After a very rainy and muddy trail-run in Stockholm, I finally have the opportunity to chat with the inspirational product line manager at Salomon, Brent James, Global Product Line Manager Running. Our discussion is about the development of the new Index01 runner and the future of building a sustainable footwear brand.
Finding new ways of developing more sustainable footwear has never been more important. In the past, most consumers would not have thought much about exactly how their sneakers were made, but that is no longer the case. In addition to demanding trend-setting styles, co-labs and innovations, the educated consumers of today expect products to be made responsibly. And as consumers become more educated about environmental issues, brands also become more incentive to sustainable innovation and Salomon as a brand that is born from the love of nature is part of leading this change.
Where did you get the idea to create Index 01 from?
— Within Salomon, the Product Innovation and Product Development Teams have a passion for nature and thus know how important it is for us to find more sustainable ways to create products. It’s also important to our consumers, as lovers of the outdoors. The circular lifecycle concept inspired our teams to think about what a product, in this case, a shoe, can become after it reaches the end of its life. That is the moment they asked: what other products share the same materials? Being a multisport expert meant we did not have to look far, from running to ski boots.
”I feel the Salomon community and runners, in general, have been waiting for brands to step up and deliver products with sustainability in mind”
How was the design R&D process when bridging the use of materials for shoes and boots in the same Life Cycle?
— It was a multi-stage process. The initiative began as an innovation project which culminated in the launch of our Concept Shoe. From there, the Inline Product Team took learnings from that project to create the shoe that will come to market, the Index.01. This stage, of course, meant that we needed to pivot in order to make it feasible for production and to deliver a running shoe with the performance attributes expected from Salomon.
How is the first response and what insights did you rely on when starting the project?
— The project has not yet hit the market, but the reaction to our launch has been very positive. I feel the Salomon community and runners, in general, have been waiting for brands to step up and deliver products with sustainability in mind. We’ve seen other brands also share their take on ways to improve the environmental impact of their products. We think its a good thing that it appears to not only be a trend, but the beginning of a movement.
Could you share any challenges from behind the scenes?
— The biggest challenges have been in establishing the collection and recycling infrastructure. It’s an ongoing effort and we will, of course, learn a lot as we get closer to the retail introduction in 2021. Overall, throughout the process we have found ways to celebrate the wins! Finally seeing the finished shoe and sharing it with everyone has been incredible.
What’s next? How does Index01 fit into Salomon Sustainability plan for the long run?
— We see the Index.01 as establishing a benchmark for Salomon. Our goal is to take the learnings and best practices from this project to inform all of our future footwear projects. We have set a target of using at least one circular principal in each of our new products by 2025.