Eugène Riconneaus' high-standard skate leather sneakers.
When French creative Eugène Riconneaus isn't producing subversive works of art and photography, he's disrupting the footwear industry with artful designs that carry powerful messages.
Channeling his artistic energy into multiple footwear labels, Riconneaus allows himself to fully explore every aspect of his design ethos ― including a dedication to sustainable production and upcycling.
One such project where Riconneaus explores the possibilities of minimal waste design is the ER Souliers brand: a skate-centered footwear and lifestyle label that exclusively uses ethically sourced, upcycled leather leftovers collected by the designer over the course of several years.
Preparing himself for a second installment of the brand project with a fresh batch of his premium leather, we dove into a conversation with Riconneaus about the process of rebuying, reusing, and rebirthing that makes ER Souliers' work extremely necessary for the current world. Scroll down to read it.
"Today, we talk a lot about the use of leather in the industry. I had this discussion yesterday with the Federation of Leather here in France. People have the perception that animals are killed only for their leather, which is not the case, it's actually a leftover of something that has been raised for the meat.
We work with tanneries that use circular production, so nothing goes to waste."
It's important that Riconneaus mentioned this. There’s still a false perception that making clothes with materials that take more than 500 years to decompose is more eco-friendly than using leather, a material that is born from reuse.
"In 2002, when I started my career, I was super young, I arrived in the industry with a very naive way of viewing business ― which is a good thing if you have good values. I realized that in the leather industry, only a bit is used, so I thought to myself, 'I'm sorry, but I gotta do something with it."
That's what he brought to collaborative projects such as the one with artist-director Larry Clark, from the classic and deep Kids of 1995, on a limited skateboard shoe edition that represents the freedom and daring of being young on a skateboard.
Fortunately, nowadays more brands are working with this reuse initiative, you can find several examples of deadstock being used in bags, sneakers, furniture, and even in architecture.
"When I started, I was already using luxury brand leftovers to make my first sample, so I asked my partners to keep all leftovers without yet knowing how I would use them. I did that from 2010 to 2014, and then I decided to create a line that would exclusively use leftover leather. It was an instant success, we immediately sold 5,000 pairs through brands like Hypebeast ― which was just beginning at the time ― and Supreme. I was content with the project and stopped, and about 8 months ago I decided to revive the project with the leftover leather I've been collecting all year.
The next chapter will arrive next month. I'm launching a new program called Renaissance: French for Rebirth. We're going to rebuy all the old shoes that we produced at the time, recycle them again, and then officially launch the brand in September ― using industry leftovers to reproduce the pairs. I think the best mindset is that if you take something from this planet, you should use 100% of it without waste. This is the ER project."
We can say that this is a real lesson on how to transform the industry through an initiative. Imagine how many other brands and designers can be inspired by Riconneaus' work and create something totally new, unique, and sustainable with timeless materials.
Before, the Renaissance was a movement of cultural evolution for European society, and now, the Riconneaus Renaissance initiates the high sustainability standard in shoe design.
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