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  • Interview with Jesse Tran and Son Chu

    Jesse Tran and Son Chu
    Jesse Tran and Son Chu
    Co-founders
    Rens Original
    Rens Original

    In 2021, we expect to grow 5-10 times bigger compared to 2020
    Finnish sustainable sneaker start-up Rens makes shoes from coffee grounds. In an interview with Fibre2Fashion, Co-founders Jesse Khanh Tran and Son Chu speak about how Rens is pioneering the use of recycled materials in performance shoes and its latest iteration, the Nomad.

    How successfully has Rens expanded its product portfolio over the years?

    Since our first product launch in Summer 2019, we have been focusing on strengthening our sustainable manufacturing network as well as building a sufficient logistics system to minimise and avoid any potential disruptions (for instance, those caused by COVID-19). Additionally, on August 3, 2021, we launched Nomad, our second-generation coffee sneaker engineered for performance and made from used coffee grounds and recycled plastic. In the long run, we are planning to elevate our sustainable manufacturing network to expand to other product categories as well, such as apparel and accessories.

    What factors have majorly contributed to your success?

    Our biggest winning factor is our community. We have a really strong community of backers and customers that supported us since our first Kickstarter campaign and are also showing up to back Nomad this time. They have been our most loyal advocates since day one, most of whom repeatedly requested a new sneaker made for performance. Nomad has been designed and will be developed by our community—this is all we are about: community.

    Do you manufacture the footwear yourself or outsource the production work? If outsourced, where does the production happen? Where are the raw materials sourced from?

    Our main manufacturing partner is in Vietnam, which happens to be the country where Son Chuis (co-founder, Rens Original) and I come from. There’s an interesting connection between Vietnam (where we were born) and Finland (where we have lived for the past 10 years)—Vietnam is the second-largest coffee producer in the world while Finland has the global largest coffee consumption per capita.

    The raw materials are sourced from all over the world, but mostly locally from Vietnam and the neighbouring country, China. Our manufacturing partner conducts various periodic audits such as Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) to ensure they meet labour, health, and safety standards. The audit focuses on subjects such as management system and code implementation, responsible recruitment, entitlement to work and immigration, sub-contracting, and home working. This ensures that workers are fairly compensated, that no forced labour or child labour is used in the production processes, that the working condition is safe and fair.

    Last but not least, Rens only uses Global Recycled Standard (GRS), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) certified materials from the first step of the production until the last-mile shipping in order to reduce climate footprint.

    What is the USP of Rens?

    Our new model Nomad, currently available via Kickstarter, will be the world’s first crowdfunded Climate Neutral Sneaker, made for performance and designed by the feedback and wishes of our customers.

    Similar to the Original Coffee Sneaker, we will use our signature waste-based materials for Nomad. The upper will be made from coffee waste and recycled plastic extracted from post-consumption bottles. Additionally, the sneakers will feature a 100 per cent waterproof nanomembrane—fully made from recycled polyester. On top of that, we developed the revolutionary technology in-house - Skystep Performance Midsole - which is a ventilation system that increases the airflow within the interior of the shoe while providing total waterproof protection. The air travels from the rear intakes through the ventilation channels to the underfoot exits. The Skystep system also removes excess material from the sole which will make Nomad even lighter. The outsole is made from natural rubber which will offer maximum traction in any terrain. Nomad will also feature fully recycled laces to maximise the performance experience.?

    Tell us about your marketing strategies. What percentage of your sales is through, brick & mortar, exclusive online store, and e-marketplaces?

    We have been strongly focusing on direct-to-consumer sales via our webstore Rensoriginal. Additionally, we have recently expanded on various other e-marketplaces such as Zalando (Europe’s largest fashion e-retailer) and The Iconic (Australia’s largest fashion e-commerce site). On top of that, we just launched on Amazon North America to tap into a new audience base. Our goal is to become an omnichannel e-commerce sustainable brand with presence in physical retail stores as we are expecting a post-COVID recovery in retail sales.

    How has social media helped in furthering business?

    Social media is our main channel of communication with our community and customers. We actively use social media to engage with the community as well as to test new ideas. As a matter of fact, our logo represents the hashtag, which is the tool the upcoming conscious generations of consumers use to start movements as well as join them, to build something greater than themselves. The hashtag is the symbol of the social media generation, our generation. It connects individuals, communities, cultures, and ethnicities which we strongly value and embrace.
    Published on: 16/08/2021

    DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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