NFW and UNLESS Collective launch the zero plastic, biobased sneaker

Meet The Degenerate, the world's only plastic-free, biobased shoe that uses NFW’s entire ecosystem of materials—a groundbreaking collaboration between NFW and UNLESS Collective. The Degenerate is a durable, comfortable, and chic sneaker that—unlike all conventional sustainable footwear—is designed to naturally decompose. This is the beginning of a new era for footwear. The Degenerate proves that plastic is not necessary.

The Degenerate is the first product to use NFW’s entire ecosystem of biobased, 100% plastic-free performance materials: a PLIANT™ outsole, TUNERA™ foam for the internal midsole, CLARUS® textile for the vamp and quarter, and MIRUM® leather alternative for the upper overlays. (In fact, the sneaker marks both PLIANT’s and TUNERA’s market debut!) In total, 95% of the shoe by weight is made of NFW materials. It also uses low-impact textiles like linen, cotton embroidered lace tips, coconut husk, and Tencel™ thread. Every element of the Degenerate is biobased—meaning the shoe is designed to return to nature as nutrients for the next growth cycle. That’s circularity as nature intended—we call it natural circularity.   

Both NFW and UNLESS are spearheading the movement to eliminate plastics in fashion and footwear. In the current market, the vast majority of shoes (even those built more sustainably) are made with plastics and other petrochemicals, which break down into harmful microplastics that find their way into our rivers and oceans,  soil,  food, and even our bodies.  

NFW and UNLESS are catalyzing a systemic shift to this plastic-dependent status quo.  

UNLESS was co-founded by Eric Liedtke with a collective of industry executives from Quicksilver, R/GA and Adidas to create plant-based, plastic-free streetwear. The Degenerate is UNLESS's first sneaker. 

“We loved collaborating with our friends at NFW to create this revolutionary sneaker,” said Liedtke, co-founder and CEO of UNLESS Collective. “The Degenerate is for anyone who doesn’t want to compromise their style to do what’s right for the planet. And thanks to NFW’s unparalleled innovation in plant-based material technology, this sneaker will live a long, useful life of comfort and style… and when it’s no longer useful, will be turned into valuable inputs for new soil products, allowing UNLESS to use the decomposition process to birth something entirely new.”  

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Thanks to the revolutionary properties of NFW’s proprietary plant-based biocomposites, the entire shoe can be easily mechanically broken down into either plant food and soil or new NFW material for future products. With the combined forces of UNLESS’s and NFW’s takeback program, the Degenerate is demonstrating circular solutions for the footwear industry. 

“This is the first shoe of its kind made with entirely natural inputs that is truly circular, meaning it can be recycled or safely returned to nature to become nutrients for healthy soil or provide inputs for the next cycle of consumer products,” said Luke Haverhals, founder and CEO of NFW.

The UNLESS Degenerate is available now in off-white and black for $139 at Subscribe to NFW’s blog to stay in the know on the latest NFW product launches and updates. 

Interested in working with NFW’s ecosystem of naturally circular materials? Register your interest in CLARUS®, MIRUM®, or PLIANT™.

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December 1 2022