companies working on sustainable alternatives to leather. This is preferable to 100 percent polyurethane (PU) leather, which is entirely artificial, doesn’t biodegrade, and has a significant production footprint.

Polyol-based alternatives typically have a high renewable content (around 70 percent), and they also have a softer and more durable texture compared to petroleum-based synthetics. However, companies such as Viridis and Flokser Group still blend in a certain amount of traditional PU, meaning that polyol leather simply lowers the percentage of unsustainable materials.

Valentino launches sustainable vegan sneakers

Valentino’s new Open sneakers are available in a variety of different colorways on white uppers. Each shoe displays the name of the range—Open for a Change—printed unobtrusively across the side. They also feature a Valentino logo on the tongue and the distinctive lacing system associated with these two designs. The studded soles are made using partially recycled rubber.

The upgraded Rockstud Untitled features a similar aesthetic along with signature multi-colored studs (produced this time using recycled nylon) running in two parallel lines across the width of the shoe. Even the packaging for these shoes has been carefully considered, and each pair is packed in recycled cotton and paper sourced from sustainably managed forests.

“With Valentino Garavani Open for a Change, our first conscious-driven product, we reinforce our brand commitment toward more sustainable business practices,” CEO Jacopo Venturini told WWD. “I think it’s important that we continue this way and set targets going forward that are more and more ambitious toward conscious-driven creative innovations.”

On the Valentino website, the company confirms that the new sneakers reflect a “desire to change gears” while maintaining luxury and artisanal traditions. The updated Open and Rockstud sneakers now also include recycled polyester laces, another nod towards sustainability. A single pair of the former costs $690, while a pair of the latter costs $850.

Valentino and sustainability

Open for a Change may represent Valentino’s first “conscious-driven” products, but the brand has been taking steps to become more sustainable, in general, for the last few years.

In 2020, it became the first major luxury fashion company to ban alpaca fleece, and discontinued its sale as of the start of 2022. Valentino has also gone fur-free, joining various other brands such as Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Gucci, Chanel, and Prada.

“The fur-free stance is perfectly in-line with the values of our company,” said Venturini in a statement at the time. “We are moving full-steam ahead in the research for alternative materials in view of a greater attention to the environment for the upcoming collections.”

As with the majority of those moving away from fur, leather, and other animal-derived materials, Valentino has acknowledged the influence of changing public attitudes to both welfare and the environment, as well as the emergence of better, more sustainable technologies and textiles.

Learn more about mushroom leather, the industry’s favorite vegan alternative, here.

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