Driven by plant power, techno, and recycling, the Paris-based brand is ready to show Innersect 2021 how it turns food waste into footwear
When Mats Rombaut launched vegan accessory brand Rombaut in 2013 in reaction to fashion’s waste problem, consciousness was at its heart. Using luxurious plant-based materials, recycled fibres, and high grade artificial leather, its fashion-forward, limited-edition footwear continually pushes what’s possible; who could forget the green pool slides with butter lettuce-leaf upper from 2018? In 2020, as the wider world woke up to the climate crisis and tomorrow’s world technologies helped bring much-needed change, the Ghent-born, Paris-based multi-disciplinary creative launched Virón. Building on eight years of research and development of Rombaut, Virón’s focus is on circularity and its philosophy deeply rooted in counterculture.
While Rombaut is concerned with imagining the future, Virón enables Mats to explore nostalgic references, celebrate his love of techno, and react to the moment. “Virón is about taking action today,” he explains over Zoom. Through Virón, he’s reimagining footwear for the climate crisis age. “We wanted to see what is the best thing we can do today to start reversing all this madness,” he adds. Much like Greta Thunberg criticising global leaders over their empty promises to address the climate emergency as “blah, blah, blah”, Mats grew tired of fashion leaders’ inaction. In this age of mass awakening, he believes that counterculture is key in forging a new path with new systems in place. “It’s on us to define the world we want to live in.”
Virón’s participation at Innersect 2021, East Asia’s leading street culture event, provides a timely platform to share its positive change vision to a wider audience. “Our Innersect installation enables us to visually demonstrate that we’re using bio-based materials in an easy, attention capturing way,” Mats explains. Without spoiling it for attendees, the space will house an industrial machine with apples going in one end and shoes magically coming out the other, alongside videos of the actual processes behind the shoes and a flyer dedicated to explaining the bio-based content in the PU. The installation encapsulates Virón’s approach.
Beyond being conscious, there’s a mindfulness and self-awareness that all brands should learn from. From its playful visuals to its transparent copywriting, sweaty dance-floor raves to imagination-igniting installations, Virón challenges preconceptions of what a vegan brand can be. Yes, you really can be responsible, and want to treat the Earth as a home rather than a resource AND have fun. “We drink and we party,” he explains. “We don’t try to be moral and point fingers at anyone, we’re just trying to offer a solution and show it our way.”
“As the consciousness of the younger generation has changed it has encouraged us to fight for what we believe in and propose something that makes sense to us, that can change the industry as well,” he adds. In just over a year, Virón has evolved into a democratic platform where new ideas and sustainable alternatives grow hand in hand. Today, as it launched, Virón stands strong in its holy trinity of beliefs: for the planet, the animals and the people, equally. Its commitment is to reduce, reuse, and recycle (as much as possible). Soles are made from recycled rubber, uppers, lining and insoles from recycled canvas, while PET bottles and fishnets were introduced in the last collection. Experienced and exacting, Mats questions everything suppliers tell him, because marketing doesn’t only happen from brands to consumers, it happens throughout the production and supply chain to brands too.
“As the consciousness of the younger generation has changed it has encouraged us to fight for what we believe in and propose something that makes sense to us, that can change the industry as well” – Mats Rombaut
Virón counters greenwashed empty promises with responsible production and ethical sourcing. Today, they are using high-quality plant-based leather alternatives from apple skin and corn husk waste, upcycled vintage fabrics, and 70 per cent recycled rubber soles. Additionally, Virón is creating a closed-loop system where in the future customers can return the shoes for a discount and the sole will either get donated or will be reintegrated into the supply chain. Each process will be showcased at Innersect 2021. Whether you walk in their shoes or just acknowledge their approach, any time spent in Virón’s world sparks optimism for tomorrow.