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Why the Founders of This French Sneaker Brand Spent Two Years Researching Faux Leather

Veja's founders have always been proud of their sustainable footwear -- except their use of leather. Here's how they found a solution.

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This story appears in the April 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

The French brand Veja's kicks look good -- like elevated Stan Smiths -- but their appeal goes beyond style. Sustainability has always been a major part of the company's mission (and its sales pitch), and its rubber and cotton can be traced back to ethical farmers in . But the company's use of left the founders feeling unsettled.

Courtesy of Veja

"It's really the only product we're not very proud of in terms of sustainability," says François Ghislain Morillion, who cofounded Veja with Sébastien Kopp. They had long searched for an alternative but came up short. The so-called "vegan leather" often used for shoes and apparel is just virgin plastic, and suede-like microfibers have a petroleum base -- hardly eco-friendly.

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