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New Jersey Company Uses Tyvek To Create 'Vegan' Footwear

by Evan Bindelglass, CBSNewYork

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - In this age when we are struggling with climate change and other environmental issues, people are looking for products that are eco-friendly.

East Brunswick, New Jersey-based Unstitched Utilities is catering to that market in the footwear area.

"The genesis was that we were all three, some people have referred to us as recycled veterans of the shoe industry because we've had numerous positions in various companies," co-founder Mark Kane said. "As we were all together at Fila when it was very successful, we, at one point, had talked about starting a company of our own."

LISTEN: Mark Kane On The Genesis Of Unstitched Utilities


Kane and fellow co-founders Jack Steinweis and Kevin Crowley brought their product to market in 2009.

Initially, they made regular shoes.

"[We] very quickly decided that, okay, the shoes are great looking, but we're just another company out there. We had to have a point of difference," Kane.

In 1976, Crowley was working for a rubber comapny owned by Converse and helped develop the first hazardous materials suits made of DuPont's Tyvek material, which is flashspun high-density polyethylene, a synthetic fiber.

So, they had the idea to make shoes using that material.

"As we started to put the line together and market it, we realized that not only only was it eco-friendly, but it was vegan-friendly and there was a growing interest in that," Kane said.

All of their materials are made of non-animal materials or bi-products.

"As put together each consecutive line, we looked to get more eco-friendly and keep consistent with vegan-friendly, but always fashion is critical," he said.

So, what are the eco-friendly elements of the shoes?

The uppers are made from Tyvek, which is 100 percent recyclable. Kane noted that it is also light-weight, waterproof, breathable, and durable. It's almost impossible to tear it without a blade cutting into it.

Some of the uppers use recycled magazines and newspapers.

"Next Day Low Ultra" by Unstitched Utilities
"Next Day Low Ultra" by Unstitched Utilities

The dyes are vegetable and flower-based.

They don't use any leather or glues that have any connection to an animal base.

The laces are cotton.

The bottoms of the shoes are 20 percent recycled rubber.

In addition to all of that, when a pair of their shoes has ended its lifespan, you can send it back to Unstitched Utilities and they will recycle the pair.

Right now, they're selling about 12,000 pairs a year and they expect to double that number in 2013. They are only available online or by phone.

"When you see them at first, people aren't sure really what they're made out," Kane added. "So, I'm getting stopped all the time by people saying 'What are those shoes?' But they're positive comments."

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