The Norwegian shoe industry is now facing a crossroads. A sustainable business model is necessary to survive, yet a small industry consisting of many small suppliers does not have the muscle to adapt on its own. Now, Andreas Malo Dyb (top picture), a sneaker enthusiast and founder of innovative, responsible shoe brand Kastel Shoes, is one of the initiators of a network along with fellow Norwegian industry competitors. They’ll work together for a greener and more competitive national shoe industry.
— The urgency doesn’t leave time for small incremental improvements, he states. We don’t think sustainable advances should be a commercial advantage but a common interest for all. There are plenty of other areas where we can be unique, but sustainability should not be one of them. In our opinion, the changes we need in this industry surpass the ability of any single brand. For a larger, international player, such as Nike or Adidas, it is easier and cheaper to focus on sustainability than a small Norwegian brand alone. But if several players in the same industry merge and share resources, knowledge, and machinery, we hope it is possible to create a stronger industry and, in the long run, start production here at home.
Supported by Innovation Norway and together with the Norwegian Fashion Hub, the network will create a new culture of sharing where companies can learn from each other, collaborate on creating competence, and come together on the common challenges that are complicated for companies to solve alone. The members of the collective are a diverse group of 6 brands — Alfa, Viking, Swims, Gaitline, Tag Your Shoes, and Kastel — with the intention of growing over time.
— We need to think of ourselves more as colleagues with different market shares. The goal is to operate as a collective and help each other excel in areas where competitive advantage is unnecessary. There is so much potential to operate better and more sustainably if we stop investing in the same things separately and start sharing where we can, says Malo Dyb.
— Until now, we have worked separately on our own things. Then it turns out that you share many of the same challenges. Everyone has the ambition to succeed internationally — then you have to put things in perspective and collaborate, says Andreas Engell, CEO of Gaitline.
Elin Kathrine Saunes, leader of the Norwegian Fashion Hub, believes the network is a necessary strategic move to maintain the market position of Norwegian suppliers.
— It is no longer a competitive advantage to be sustainable, it will be a hygiene factor. That’s what keeps you from being rejected, she says.
The consumers demand change. They want sustainability at all levels and transparency in production. In recent years, there has been a greater focus on renting services and repairing used clothes and shoes, rather than throwing away and buying new ones.
— The shoe industry has great potential here. In addition to making the production itself more sustainable, the industry must work together to find innovative solutions that help the products last longer. Replace soles and other parts, replace one shoe instead of buying a new pair, recycle the materials in the shoe — there are endless possibilities. There is so much potential to operate better and more sustainably if we stop investing in the same things separately and start sharing where we can, says Andreas Malo Dyb. He continues:
— Norway has made some historical feats in terms of footwear advances. The Norwegian Welt (Beksøm) construction is a world-renowned leather shoe construction used to provide better protection from rain. Aurlandskoen claims to be the first-ever producer of the common moccasin, and Alfa Sko was among the first brands in the world to use Gore-Tex in footwear.
— Our ultimate goal is to bring the Norwegian footwear industry back on the world map, and obviously do it in a way that can make a difference.