Trash Planet; our new favourite sneaker brand

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We’ve spoken to CEOs, Holly and Jordan, to get all the details

Inspired by a mix of “streetwear, sporty, luxury [and] retro” vibes, Trash Planet trainers have an authentic and stand-out feel to them. Ethically made in a family-owned factory in Portugal, the trainers are made up of sustainable, recycled and 100% vegan materials. With 15 trees planted with every sale made, what isn’t to love about this brand?

We’ve spoken to Trash Planet CEOs, Holly Boxall and Jordan Grayson, to find out more about their UK-based brand and what goes into building a business from scratch.

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What pushed you to launch Trash Planet? Were there any key role models that influenced you to make the leap? 

HOLLY: I’d say we almost had the opposite of role models, basically my background was footwear design and I used to work for quite a big footwear company up in London, and it was working there that I realised how horrendous the footwear industry specifically is. I knew the fashion industry wasn’t great but I’d never really thought of footwear as being that bad. So I had always been into sporty, chunky trainers and I found that there wasn’t really any great vegan, sustainable options around that I liked and the company I was working for had a very specific aesthetic, like a very chunky, sporty vibe and I was like ok, how can we make these two worlds collide. 

JORDAN: Yeah, we met on an entrepreneurship course, so Holly’s background was in footwear design and mine was in advertising and marketing so it was a good combination. When we came together we had loads of different ideas and we were going through different stuff and eventually we separated from the course. I think the main thing that drove us was just watching and reading more about fashion. We were at Falmouth University so the fashion school there was good, we had some good connections. We just saw a lot of companies cherry picking small aspects of sustainability and then acting like they were the most sustainable company on the planet. 

We love the look of your trainers, were there any specific designers or brands that inspired your designs? 

HOLLY: Our design process was very long…

JORDAN: Basically we just sat there for about 6 months and drew shoes

HOLLY: Basically we were like what shoes do we want, and Jordan wanted skate shoes and I wanted chunky trainers so we were like, ok that’s a good start! We had a massive folder with tons of designs and we were like ok, let’s narrow this down. 

JORDAN: To be fair, it was kind of like a process of elimination, there wasn’t anything that specifically inspired it but looking at the designs there’s obviously hints of skateboarding culture, like the old Vans and stuff like that, there’s just little bits of inspiration that fed into it. 

HOLLY: I’ve always been obsessed with this one picture of Princess Diana where she’s just come from the gym and she’s walking back to her car and she’s got bright orange bike shorts, a big jumper and then these chunky trainers and socks and I think there’s definitely an aspect of that in our chunky trainers. 

JORDAN: It’s kind of a mash of streetwear, sporty, luxury, retro- a mash of all the things we personally like. I think that’s the more appealing thing about it, I think a lot of fashion houses are just run by rich, white people or older people and I don’t think there’s a lot of diversity. We’re trying to be as different as possible. 

Your giveaway fundraiser for Black Lives Matter was a really inventive approach to supporting the cause, where did the idea come from? 

JORDAN: Basically, we went to Portugal to start up the company, we actually drove there which was pretty wild, but towards the end of that trip we had like 2 weeks to just kind of relax and then everything happened with George Floyd so we were just discussing ways in which maybe we could help as a small company, because a lot of companies jump on the bandwagon and just post a square

HOLLY: But we wanted to be able to do something to actually physically help. But because we’re a small company, we don’t have a lot of funds, the cash is tight so we don’t have a lot of money to be able to donate ourselves but we thought, what we do have is a really good relationship with our manufacturer who was willing to make us one off pairs, and from the beginning we always said we wanted to use our trainers to collaborate with artists and raise awareness about different issues happening and we thought this is the best way that we can help. 

How much money was raised in the end? 

HOLLY: We split it between two charities (Black Minds Matter UK and an African Caribbean community venue in Bristol)

JORDAN: I think it was around £1200 

Sustainable fashion is becoming more popular among big brands but unfortunately there has been an emergence of green-washing, where brands use sustainability as a selling point without being truly planet friendly, what are your thoughts on this? 

JORDAN: I hate it

HOLLY: It’s so annoying. It’s hard as a brand because, we do get a lot of positive comments, but I guess it makes people more suspicious of brands

JORDAN: I think the problem with the big brands is they have a price point that just isn’t achievable for selling an ethical or sustainable product. So when they tweak their leather shoes and just make it out of plastic, they’re still using a toxic material. Is it vegan? Yeah, but is it vegan in the sense of it being ethical to people and the environment… it’s not. Also about the price of the shoes, so ours are a higher price point at £150 but it’s not because we set that to make loads of money, it’s just that we’ve got all the other initiatives, like the tree planting, all the workers are in Europe and not in Asia and we pay them a lot more. We’re looking at ways where you can actually tip the workers, so with a purchase you’ll be able to actually tip. 

HOLLY: I think it is such a grey area, I read the other day that one of the biggest sustainable shoe brands pay around €15 to make their shoes, and our shoes are costing us over £70 to make, so we’re questioning, if the shoe is costing that much, how much are the workers actually getting paid?

A big selling point for your shoes is the fact that they’re vegan, do you believe that vegan fashion is the way forward? 

