Flower Power: Cole Haan Debuts Sneakers Made From Dandelions

·3-min read

Mushrooms, spider webs, algae and even pineapple. In recent months, we’ve seen the fashion industry embrace new sustainable materials.

Cole Haan is the latest label that has hooked itself to the sustainable bandwagon with sneakers made from dandelions. The yellow flowering plants that bloom in fields in the springtime could be a sustainable source that may soon find its way into your closet. After all, American brand Cole Haan has made dandelion the headline material of its latest pair of sneakers. What do seaweed, grapes, mushrooms, cacti and sugar cane have in common? At first glance, nothing, except that they all embody, in their own way, the riches of Mother Nature. And this is precisely what interests the fashion industry, currently engaged in a race against time to integrate new sustainable sources into collections. All these fruits, plants and other living organisms are likely to be the textile fibres of tomorrow, in order to reduce the environmental impact of the second most polluting industry on the planet. To this long list of innovative materials, the dandelion can now be added -- coming soon to a closet near you.

Dandelion rubber

Symbols of renewal and the arrival of good weather, dandelions grow mainly in fields, meadows and on wastelands, as well as in our gardens. After flowering, they transform into a fluffy white seed head that children -- and adults -- like to blow to see dozens of tiny 'parachutes' fly away. But this plant also appeals for its multiple benefits, cropping up here and there in the kitchen, as well as in the form of capsules, herbal teas, and juices, to fight against certain daily ailments. Dandelion has also been known for decades as an alternative to rubber latex from trees like Hevea brasiliensis. When the said plant is picked, the white liquid substance that flows from the stalk is none other than latex. This sap very quickly transforms, as it dries, into a kind of elastic gum -- a rubber substance. This had been of interest in the Soviet Union as of the late 1920s, where dandelions were grown on a large scale, before the idea was (definitively) abandoned. But the climate emergency seems to have given another chance to the plant. The German manufacturer Continental, in search of sustainable solutions, has turned to the plant for the manufacture of its tires, for example. And, as one thing leads to another, the dandelion root seems to have attracted the attention of the fashion industry, which is also looking for alternatives to materials that are too polluting, and which are impacting the environment.

A first sneaker made with dandelions

Rubber means shoes, or more precisely, shoe soles. And in that field, the American brand Cole Haan is leading the way with the launch of the "Generation Zerøgrand II," a sneaker with an outsole partly made of natural dandelion rubber. In fact, this new sneaker, for women or men, has an outsole made of FlowerFoam, itself made of 25% dandelion rubber. Something that would, according to Cole Haan, "absorb impacts while providing all-day responsive cushioning and energy return." In other words, sustainability is not a substitute for the quality and craftsmanship of the American label. The pair of sneakers is completed by a vegan microfiber suede upper, and laces made from recycled plastic bottles. Available on Cole Haan's e-shop and in selected stores, these sneakers made from dandelions come in a wide range of sizes and colours, and is priced at US$130. Just don't try blowing on the sole -- we can't help but hope that there's a tiny chance it might break apart and fly away. (Main and featured image: Cole Haan) This story was published via AFP.

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