Are Vejas New Zealand sneakers the most popular?
According to my own personal research, which involves walking around and noticing what people are wearing on the street (in an observational, non-judgmental way of course), Veja sneakers may be our new national shoe. The brand’s subtle “V” branding seems to appear throughout, a style nod that the wearer knows about – and cares about.
The French brand was launched in 2005 and has become something of a “fashion insider” brand, known for its advocacy of ethical and transparent production, and the use of wild rubber, organic cotton (for details like the laces), recycled plastic and low-impact leather.
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Sustainable fashion is now mainstream, but back then – years before the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh – it was quite progressive, especially in the area of sneakers, which didn’t traditionally the highest reputation for ethical production.
And from a design standpoint, they’re simple and hassle-free. The rise of Veja corresponds with the wider changes in fashion in general – an appreciation of “conscious” consumerism and the rise of a more casual approach to clothing.
It’s for these two reasons – and a desire for ‘relatability’ – that they’re adored by the Royal Family, worn by Kate Middleton, Princess Beatrice and Meghan Markle (she wore a fresh pair on a boat in Sydney in 2018 ), and celebrities such as Katie Holmes, Emma Watson and Rachel Weisz. Local fashion designers Karen Walker and Gosia Piatek from Kowtow are also fans, wearing them personally and each stocking the brand in their shops.
For Walker, the appeal is in the design with a clear philosophy. “It’s the perfect shoe for people who want to make a difference with their choices and also want to look great,” she says. “It has always been a cult product but it is on its way to becoming an icon product. Plus, they go with everything!”
Wellington retail institution Good as Gold has been stocking the brand since 2016, one of the first to offer it here in Aotearoa. Today, it’s the store’s best-selling brand, with founder, buyer and creative director Ruben Bryant describing Veja as “one of the OGs” when it comes to sustainable footwear.
The Campo and V10 styles are best-sellers (the latter with a sleeker sole; the ones Meghan Markle wore), but Bryant also notes the brand’s more fashion-focused collaborations with Marni, Sea Shepherd and Mansur Gavriel (the collaboration Marni subverted the typically minimal aesthetic with a colorful ‘scribble’ print, while Mansur Gavriel’s comes in various delicious candy hues).
Their versatility is a key part of their popularity. I’ve had a few over the years and call them ‘tidy trainers’: most Veja styles are slim and simple, an easy entry level sneaker for people like me who often find the sneakers too thick and intimidating. It’s similar to other trendy sneaker styles that fashion is going crazy for, like the adidas Stan Smith, after minimalist designer Phoebe Philo wore them in 2015, and the 327 from New Balance.
Classic styles act as a minimalist complement to tasteful homewares at Father Rabbit, where it’s also one of the top-selling brands in store. Father Rabbit co-founder Claudia Zinzan was drawn to Veja’s environmental responsibility, and attributes this to their greater popularity – as well as their simplicity that fits into our modern lives. “Their clean aesthetic that works with literally any outfit – whether it’s fitness tights or a suit.”