Meet Bendy, a flat leather shoe that looks like a cross between an espadrille and a huarache. It also happens to have a low carbon footprint, generating only 4.5 pounds of greenhouse emissions compared to the 30 pounds generated by the average sneaker, according to a life-cycle assessment conducted by the MIT Materials Systems lab.
Bendy is the latest brand advertising itself as a comfy and eco-friendly option in the $222 billion global footwear market. Other shoes in this universe include Allbirds, which creates sneakers out of renewable materials like wool and eucalyptus, and Rothy’s, which makes women’s flats from recycled plastic bottles.
Bendy is the brainchild of Mary Sue Papale and Yvette Turner, the cofounders of Ashbury Skies, a fashion retailer based in San Francisco. They joined forces with Caroline de Baëre, a footwear designer, to develop a more sustainable shoe. The founders focused on the issue of carbon emissions. Many shoes on the market are made from dozens of components, often sourced from around the world, that are glued and sewn together.
Bendy, on the other hand, consists of five components. The founders say this reduces the amount of energy required to transport and manufacture the shoe. The shoes are then manufactured in California, which is closer to the U.S. consumer, and they are cut to order, which means there is less wasted inventory.
Of course, there are many trade-offs when it comes to ethical fashion. While Bendy is focused on the carbon footprint, some of its components are not as sustainable as they could be. The sole, for instance, is made from virgin plastic, which is not biodegradable. By comparison, Rothy’s are made from recycled plastic, while Allbirds are made from sugar-based foam. Papales says that the brand is exploring more eco-friendly alternatives to the sole.
Bendy has several features that make it extremely comfortable. It has a flexible sole and a highly cushioned footbed, along with a soft leather upper. When I tested it, it felt a little tight at first, but within half an hour, the shoe seemed to mold to my foot. I didn’t want to take it off. It does, however, look unusual compared to the average flat shoe or sneaker. Much like Allbirds and Rothy’s, which are also easily recognizable, Bendy stands out, signaling the wearer’s commitment to sustainability as well as their fashion sensibility.