Veja’s First New York Store is a Lesson in Sustainable Brick-and-Mortar Retail

Following the Nolita outpost, Kopp has another opening on his calendar: Veja’s new recycling workshop in Bordeaux, France, which will debut in April at the Darwin Ecosystème. “Darwin is basically the opposite of WeWork,” Kopp says. “It’s a co-working space just for NGOs and people involved in the climate change fight. They have 1,500 people working there, a huge organic restaurant, the biggest indoor skate park in Europe… It’s the ultimate place for us. I asked if we could open a Veja recycling shop there, so we can clean and repair people’s Veja sneakers, or recycle them if they’re destroyed.”

Here’s where it gets really ambitious: The shop will accept sneakers from any brand, not just Veja’s, in an effort to divert them from landfills, where their plastic, rubber, and leather parts won’t biodegrade. “We’ve been working on this for over a year,” he says. “To recycle sneakers is really complex. There are many different steps and processes involved, depending on the materials in the shoe. It’s a new frontier for us, but it’s the first step into a new world. Some of the recycled material can be used for new sneaker soles, but we’re going to use it for furniture and the skate park, too,” he continues. “It will be very interesting for us to have a place to repair and recycle, and then let’s see if we can sell vintage shoes [later on].”

Addressing the “end of life” of its sneakers will be one of Veja’s key challenges for the next decade, and Kopp shared a list of other sustainability goals. “The leather issue is huge, and we use a lot of leather, so we’re working on that. It’s a big challenge,” he admits. “We’re looking for a better way to trace our recycled PET, too—it’s a bit blurry. We have a big plan for our CO2 emissions, too, which will we’ll release at the end of March. We’re working on every aspect of sustainability, but it’s easy for us, because ewe don’t do advertising, we don’t do big campaigns. We have a big team full of talented people now. We’re at a nice moment for the brand where anything is possible.”

Veja’s new store at 205 Mulberry StreetPhoto: Courtesy of Veja

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