Unravelled

Tropas

Old pairs of jeans donated to second-hand shops in Flanders are given a second life thanks to Caro Peirs and her shoe brand Tropas. With just one pair of jeans she can make three to four new pairs of sandals and one to two pairs of trainers.

Location logo

Belgium

Old pairs of jeans donated to second-hand shops in Flanders are given a second life thanks to Caro Peirs and her shoe brand Tropas. With just one pair of jeans she can make three to four new pairs of sandals and one to two pairs of trainers.

The entire process of producing a pair of Tropas shoes involves different independent organisations and businesses.

I use jeans that are handed in to the Ecoso second-hand shop in Mechelen. There is no competition for the resource material as the shop receives too much stuff,” Caro Piers explains.

The production process starts with disassembling the jeans, and Tropas is an example of how reuse and social initiatives can come together. “To disassemble the jeans, I get help from volunteers from the psychiatric centre ‘De Witte Hoeve’ in Sint Niklaas. I give them plenty of time to prepare what I need.” Combining the social and the environmental is important to Caro who previously worked as a social worker.

And nothing is wasted. While the zips from the disassembled jeans are not needed for the shoes, they are reused in a textile workshop in Dendermonde. For the sandals’ soles Caro uses wood and the waste created in production is reused by a local furniture producer.

Tropas is also part of Top Atelier, a publicly-supported collaborative project between Flemish designers, companies and sorters, which aims to make textile upcycling profitable in the region The focus is on meeting the challenge of sustainably collecting and sorting specific textile waste flows. Through Top Atelier, Caro receives support when it comes to fabric cutting.

The shoes are assembled at the small, family-owned NEBULA factory in Elche, Spain - a region with a long tradition of shoe manufacturing.

It’s not always easy to work with factories as they always give priority to the big brands and it is difficult for them to change their working patterns that have guided them for, in some cases, over 100 years. Luckily there is a very good working relation with Nebula and they were open to meet my sustainability demands, for example when it comes to not using toxic permanent glue between the upper part of the shoe and the sole.”

Making the shoes she sells truly circular is the ultimate aim, with the idea of Tropas shoes being returned to selling points to be remanufactured into new pairs. The hardest part is finding the right shops to sell my shoes. "Some of the shops accept to sell my collection but then I discover that they don’t put any effort in to showing/selling them. This is disappointing."

The main challenge is financial. I need to pre-finance all the costs six to 12 months before the collection is sold. I don’t want to be dependent on investors that might influence the values of my company. If I cannot continue to operate within the logic of the circular economy and without exploitation of people I don’t want to continue. The Western consumption pattern is trying to fulfil an emptiness in our society. Changing our consumption model is very important.”

The part Caro enjoys the most in the process is the continuous improvement when it comes to designing shoes by making them more and more comfortable - after all, if your shoes are comfy you will wear them until they are worn out.

I’m happy when I make people feel good.”

tropas.shoes/

Keep up to date with environmental issues in Europe

By signing up, you will stay informed about critical environmental issues from the heart of Europe.

Follow the trends with weekly updates from the largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations in Europe. Get the best insights on a range of environmental issues from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

By subscribing you will receive our weekly newsletter, META, as well as information on relevant environmental campaigns. All information we gather is processed in line with our privacy policy and you can unsubscribe at any time.