Stella McCartney teamed up with Adidas and created a leather free, vegan edition of Stan Smiths sneakers. They launched the collection in stores back in September.
Great news for vegans, but nothing new for animals. Just because Adidas is creating an additional vegan leather sneakers collection, does not mean that less animal leather is going to be used for their other collections.
Among the popular leather shoes that Adidas creates, beside the Stan Smith collection, there is the Superstar collection, the Samba collection, the Yung Series collection and the list could go on. According to Adidas Group, in 2017 they sourced more than 99% of their leather from non-European tanneries which are audited under the Leather Working Group (LWG). They also state that they are not using any raw materials from any endangered or threatened species or animals that have been tortured. However, they do not provide any other details about those tanneries or about the leather they are using aka their supply chain is shrouded in mystery which makes fact checking Adidas’s sustainability and ethicality much more difficult. If one thing is clear Adidas still has to improve its transparency when it comes to animal welfare.
On the other end of the spectrum, Stella McCartney is well known for being a sustainable, cruelty-free brand. The brand is committed to using alternative, recycled materials and they are aiming to reduce their environmental impact every year. So, how ethical is Stella being in making this collaboration with Adidas taking into account the no leather, no fur, no skins, no feathers policy of her own brand?
The two brands have been designing high performance sportswear for women together since 2005. Adidas and Stella are on the same page in some aspects of fashion, both enjoy using recycled fabrics, but Adidas is worlds away from Stella’s commitment to sustainability.
The animal leather used for the Stan Smith sneakers was replaced with recycled polyester. When it comes to the design the sneakers are very similar with the classic Stan Smiths, but on the tongue of the left foot you will find the face of Stella McCartney and just on the right one the face of Stan Smith. The signature Adidas stripes are replaced with small stars and the Stella McCartney’s name encircles the Adidas logo on the back of the shoes. “I thought this would be a great way to reach a really wide audience and enable them to understand that you don’t have to have leather shoes or animal-based glues in order to have an incredible, iconic product,” Stella stated for Vogue.
Stella has a good point, but why not collaborate with an entirely cruelty free brand? Rather than one that only occasionally coincides with her personal values? Creating an iconic product and supporting a brand that is not using animal-based products for any of their collections. Of course, economically speaking Stella McCartney may not may not profit as much from collaborating with a smaller brand, but then again she makes enough money as it is.
This partnership is not really made to help the animals, is made to reach ‘a wide audience’. The popularity of the Stan Smiths sneakers will bring more buyers, more press coverage and more social media coverage. But Adidas have not been converted to not using animal products.
A positive aspect of this collaboration is that Stella McCartney is encouraging Adidas to become more ethical in the sense that they may use less animal products for their sneakers and if Adidas does so on a permanent basis, other people may become more conscious about wearing animal products. Nevertheless, this is more of a utopic outcome because we probably won’t see a significant drop in purchasing leather shoes unless it comes from the top of Adidas’s management chain.
It is a good initiative, but other than say again “Hey, don’t wear leather” in an apathetic tone, does it really have a long lasting impact? And what does this say about Stella’s values?