A new fashion brand has arrived to lead the way in making socially and environmentally responsible shopping a way of life. Grounded People, founded by its CEO Max Justus, has just introduced a line of vegan footwear that fits perfectly into the needs of this generation of consumers who have become more and more aware of the impact their choices have on the planet. And this brand couldn’t have arrived at a better moment than now to rally everyone to its cause.
It all began in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) where Max was born and raised against a lush Canadian backdrop of wildlife and forestry. The nurturing beauty of the land instilled in him a deep respect and appreciation for the environment. As it happens, Max had also been reared to be creative. His mother taught him at an early age how to sew and he often helped on her sewing projects. At 11 years old, his older brother helped him make original graphic designs on a computer that they could imprint on his shirts. His early forays into making unique designs consequently led Max to starting his own custom design company that made specialized garments.
While he found the work fulfilling and productive, he soon grew disillusioned by some long-standing problems in the fashion industry. He became convinced that if those issues remained unaddressed, they could only lead to bigger problems – and not just for the industry but the world at large. He was appalled in discovering how many profit-driven fashion manufacturers knowingly mass produced their merchandise using underpaid, overworked and even underaged labor. Furthermore, the enormous amounts of badly-made synthetic garments that resulted far exceeded any reasonably projected market demand and resulted in equally unwieldy amounts of unsold inventory.
And because they are often very easily damaged or too trendy to last past a limited time of use, even those that have been bought would eventually just be tossed into the trash. And few people were aware how much of both excess inventory and discarded garments would end up in landfills as non-biodegradable waste that pollute the environment in so many ways. But there didn’t seem to be any interest in correcting these problems because the popularity of fast fashion was widely accepted in the 1990s and early 2000s when cheap and disposable clothing became the norm.
Once the harmful effects of fast fashion became more transparent and widely known, some brands did try to start creating more environmentally friendly alternatives. But these were labor intensive and took longer to produce, making them more expensive for average consumers. It would take the last twenty years of worsening conditions and witnessing the adverse effects of climate change to push independent brands to make more serious efforts in laying the necessary groundwork for change.
Fortunately, today, advancements in technology and know-how are being devoted to ensuring that manufacturing results in smaller carbon footprints. And perhaps more importantly, consumers have become better educated in their spending habits. In several studies conducted by independent polling, marketing and actuarial organizations, statistics show that an estimated seventy-seven percent of consumers prefer to purchase from companies committed to making the world a better place. Another report found that 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable goods while a different source points out that 62% of Generation Z prefer to buy from sustainable brands.
Max says, “We have to understand that for too long we have been using up the planet’s resources at a rate that far outpaces its capability to replenish them. The very immediate possibility that sooner than we think there won’t be anything left to nourish us or even support life will be utterly devastating.” Max formed Grounded People as a way of leading the way for those crucial changes from within the industry itself to be made. With working partners in Europe and the US, Max just launched his brand via a footwear collection made almost entirely by hand in the world’s only 100% vegan factory located in Brazil.
Determined to make a profound difference, Max began by assembling like-minded partners in forming Grounded People that could pave the way toward improvements in both the manufacturing and the consumption of fashion. He started the long arduous process just before and in the middle of the recent worldwide pandemic, which brought along with it a new set of challenges in finding, vetting, and securing the various components needed.
He sought out not just investors and individuals who were as committed to the same principles he envisioned but also reputable sources for the raw materials as well as the right manufacturer. After looking into many potential candidates, he found his ideal manufacturer in the vegan factory in Brazil. After scrutinizing its facilities, Max came to the conclusion that it represented the same kind of humble, down-to-earth yet efficient operations that was the antithesis of the soulless assembly line ways of major multinationals.
The Brazilian factory also proved to Max that it could deliver a range of high quality footwear from ethically-sourced recycled yarns and recycled raw material, which do not require chemical processes or additional water, and thereby reducing impact on the environment. Max was also impressed by the fact that it was ethically and humanely operated, ensuring that its workers labored under safe conditions and were compensated fairly.
Max named the brand Grounded People to evoke a sense of being intrinsically connected to the planet. And as a company logo, he used an illustration of a meerkat. He explains, “This gentle animal exhibits highly sophisticated social behavior of working together in group units to accomplish the goals of its communities. I wanted this as a symbolic reminder of how working cooperatively for the good of the whole can bring about real change to the world.”
After more than a year of dedicated research, design, development, and the production of initial prototypes, the brand was finally able to unveil its first collection at the end of 2021 even as the world tried to adjust to the new realities of post covid. The launch marks an auspicious beginning of what presents the potential to become a full lifestyle brand. The team behind the label are already hard at work trying to craft sustainable alternatives to other fashion categories including shirts, sweaters, socks and beanies. The plan is to introduce these gradually with some, it is hoped, in collaboration with charities. To further extend the brand’s message while supporting non-profits with similarly worthy goals, Grounded People has set up an innovative program called LACES (Learn to Achieve and Create Everlasting Sustainability).
Through this initiative, the brand will be partnering with nonprofits that have goals aligned with Grounded People. Through LACES, the company seeks to create a community among organizations and shoppers with the shared passion for preserving the planet. This will then enable anyone purchasing a pair of Ground People shoes to select the color of the laces that correspond to a specific partner organization and thereby proudly show through wearable statements their support to those causes. In turn, Grounded People contributes the entirety of the sale directly to the chosen charities.
The brand’s debut collection of vegan shoes is a bold introduction to its mission of advocating sustainability not just as a fashion choice but as a commitment to the change needed to reverse the damages that have been and continue to be done to the planet.
The limited-edition collection includes two low cut sneakers Charlie (in moonstone color) and Gabby (in lead color) along with two high tops Lee (in moonstone) and Matty (in lead) – meticulously crafted out of ethically sourced, recycled, and undyed cotton canvas for the uppers and linings, a biodegradable non-toxic foam insole, and a Vulcanized natural latex rubber outsole. Classic by design and infused with modern details such as the d-ring eyelets and the zip backs, each piece is meticulously handcrafted by the artisans in Brazil who are highly skilled in generations of shoemaking traditions. The care with which the shoes are created also goes a long way in making them durable and lasting instead of becoming easily disposable merchandise.
By design, these first pieces were meant to balance contemporary tastes with a nostalgic sense of bucolic summers spent riding bikes or hanging out with friends at the nearest pond and serve to further emphasize how nature nourishes the soul. And since they are being produced in lesser quantities, these are expected to be more appealing to those who value limited editions over mass produced products while underscoring their superiority over fast fashions. According to Max, “It isn’t news that we are at a critical tipping point in society and change has to occur from within. Our intent is for people to see Grounded People as more than a label but rather as an emblematic inspiration to this growing movement of environmentalism and sustainability and together we can all be part of being the change the world needs.”