From the ocean

There are a lot of ways to combat the 22 million tonnes of plastic that end up in the ocean every year. 

But for Braga-native Adriana Mano, the most original idea came to life through Zouri, a Portuguese brand of vegan and minimalist shoes, with soles made from rubbish collected off national beaches during volunteering activities.

Two years passed since the first idea and the production of the initial models, until, in 2019, the first original sneakers made with plastic waste (among other sustainable materials) appeared on the Portuguese market.

“Zouri is a company with a distinctive and sustainable social impact. We are much more than just a brand that deals in organic material selection and fair trade,” says Adriana. The factory that produces the footwear is located in Guimarães, and in the same year it was launched on the market, Zouri sold 2,900 pairs of shoes through 80% direct sales from its website. The goals for 2020 are to reach 25,000 pairs, to start investing in retail sales and to advance the internationalisation of the brand.

With an academic and professional background in Management, Marketing and Design, Adriana worked for six years in the footwear sector, as a marketing and product director. It was precisely the knowledge «geared towards technical and performance footwear» that she acquired in her career that allowed her to obtain a more methodical vision and practical guidance on the best techniques, features and materials to use. Bringing together her empirical knowledge and a great passion for the environment as well as an activist streak, the sustainable footwear brand Zouri emerged naturally. “When there’s an activist inside us, we feel driven to combine what we believe in with what we do.”

The name “Zouri” was inspired by the typical Japanese kimono sandals. “Along with the minimalist and timeless design, I wanted them to always stay current, now or 20 years from now, from the perspective of slow fashion rather than replacing shoes every six months,” she explains. The process is complex and slow, but the result is a simple and unique type of footwear. The plastic is collected by volunteers at several beaches in northern Portugal, which is then washed, crushed and incorporated into the sole with natural rubber: “each pair we make removes the equivalent of six plastic bottles from our coast,” says Adriana. Besides natural rubber, the shoes are made of materials as inspired as organic cotton, linen, hemp, pineapple leaves or even apple skins. All resources have fairtrade certification, and most enjoy the particularity of being produced in europe in order to reduce ecological footprint. Just over a year after its launch, the collection already has 40 different shoes, ranging between sandals and sneakers.

In october 2019, the european Investment Bank awarded Zouri second place in the category of europe’s Best Circular economy Project. According to Adriana, the accolade was largely thanks to “the parallel work developed together with schools, non-governmental organisations and Portuguese municipalities”. To promote sustainability, the brand develops several awareness-raising activities: “In addition to scheduling beach clean-ups, during the year we do a road show along several schools where we carry out awareness actions. We visit three schools per month. So there is also a very strong pedagogical component here”, she explains.

Slowly but surely, the fashion industry has been acknowledging the importance of sustainability and has invested in it. And Portugal at the forefront of this movement. In the Algarve, Zouri shoes are available at VILA VITA Parc’s V-Life Store.