Once a symbol of anti-capitalism, Komrads sneakers were developed in Soviet times by the Czech Boot Company in the 1950s as a response to the shoe revolution in the West, more specifically as the East’s version of the Converse All Stars. Komrads soon achieved cult status, but would have been forgotten when production ceased in 2009 due to an industry slump. Enter Belgian couple Greet Goegebuer and Mark Vandevelde who revived them in 2015, as a sustainable version made from recycled cotton.
“The more we became aware of production processes, the more questions we had about the fashion industry. How polluting is this industry? What about the Rana Plaza disaster and the numerous sweatshops? What about the fact that less than 1 percent of material used to produce fashion is recycled into new clothing? What about climate change? Every year 18 million hectares of rain forest - an area the size of England and Wales – is felled and replaced by great swathes of palm oil trees and rubber plantations (the main material used to make sneakers),” explain the two founders on their website.
“And so, this was the starting point of our dream. A dream to produce a comfortable and fashionable sneaker that does not cause harm to our planet. A sneaker for which we do not have to harvest natural commodities. A sneaker built entirely from re-used and recycled materials. Because we honestly want to make this planet a better place to live on,” add Goegebuer and Vandevelde.
Although they adapted the quality, look and sustainability of the new Komrads to make them more contemporary, the names are reminders of the sneakers’ eventful past: the low-top model is called “Spartak” and the high-top model “Partizan”.
Both models are characterised by a distinctive sole and a grooved toe cap. The seams are mostly round and wavy and there are no metal eyelets in favour of a minimalist and coherent design. Unlike “back then”, the sneakers are not only available in black and white, but now also in pastel colours like pink and light blue, which are highly popular.
Former Soviet sneakers are now vegan
The uppers of the completely vegan and officially PETA-certified Icns collection is made from 100 percent recycled cotton and the sole from 100 percent recycled rubber. The inner lining and laces are made from recycled cotton and polyester obtained from PET bottles. In addition, the insole is removable and made from recycled carbon (Arnetech). All Komrads are designed in Belgium and produced in Portugal in compliance with European standards.
The Icns collection by Komrads includes low- and high-top sneakers in different colour variations, available in EU sizes 36 to 46 (approximately US 5 to 13 and UK 3 to 12). The Spartak model is available for 75 euros (around 84 US dollars / 63 British pounds) and the Partizan model for 85 euros (around 95 US dollars / 71 British pounds).
In addition to the Icns collection, there is also the Apl collection made from apple leather. The low-top model costs 139 euros (around 156 US dollars / 117 British pounds) and the high-top model 154 euros (around 173 US dollars / 129 British pounds). An Ocns collection made of recycled marine plastic is in the works and expected soon.