JORDAN: I hope so

HOLLY: I personally think like vegan fashion, vegan sustainable brands and also just buying second hand is the way. And also there are brands that up-cycle clothing, some of the bigger companies have done it, I think I’ve even seen it at Topshop which is fast fashion but they’re obviously trying to make a little bit of an effort, but it’s when they’re using their old stock and resewing it into these products. Those sort of initiatives. 

JORDAN: I think it’ll need young people like us to kind of push the movement. Big companies can never be sustainable, I don’t think companies like H&M or Topshop can ever be sustainable but I suppose they’ll try and adopt better initiatives. I think younger consumers, in an ideal world, I’d like to see people buy more from small businesses. 

HOLLY: I think as well, with lockdown as well, there is a turn in millennials and Gen-Z like how they’re thinking about their clothing and they are starting to go for the smaller, more independent labels instead of supporting the huge brands 

JORDAN: I wish it would happen overnight but I think the UK is a slow market and I don’t think it’s going to be as quick as it needs to be and I think other countries are much further ahead 

HOLLY: I think it’s also about convenience, like the bigger companies have the ability to churn out new styles within a week, for us at the moment, to get a new style out is taking a good half a year at least. So I think it’s about the cost but also that people want stuff like straight away, like you want to be able to order something and get it like next day delivery. 

Do you have any advice for young graduates who are hoping to start a business? 

HOLLY: For me personally, I started up another company as soon as I graduated and I just did it with money I’d saved from the student loan and it was great but, I think a lot of creative courses, like the course that I did, there’s no real business teachings so I jumped straight into it and I was loving the creative side but as soon as it was time to do business stuff I was like I don’t know what I’m doing! So I guess, going and seeing if it’s possible to get a bit of experience in the industry you want to be in, I know at the moment that’s really hard. I did a lot of internships and picked up experience from those and also did this trust course. When I first graduated I was thinking there’s no help but there are more initiatives out there, it does take some researching, but there are places where you can get funding and lessons for free and packs. 

JORDAN: The thing I would say is, start it really small. Test your idea or your brand, don’t go running and spending loads of money on something, make the minimum cost product that you can and test to see if people like it. And then the other thing is always be prepared to do stuff that you don’t want to do. Like, we’ve had to make a website, do Facebook adverts and lawyer sort of stuff- lots of contracts. I think it’s easy to think of entrepreneur sort of stuff as really glamorous but you’ve got to be realistic in terms of, you’re probably not going to have a day off. It sounds really cliche but every day we’re working. It’s intense but it’s definitely one of the most rewarding things you can do.

HOLLY: It sounds really obvious but this is something I have to tell myself every day, is that it doesn’t happen overnight, it doesn’t happen in the first year, it can take several years to get something up and running. Keep going! 

JORDAN: Don’t be disheartened. We went through hundreds of logos, hundreds of names, tens of websites, we’ve redesigned everything multiple times just to get it to one that’s perfect. The enemy is settling for good and just going for the first thing that comes into your mind.

HOLLY: We have to get some motivational posters or phrases every now and then and just remind ourselves that we’ve got to keep going! 

JORDAN: We bought some gerbils so we can get them out and be like ‘we have a pet’. Honestly, we hardly see anyone, we’re just here like… I just permanently hang out with Holly. We’re business partners and then we live together as well so, it’s pretty intense. 

What advice would you give to someone starting a sustainable business? How do you make sure that you’re always sticking to your sustainable roots?

HOLLY: When we started working with our manufacturer we found it very hard working over Skype and stuff so we actually flew out to Portugal for a week to go and meet as many people as possible. I think creating a really good, open and honest relationship with your manufacturer is a good start. If you can find a good manufacturer who is good with sustainability and working with vegan materials, we found we were recommended a lot of good suppliers through our manufacturer. But I think the top thing is to try and meet everyone. That’s another reason why we wanted to keep our manufacturing in Europe as opposed to China, because we can travel there a lot easier and we are able to physically meet people. Some companies’ manufacturers have been known to outsource without telling their clients, so you think you’re working with a good manufacturer but it’s actually being sent abroad and sewn by someone underage. 

JORDAN: We just had to be really stubborn about what we wanted 

HOLLY: It’s about sticking to your guns and knowing when to say no. It can be really hard if you’re sat in a room with suppliers and we’ve had quite a few meetings where we’ll be sat down and the guy will bring out a book and we’re like ‘ok we only want the sustainable, recycled options’ and then he brings out one swatch card. 

What’s next for Trash Planet? 

HOLLY: So we’ve got another style that we’re developing, that’s more of a winter style, that we haven’t shown anyone, apart from our gerbils. We’ve got a couple of limited editions of Billie potentially coming out, where we’re using quite an innovative new fabric which we actually haven’t seen anywhere else. We’ve got a few political shoes coming out.

JORDAN: We’re going to start pushing boundaries. We kind of have a nice start with some clean, basic shoes and then we’re going to start pushing it more

HOLLY: We want to be a bit more outrageous 

JORDAN: Yeah- be a bit more disruptive. Hopefully it’ll be in the next month or two

Looking to buy yourself a pair? Click here to head over to their website and take £15 off with our promo code: TRASHXCARBON15

Written by Sophie Corderoy, Images from Trash Planet