Keen's new green line set to launch, Portland store to open
By Christina Williams, Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
Seven-year-old Keen Inc., maker of ubiquitous rubber toed shoes and sandals, is pushing the sustainability envelope with a new collection of shoes. The company also plans to open a retail store in Portland at the end of August.
Next week at the Outdoor Retailer show, Keen will announce the launch of its latest line of shoes, the resurrection of some old-school, earth-friendly manufacturing technology, and a goal to raise $1 million in micro-loans for developing countries.
The Santiago Collection, officially available as part of the spring-summer line of 2011, features a line of simple sneakers made in the Dominican Republic out of natural cotton canvas, local rubber and no adhesives.
The quest for adhesive-free shoes took Keen's owner, Rory Fuerst, on a trek through Poland, Russia, Turkey and Spain in pursuit of a 60-year-old hand-operated machine that would bind the rubber sole to the canvas uppers. Keen unearthed a few dozen of these vintage machines and put them to work on the new line.
"At Keen it has always been about more than just making shoes," said James Curleigh, CEO of Keen in a press release. "This season, we thought, why not create a shoe that not only looks good and feels good but does some good as well?"
Keen is calling the doing-good part of the equation "HybridLife Hope," building off its main HybridLife brand tagline. A portion of Santiago Collection sales — the company is still working out the details about what percentage of sales — will be turned over to the online microloan nonprofit Kiva for management. Program funds will initially be focused on North American efforts ranging from the Santiago de los Caballeros, the region in the Dominican Republic where the shoes are made, to programs re-energizing the Gulf of Mexico region.
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