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Skye: The Ultimate Everyday Shoe

How Skye uses recycled bottles, transparent nylon and algae to create comfortable, stylish and versatile footwear.

Date: 2021-10-29
There are countless footwear brands in the world, but none quite like SKYE. Founded in Vancouver and designed for performance across a wide range of scenarios and weather conditions, SKYE’s combination of sleek looks and smart design has earned the upstart brand a devoted following in Canada and beyond. We chatted with designer Justin Heinrichs about why the world needed a new kind of footwear company, and his plans to create the ultimate casual performance shoe.

What was the initial concept for SKYE?

A lot of companies focus on either hardcore casual or hardcore athletic performance, but there’s a gap in between those for a casual, comfortable, athletic-looking pair of shoes that can be worn anywhere. We saw that gap and we wanted to fill it with something that you can wear from peak to pub. You can wear it on a hike, you can wear it to the bar, or to work. It's really about all-day comfort, sustainability and adaptability.

How does that philosophy show up in SKYE’s shoes?

The first collection was all about the elastic bungee system, which was inspired by me going paddle-boarding in Vancouver one day, looking down at the elastic straps on my board and saying, ‘Hey we might be able to apply this to footwear.’ On the sustainability side, it’s about replacing traditional materials with recycled materials and incorporating new technologies. A great example of that is the Bloom algae compound we’re using to replace part of the EVA foam insole. It reduces your carbon footprint by actually taking carbon out of the air during the drying process and trapping it inside, and you still don't lose any of the comfort or cushioning. We also create samples for our new designs in 3D on the computer, which eliminates a bunch of shipping back and forth between us and our factories and eliminates all the carbon that's produced through those emissions.

What does SKYE do better than anyone else?

We take casual-looking footwear and infuse it with as much innovative technology as we possibly can, and we do it sustainably. For example, the majority of our products are 100% waterproof, so you're not going to have any issues with water getting in when you're on a hike or you're out adventuring. But it also has that casual aesthetic so you can wear it to work or out on the town. We’re also really proud of the design process and how we solve a lot of our design challenges through 3D rendering, instead of the traditional sampling product process which creates a lot of waste.

What are you most excited about in the new collection?

The Mobrly is the most innovative and sustainable shoe that we've done to date, and it's also our newest release. It was inspired by the success of our waterproof sneaker boots, but we wanted to take it into a more refined, lower-profile sneaker package. We looked at sustainable, durable materials, which led us to this translucent nylon made from recycled plastic bottles, which also showcases the inner workings of the shoe. Then with the outsole design, we developed this moat in the middle that channels snow down and out the sides while maintaining grip as you're moving forward. It's also our first shoe where we've implemented the Bloom algae compound, so for each pair, you're cleaning 27 litres of water and 17 cubic meters of air, and we’re really excited about that.

Can we expect more innovations like this to come?

You might have heard that the fashion industry is the second-worst polluter in the world, behind the oil and gas industry. So anytime we can reduce the number of petrochemicals we use, I want to take that opportunity and dive right in with it. Our partnership with Bloom has been great so far and we will be continuing to utilize them in more ways for every shoe that we design moving forward. We’re also working on a closed-loop manufacturing solution to make our shoes fully recyclable. I can't say we're there yet, but that is something we will certainly be looking at doing in the future.