Thursday, March 12, 2020

From Flats to Bags, Rothy’s Innovates with Sustainable Styles

By now, you’ve probably heard of Rothy’s, the footwear startup famous for creating stylish, comfortable, washable flats out of recycled water bottles.

The brand is beloved by commuters from coast to coast, as well as celebrities, including Meghan Markle, who is often spotted wearing a pair of Rothy’s pointed flats. Even Vogue Magazine, fashion’s ultimate arbiter, declared: “not only are these among the most politically correct shoes on our beleaguered planet, they are also adorable.”

Founded in 2016, Rothy’s is one of the world’s fastest growing brands. In 2018, they sold more than 1 million pairs of shoes, generating revenue of more than $140 million and securing a $35 million investment from Goldman Sachs. Time Magazine included Rothy’s recycled shoes on its list of Best Inventions of 2019

Here’s a short list of what makes Rothy’s special: 

  1.  Sustainability Mission: To date, Rothy’s has diverted more than 50 million plastic bottles from landfills and turned them into flats, loafers, and sneakers for women and girls. Customers are drawn to the brand because of its commitment to being environmentally conscious in all aspects of its business.
  2. Technology: The company’s advanced expertise in material science and sustainable design has resulted in the creation of recycled foam products, 100% vegan and non-toxic adhesives, and carbon-free rubber soles. Rothy’s uses a proprietary 3D knitting technology that eliminates fabric waste and produces a seamless shoe.
  3. Proprietary Manufacturing: Unlike its competitors, Rothy’s owns 100% of its manufacturing processes, including a dedicated facility in Dongguan, China, which allows Rothy’s to rapidly test new products and respond quickly to customer demands.
  4. Direct-to-Consumer Model: Rothy’s built its customer base using a direct-to-consumer model, where it relied on Instagram (where it now has 307,000 followers) to attract customers on a small budget. The brand is constantly refreshing its Instagram feed and has built a loyal following (#rothysinthewild). While Rothy’s remains committed to a digital-first model, they opened four physical retail stores in 2019 and plan to continue adding stores in 2020 to reach more people.
  5. Startup Story: The brand also has a fascinating startup story, which you can read about in an in-depth Forbes feature: “Founders Roth Martin, a former art gallery owner, and Stephen Hawthornthwaite (aka “Hawthy”), a former investment banker, launched the footwear brand after listening to their wives complain about the lack of stylish, comfortable shoes.”
  6. Female-Focused Leadership: Hawthy has taken a step back from the company for health issues, and Martin is at the helm as CEO. In an industry that is dominated by men, the male co-founders intentionally put together a senior management team comprised entirely of women who can authentically speak to their female customer base.
  7. Global Team: Rothy’s has 117 employees in San Francisco and 906 employees in Dongguan, China. As part of their sustainability mission, Rothy’s fosters an inclusive, positive, work environment for its global team. They offer exceptional health and wellness perks to all team members – it’s clear they put people first.
  8. Sustainable Packaging: Rothy’s shoe boxes are made from 85% post-consumer recycled materials and are strong enough to be shipped alone, so there is no box-in-a-box shipping.
  9. Sustainable Shipping: Rothy’s offsets the fossil fuels it uses for shipping with Carbon Fund and its credits directly benefit the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil and the reduction of pollution and conversion of biofuels in the U.S. Rothy’s offset 2,522 tons of carbon in 2018.
  10. Style: Rothy’s offers six stylish silhouettes for women: the Chelsea Boot, the Flat, the Point, the Loafer, the Sneaker, and, as of February 2020, the Mary Jane, which is equal parts off-duty ballerina and classic prepster, with a touch of whimsy. Year after year, the most popular style is The Point in Black Solid. While black is a great staple, I have my eye on a pair of Rosebud Mary Janes that would be perfect for spring! 
What’s next for Rothy’s?

Rothy’s just launched a handbag and accessories line, The Bag Collection, which is chic and eco-friendly. In true Rothy’s fashion, the bags are all machine-washable, so you can keep them looking fresh and scuff-free. These bags are entirely made with recycled materials, including a new sustainable ingredient: ocean-bound marine plastic collected within 30 miles of coastlines. The colorful collection includes:

This foray into a new category reveals Rothy’s commitment to innovation and desire to reimagine manufacturing as a whole. As it continues to grow, Rothy’s is definitely a startup to watch.

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