A Kickstarter campaign for a Croatian start-up’s eco-friendly sneakers has just launched and with 21 days to go (at the time of writing), MIRET already has 509 backers and surpassed its AU$15,350 goal, raising over $93,700 so far and counting.
Following in their father’s footsteps into the footwear industry (literally), MIRET’s founders and brothers Hrvoje and Domagoj Boljar inherited the family shoe factory and spent years designing, developing and manufacturing sneakers for some of the world’s most popular designer brands until they had a radical realisation – their industry as they knew it was an environmentally destructive force in the world.
The brothers make a formidable duo. MIRET is a startup incubated at the Zagreb Innovation Center (ZICER) and participated in the premiere cycle of the EIT Climate-KIC accelerator in Croatia. While Hrvoje Boljar holds a Master’s Degree in Industrial Design and has nine years experience collaborating with high-end labels in design and product development, Domagoj holds a Bachelor of Entrepreneurship and as CEO of the family factory for nine years, is the operational force behind MIRET, focusing on sales, finance and the business supply chain.
Evolving their knowledge of the family business to meet their eco-conscious vision was a logical step for the brothers. “We decided to change ourselves, our setting and the industry,” they share on YouTube.
With their footwear production experience and competence, the brothers made the natural step forward– to offer lower-impact, more environmentally-friendly sneakers in line with their newfound purpose. And thus MIRET was born.
The dark underbelly of the footwear industry
Roughly 23,000,000,000 pairs of shoes are manufactured every year. Twenty-three billion. Let that sink in.
Now think about all the polyester made from oil derivatives that had to be used in footwear production. Consider all the toxic chemicals, the dyes and the glues that were needed to manufacture many of these shoes.
And what of the microplastics shed in footwear production and from the shoes itself? It pollutes the soil, the oceans, and eventually makes its ways into the human food system.
Then there’s all the environmental and ethical problems attached to animal leather– while natural and biodegradable, the chemicals used to turn hide into a usable material for fashion– suede leather and tanned leather– is usually treated with heavy metals like chromium and has a larger impact than its non-leather counterparts.
The journey of creating ethical and environmentally-friendly footwear
Combining their footwear manufacturing skills and experiences and armed with their newfound environmental knowledge, the MIRET founders invested time and capital to turn their eco-friendly sneaker vision into reality.
“It was a five-year-long journey of research, tests and development filled with ups and downs, tears and joy,” they share.
The result of their five-year struggle is a thoughtfully-designed expertly crafted unisex-style shoe featuring materials derived from 10 different plant and other natural fibres and available a wide range of sizes.
The MIRET outsole contains 100% natural latex harvested from rubber trees instead of oil-based synthetic rubber. The insole is ergonomically shaped and made out of cork. It even has a certificate for food safety.
The midsole is made from kenaf and recycled jute coffee bean bags; the shoe laces are made of eucalyptus fibres; the shoe tip from corn and cotton; the lining made from odour-resistant and sustainable wonder fabric hemp and nickel-free metal eyelets.
The toxic petroleum-based water-repellent layers commonly used in the sneaker industry have been replaced with a 100% natural water-repellent layer that biodegrades and has minimal environmental impact.
The brand also offers four different varieties of outer layers to suit your needs and ethical values: ‘Hempies’, ‘Woolies’, ‘Fluffies’, and ‘Veggies’.
MIRET’s vegan-friendly options are the Hempies and Veggies. The Hempies made from European-grown chemical-free hemp. The Veggies are made from a durable and biodegradable vegan textile, developed specifically for the brand and carries a Cradle to Cradle™ certification. At the end of its life, the outer fabric of the shoes can be composted.
The brand’s Fluffies and Woolies range are vegetarian-friendly, made from 100% New Zealand wool that is Oeko-tex and EU Ecolabel certified and holds a Cradle to Cradle™ certification too, which means this material achieves some of the highest possible standards of safety for both animals and the environment.
MIRET is as ethical as it is sustainable. Its suppliers and manufacturers are located in nine European Union countries and the shoes are responsibly handmade in their home country of Croatia.
This is the second generation of eco-sneakers the brothers have produced building on a successful first collection. Incorporating the brilliant feedback received from their first collection, the second-generation is even more durable, lightweight and flexible, designed to keep feet comfortable for long walks.
While MIRET’s longer-term goal is to be the first shoe brand to fully develop sneakers that are 100% natural and biodegradable, they haven’t been able to achieve this yet. Three percent of the shoe is synthetic; synthetic glue and polyester thread to ensure high performance and durability. But what is commendable is not only their willingness to keep improving, but the transparency with which they share this information. Bravo MIRET.
Love the sounds of these 97% ecological sneakers and want a pair? Want to support MIRET sustainable sneaker company? You can make a pledge to their Kickstarter campaign here. It ends April 2.
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