Making shoes from plastic: An interview with Rothy's Director of Product Design

Published on
June 3rd, 2021
💌 Join 500K+ subscribers who get the best of tech every day right to their inbox
Share On
"Don’t be afraid to rethink the process in order to bring your ideas to life."
Rothy's started making waves as a direct-to-consumer brand in 2016 with their women's ballet flats made of recycled plastic water bottles. The company has continued to maintain its position as a leader in sustainable fashion, making its way on to Time's 100 Most Influential Companies for 2021.
In May, Rothy's announced its expansion into a new category with the launch of its first men's shoes. We connected with Lavion Gibson, Rothy's Director of Product Design, to learn more about what it like was leading the design and development on this project.

On approaching a new category:

We set out concepting the idea for our eventual men’s category in early 2019. It was in late 2019 is when we put pen to paper and really started to flush out the ideas we had been thinking about as a team. We spent a lot of time thinking about who our men’s customer would be and researching the many psychographics that we wanted to target, from where they shop, to what they read, and where they go on a day-to-day basis.
We applied many of the universal insights gained over the past five years with our women’s footwear and focused our attention on two core silhouettes for the launch of men’s that would allow us to serve our customers with two versatile styles. Our goal was to create each with a distinct aesthetic perfect for just about any wearing occasion. We wanted them to quickly make their way to the front of your daily footwear rotation.

On creating during a pandemic:

We finalized design and development for the Men’s collection during the height of the pandemic as our teams were working remotely, so we definitely had to get creative when it came to finalizing prototypes and virtual collaboration. We had to reset around the way we worked, and for the first time in the history of the brand design, prototype, and test remotely. We designed and problem solved without ever visiting our factory - this was only possibly because of the amazing synergies between our trusted team and integrated model.

On sustainable design:

Rothy's unique approach to manufacturing & production really gives us the space to challenge the limitations of what's possible. Our core men’s silhouettes — The RS01 Sneaker and The Driving Loafer — are constructed using Rothy’s signature rPET thread made from 100% recycled plastic. We were hyper-focused on how we could leverage our 3D knitting process to minimize the waste typically associated with traditional footwear manufacturing and maximize comfort — a benefit opportunity we identified early on.
We’re excited to introduce new styles and colorways to our men’s consumer in the future, with a focus on seasonality in materials and construction. We also recently announced a commitment to achieving circular production by 2023, and will address circularity in Rothy’s Men’s shoes, just as we are across all other products. This means piloting a recycling program in 2021 to take back used products and then breaking materials down to then introduce 2x recycled material into future products starting in 2022. All with the goal to include majority preferred materials (2x recycled or bio-based) and solve for end-of-wear solutions in all Rothy’s products by 2023.
Just as we’ve pushed for a more sustainable future in women’s fashion, I'm proud that we're continuing to pave the way for sustainability innovation in a new category.

On personal and career growth:

I have grown quite a bit over the past 10 years. I have been fortunate enough to take my childhood passion for design and turn it into my lifelong profession. I have learned when necessary you have to make the process fit your ideas instead of trying to fit your ideas to the process. Don’t be afraid to rethink the process in order to bring your ideas to life.
For Designers just starting out, I would encourage you to learn to trust in yourself and your ideas — if you don't believe in them, no one else will. Second, learn to love the lonely work. The time you put in after-hours can pay dividends, and help you develop lifelong habits that will keep your skillset sharp and your ideas sharper.
Comments (7)
Mark Sokolov
It is unnatural thing. Only leather makes it real.
Nik Hazell
Love this, and love your goal of preferred materials @sarah_wright7!
Hong Dao
I'm quite interested in this making shoes from plastic project. If you want shoes like that, head to Pay less voucher codes for the best coupons for your purchase.
Nice idea and interesting article. Thanks for sharing the news about it. Want to buy high-quality shoes at discounted prices, head to this link now