Created by three friends who were influential in some of the most successful fashion footwear brands, such as Converse, Puma and Fila, Unstitched Utilities blends style and sustainability in a way that's truly tough to beat. Earth911 sat down with co-founder and lead designer Kevin Crowley to learn more about how it all started for Unstitched Utilities and what the innovative upcycled brand plans to do next.
An inside look at Unstitched Utilities
Unstitched Utilities was founded by former Converse designer Kevin Crowley, longtime Puma president Jack Steinweis and former Shane and Shawn sales manager Mark Kane and brings upcycled materials and time-honored fashion trends together in a truly show-stopping way.
After spending years working with some of the most successful fashion footwear brands, the three friends say they were tired of big-time corporations holding them back from doing what they felt was right, so they decided to set out on their own.
Starting with Tyvek material, a recyclable thermoplastic, the partners launched Unstitched Utilities in 2009. The vegan-friendly line has since expanded to include innovative materials such as upcycled rice bags, biodegradable fabrics and material made from recycled magazine and newspaper pages.
Evolving from a pipedream into an emerging fashion sensation, Unstitched Utilities has come a long way in a few short years. But lead designer Kevin Crowley has his sights set on something even better – a 100 percent recyclable, cradle-to-cradle shoe.
"It would be great if we could make a shoe that would go 360 rather than go back into the landfill," Crowley tells Earth911. "I'd love a cradle-to-cradle shoe...but that's something we're still working on now."
While the idea is still in the early planning stages, Crowley describes his closed loop shoe concept as similar to the neon colored jelly sandals common on grade-school playgrounds. These old-school kicks are made with injection molds, meaning they can be created with only one material for easy recyclability.
Other concepts he's considering include attaching decorative elements with chain-stitching (similar to the closures on pet food bags), so one component of the shoe can be removed and recycled before tossing the rest.
"Maybe the whole shoe can't [be recycled] right off the bat," Crowley says. "We're trying to adapt to existing equipment, materials and machinery, but the idea would be that something is better than nothing."