Never once have I been interested in vegan leather footwear. Never. And to be honest, I am not really that interested to this day, not at least in the making of dress shoes. But I was intrigued when my friend wrote me up and told me about his Grape Leather sneakers of which the skin is a by-product of the wine industry. That piqued my interest, hence the post at hand.
So he sent me a pair for inspection. I did not know what to think, to be honest. But I was pleasantly surprised, not only in how I could barely tell it apart from other leather sneakers in the industry but even more so that he had sold around 2000 pairs of them and was completely sold out of my size! That was impressive!
My friend is Andrey Zhakevich. He is the founder of Gottlieb Schwarz, a Russian shoe brand that sells everything from classic shoes to bespoke shoes, to grape leather sneakers, and even the offering of courses in last making, shoe making, and shoe shine. He has a history similar to my own whereby he was once this young guy with aspirations to do well in the shoe industry and went off to learn as much as he could to make it happen.
Like me, he started by learning how to make shoes by hand at the famous bespoke shoemaking course offered by Stefano Bemer. From there, he gained a knowledge of shoes that helped him start his own shoe brand back in his native hometown of Moscow, Russia. He grew that brand quite well and now has aspirations to get involved in the sustainable side of the industry, hence his new grape leather sneaker collection.
The upper of the sneakers are made from a ‘leather’ that is produced from the wastage of discarded vines, seeds, and grape skins. The outsole is made from a rubber that is partially recycled from industrial waste (unused samples, prototypes, and products – all rubber I imagine). The laces are organic cotton with 100% recycled plastic tips and the adhesive used to put it all together is a water-based one. Quite a healthy pair of sneakers.
I particularly like the idea of the outsole coming from industrial waste. While I would never change cow leather for my dress shoes, I am an advocate for less industrial waste in this world so it is nice to see that they are finding good uses for it.
I was quite bummed that I could not wear-test them. I would actually put these to use on the weekends. They did feel sturdy to be honest, if not on the heavy side. I am curious to see where this industry goes, at least for sneakers. Being that most sneakers are made in man-made materials anyway I really do not see the difference between using grape leather and anything else. As long as it holds up and cleans easily, that is what matters!
Learn more: https://gottlieb-shoes.ru/product/28
Gottlieb Schwarz IG: https://www.instagram.com/gottlieb_schwarz/?hl=en