What are Upcycled Shoes?

How Shoes are made at Big Companies

I worked as a developer and designer for larger corporations for 15 years before Mike and I decided to start 5028.  During my tenure we would try a lot of different things in our efforts to design a shoe to reach a certain need or a certain styling sense.  There was  lot of time, energy, designing, re-designing, and engineering that went into each project.   

At the last company I was with before starting 5028 we had a project we were working on where we were updating one of our best sellers. The goal was to come up with fresh, interesting materials in unique colors.  I went to Europe and searched high and low for the coolest materials I could find and I found a lot of them. We needed to sample all of them to see how they would look. After all the shoes were made, there were two or three that we decided were perfect for what we were looking for. All the others? Not what we were looking for.  

What About all the Left Over Material?

My next visit to the factory they told me I sampled way too many materials and took me to their warehouse where they pointed out all the materials they had that had gone to waste and they had paid for.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of material, left to die, to never be turned into anything.  These materials are left over from over-sampling, large production runs where more material than was needed was ordered, or from canceled orders.  They keep the materials for a while, try and use some for sampling here and there, but eventually the suppliers discontinue the materials so they are obsolete, or they are in the stock room too long and need to be cleared out to create space for one thing or another so they wind up in the landfill.  Money spent and wasted, and more importantly materials created and never used, such sad waste.  

After seeing what was in the stock room, which was pretty amazing stuff, I said, “well, why don’t you just leave me in here and I will see what I can use?”   The answer was rather strange, but the gist was that the company I worked for placed orders that were too big and I could sample something but if I liked it they might not be able to get it made anymore and therefore they suggested I not use those materials and rather still use the new ones.   Hmmmmmm, I thought, that is such a shame.  

After we launched 5028, which is a small batch, limited edition shoe brand, I thought of all those “dead stock” materials and thought I could make use of those materials now! I reached out to our partners and asked if they would be open to the idea and they were! The next trip I took to Europe they let me loose in the warehouse. I spent hours pulling out materials I liked and coming up with ideas I could use them for. Once I had my ideas formulated the modelistas calculated how much material they needed for each style and how many pairs I could make with what they had.   

The Birth of our Upcycled Shoes

It was during this trip that the Men's and Women's Reprise, Walrus, and Sole Mate were born. All of these styles are upcycled using the dead stock materials from the warehouses, repurposed into these fun new styles.  We also found a supplier that makes recycled footbeds that are engineered from scraps and repurposed into footbeds.  We are pretty excited that we have the ability to create this way, these shoes are truly unique and exclusive, the quantities that we made are all that will be made.  Limited edition, artisan shoes, just the way we like it! 

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