“Are you happy in your job? Do you see yourself doing this all your life? » This kind of question, the very one that François-Ghislain Morillion asked Sébastien Kopp one evening in 2002, can change the course of a life. Before founding Veja, the two Frenchmen, friends since adolescence, worked in investment banks in the United States, after classical studies in finance. But the role played by the market economy in sustainable development already concerns them.
“We could see that globalization was seriously drifting. That inequalities in the world were widening more and more”, explains Sébastien Kopp. The duo decides to create an NGO and offers its services to large companies. For more than a year, their missions in the field take them around the world, from China to South Africa via India or Brazil. They are appalled by the living and working conditions of the employees and the dishonest use, according to them, of the expression “sustainable development”. This experience also reminds them of their consumer habits. This will be the starting point for Veja.
A desirable and refined design
“We wanted to create a cool product that we like. In the field of basketball, everything had to be reinvented. These shoes were made in the most abominable social conditions, in the most polluting materials possible, with the lowest manufacturing costs for the benefit of marketing. » Direction the Amazonian forest of Brazil, in search of an organic cotton cooperative and a rubber sector. In February 2005, their first model stamped Veja (“to watch”, in Portuguese) was born. A desirable and refined design, inspired by a Brazilian volleyball basketball from the 1970s, made of bio-based materials.
“Our first run was 5,000 pairs, in six colors. In three days, we sold 3,500.”
“Our first run was 5,000 pairs, in six colors. In three days, we sold 3,500.” Without any advertising or marketing plan, word of mouth does its work and the brand appeals more and more by responding to a concern of the time. Since then, many labels have launched themselves into the niche of ethical basketball (Clae, Allbirds, Ubac, etc.), while forcing sportswear giants, such as Adidas or Nike, to also look into the question.
At Veja, one or two new models, featuring the famous distinctive “V” on the edge, are designed each year. This measured, step-by-step expansion does not undermine success. Around twenty different models, oscillating between city, running or trekking sneakers, are now in the brand’s catalogue. Manufacturing, still managed in Brazil, now reaches 4 million pairs per year. The founding duo has partnered with various local production plants, sourcing raw materials from the heart of the Amazon rainforest.
“We have clear traceability on our materials”, welcomes Sébastien Kopp. In seventeen years, two boutiques have opened in Paris, one in New York, and one in Berlin. In 2020, Veja also inaugurated a hybrid place in Bordeaux offering a cleaning and repair service for sneakers, as well as models at bargain prices. An offer that has gradually established itself in the world of fashion, beating the pavement in style. And right.
Instagram accounts of Sébastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion