Kengos is small sustainable shoe company that began in early 2019, and I found about the product on Instagram. I was immediately interested in looking more into the shoes when I saw that they were listed as plant-based. The website exceeded my expectations because I have become used to digging deep into all the site pages to find some information and still end up with nothing. It was a new experience to have all the information readily available and easy to find. I’m impressed by how Kengos was able to simplify the design of a shoe and still make it look aesthetic. Unlike the Space Hippie by Nike, I would actually like to wear these shoes and they could match with essentially anything. Kengos is extremely transparent with the ingredients of their shoes and how they are made, and it’s impressive that such a new company is already setting goals for to conduct a Life Cycle Assessment so they can quantify their supply chain and reduce their greenhouse emissions, introduce a re-crafting program so customers can get their shoes repaired instead of buying a new one, and also introduce a recycling program to close the loop of supply chain.
This Kengos shoes caught my eye because they are 87% plant-based! They are made out of corn, cork, cotton, eucalyptus, and natural rubber, which are not the usual materials you would think of for a shoe. The website also mentions how the shoes do not use glue, adhesives, or animal products that have environmentally damaging impacts. What is even cooler is that the Kengos website has a separate page to break down each part of the shoe and help you understand how plants can actually turn into shoes, which was hard for me to wrap my head around at first. The upper part of the shoe is that cloth that covers your foot is made out of corn and eucalyptus. The corn is blended with eucalyptus fibers to create a soft but sturdy knit cover. The mid-sole is made of cork from Portugal, mixed with natural latex and cotton. The outsole is made of natural rubber, and Kengos broke it down to 68% plant-based composition, 28% natural mineral composition/sand, and 4% synthetic composition. The laces and webbing that strap the shoes together are made out of corn. The laces and webbing are also coated with potato starch based wax. It’s refreshing to see a website that literally breaks down their composition by percentage of natural or synthetic products. Their cardboard shoe box takes up “40% of a typical shoebox, minimizing the transportation impact (and cost).”
Kengos also has a page for their production process, and it is nice to see that a company takes the same approach as Voiz in deconstructing their product. The company acknowledges how shoes are very carbon-intensive products because there are so many components, which is why Kengos minimizes their components to only five. As mentioned before, Kengos shoes do not use glue and adhesives to put all the parts together, and instead, the components are stitched together by hand with one knot. The stitching is also exposed, which gives the shoe a unique style. The main purpose behind this design is so the shoes can be disassembled, and each component can be properly composted or recycled. It is really great that Kengos keeps in mind the end of their shoe’s life cycles. Furthermore, Kengos breaks down how each of the five components are made. The Knit Upper part is made in Leon, Mexico, and to prevent wasted cloth, they use a flat-kitting machine that allows every piece to be made exactly to size. The natural rubber outsole is also made in Leon, Mexico. The rubber is mixed and formed it into sheets, which are then cut into small shoe-shaped pieces. They also recycling the leftovers, and place them into molds where they are heated and pressed into the shape of the outsole. I appreciate the transparency and high level of detail that they put into their product information. Something I would like to see is how they conduct their transportation of receiving materials and shipping the shoes out. Since Kengos does not have retail stores, I am curious to know where the shoes are being shipped from and how they affects their overall carbon footprint.
Kengos was founded in 2019 in Brooklyn, New York by Dave Costello, who wanted to make footwear that could be sustainable and also fight against climate change. Kengos has a very similar mission to Voiz, which is “the belief that consumer brands can be a force for good in the fight to conserve natural resources and reverse climate change.” The rest of the team includes a Chief Product Officer, a Sourcing Specialist, Research and Development Specialist, and a Social Media Manager. What is cool is that the Sourcing Specialist, Iván Preciado, is from Leon, Mexico, so he is directly working with the local supply chain partners and also has a background in shoemaking. It’s refreshing to see the faces behind the company, and it seems like they are very involved with the design and production process of the shoes, so they are not disconnected from their products. It would be even better if they could mention the employees that are putting together the shoes by hand, or how they are giving back to the communities that produce their cork material or natural rubber.