Po-Zu (‘pause’ in Japanese) is the UK’s top sustainable footwear brand and it has launched a collection in partnership with Star Wars. If you’ve ever wanted to dress like a Stormtrooper (feet only), now is your chance.
Po-Zu was launched in 2006 by Sven Segal and People Tree’s legendary Safia Minney has recently joined as managing director – quite a formidable pairing if you follow moves in the ethical fashion sphere. The brand has already chalked up awards including the Green Award and Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 at PEA Awards, and it is nominated for the Ethical Fashion Award at the 2017 FashionWorked Awards.
Other brands have been clambering to get their hands on the brand’s cool too. Maharishi, Amazon Life and Timberland have worked on projects with Po-Zu, as has artist, Michel Tcherevkoff – the resultant product was exhibited in at the Grassi Museum in Leipzig and the Virtual Shoe Museum.
How did this footwear brand that was launched from the back room of a house in London end up collaborating with such heavyweights, including Disney / Lucasfilm? We find out. We also find out which Star Wars characters are Sven and Safia’s favourites.
Congratulations on the Star Wars collection. How did it come about?
It was very organic, really. Lucasfilm approached us for the range and of course we jumped at the chance. We make shoes that are designed to be loved and to last and it’s great that we have been able to bring this heritage and craftsmanship to the Star Wars community.
We chose a design aesthetic using strong influences from the main characters in the film. The range is already available to pre-order and we have had a phenomenal response so far. You might have seen recently Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity has been striding out in our sneakers in between the wind farms in Gloucestershire. We are excited about the potential for this range in what we have seen already.
What are some of the materials that we can find in the collection?
We choose our materials carefully based on their environmental impact and durability. This includes: vegan-friendly materials such as organic cotton canvas, cork, natural latex and a new innovative fibre called Pinatex, a highly durable, low-impact material made from pineapples. For the rest of the range, we use responsibly sourced chrome-free leather and wool tweed.
Which is your favourite pair and why, Sven?
I love them all, but if I had to choose one I’d say I the Resistance high-tops; they are simple – yet distinctive, adjustable, super comfy, and very easy to wear.
And who is your favourite Star Wars character?
I love the story of Finn, his awakening and his heroic move to join the resistance; reminds me a bit of my own personal revolution of moving from the dark side of the shoe industry and starting an ethical shoe brand.
And what about you, Safia, which is your favourite pair?
My favourites are the Rey Boot. Made in tweed on the famous coir Po-Zu Foot Mattress, I’ve been trailer testing them for the last four months and they have helped me bounce through the cold months and a huge workload! Lots of people compliment on them – one pointed and shrieked: ‘I have serious boot envy!’
Rey of course. She’s a kick-ass feminist, super clever, kind and resilient. The perfect role model!
Why is sustainable footwear important?
Modern footwear is surprisingly damaging in various ways. As the pace of fashion has quickened we’ve begun buying more shoes, and throwing them away more easily. Traditional shoe-crafting has given way to mass-production, eating up resources and sending an average of three pairs of shoes per person to landfill every year! The quest for cheaper and faster production has also encouraged the exploitation of vulnerable workers through long hours, low pay and dangerous working conditions.
You’ve just been shortlisted for the 2017 FashionWorked Awards for Ethical Fashion, judged by Harold Tillman CBE and Tamsin Lejeune, Founder of the Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF). How important would winning an award like this be?
Sven – When I started Po-Zu I wanted to change the way the footwear industry works for the better. We simply weren't doing enough to protect the people in the supply chain and the ecology of the waste streams. The way the current system is structured just simply isn’t sustainable. A lot has changed between now and then, but there is still a long way to go. My vision is to make what we do the norm, not the exception.
What is really great about the Star Wars range is we are able to step this up a notch, appealing to a huge community of makers and artists and fans who might not necessarily have been aware of this.
Safia – I want to make Po-Zu THE go-to ethical footwear brand. I was fed up with not having good ethical footwear to style models with for People Tree shoots and personally I wanted to wear ethical fashion top to toe. There are lots of people like me. People who want cool sneakers and heels but don’t want to compromise on ethics and aesthetics. There has been a huge increase of awareness around clothing and we need the same for footwear. The footwear industry is a huge exploiter of people and the planet – we are campaigning to raise public awareness of the issues. This award, if we win it, would help to move us closer to our goal.
The 2017 FashionWorked Awards will take place on the 11th of June on the roof terrace of Century Club, under the Grooming Room’s schedule of activities. For details, email Forward PR: [email protected]