Chris Smalling interview: Roma star unveils Nike Happy Pineapple sneakers

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Pineapple sneakers? It’s not as strange as it sounds and Nike certainly doesn’t seem to think so. The sportswear giant has just released its “Happy Pineapple” collection comprising six models of sneakers that use a material called Piñatex® derived from the thorny tropical fruit. This collaboration marks the first time in its history that the brand has used a bio-material instead of leather.

AS Roma footballer Chris Smalling, a committed vegan and former Manchester United defender, is an investor in the company that developed the product. Based at Somerset House in London, Pineapple Anam is the brainchild of Dr Carmen Hijosa who wanted to find a sustainable alternative to leather after spending 15 years in the design and manufacture of leather goods. Remarkably, she founded the company in her 60s after earning a PhD in Textiles at the Royal College of Art in London as a mature student. It quickly attracted investors, including soccer star Smalling who also proved to be the perfect high profile ambassador, asserting his influence on Nike, one of its loyal sponsors for many years.

Although some parts of the sneakers are made from Piñatex, it is a positive step towards a more sustainable solution for this type of shoe, which is notoriously bad for the environment. According to Business intern, over 300 million pairs of sneakers are thrown away each year, and some plastic soles can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.

The good news is that Piñatex is part of a larger movement towards more sustainable textiles in fashion derived from plant-based products, resulting in fashion items that are not only more environmentally friendly, but also more eco-friendly. fair trade, providing a valuable source of income for the poorest. communities able to use raw materials that would otherwise be thrown away.

In March, the luxury leather brand Hermès released a travel bag made from mushroom “leather”, or more precisely mycelium fibers found in mushrooms. The French house renames the textile “Sylvania”, and creates a prototype of its Victoria briefcase cast in this supple material, which is processed in the same tanneries as the brand’s leather handbags. The project, a collaboration between Hermès and biomaterials company MycoWorks, is part of a three-year contractual agreement, so it’s safe to say that Hermès will be launching more mushroom bags in the near future.

Nike Pinatex Trainers

In other news, there’s the silkworm start-up Evolved By Nature, which has the backing of Chanel as an investor. The company uses activated silk technology – that is, water mixed with natural silk proteins extracted from disaffected cocoons – to create a wonderful ‘mud’ that can, among other things, be made into fibers for fashion clothing when spun into a soft yarn, or made into a youth booster emulsion for the organic beauty industry when filtered.

As for Pinatex, the future looks bright: Nike’s involvement will undoubtedly shine a light on this innovative company that already works with an impressive 800 global brands, providing faux leather for accessories and footwear that are both durable and tactile. Besides Nike, big fashion customers include H&M and Hugo Boss, showing the company is ripe for picking.

In an exclusive interview, The Week spoke to Chris Smalling about his unusual business venture which he hopes will lead to more fashion and footwear innovations, perhaps in the field with performance boots designed. with a tropical kick.

Chris Smalling Sneakers Nike Pinatex

Why and how did you get involved in Piñatex?

About four years ago, I started the transition to veganism. My wife was already vegan, but for me it was a slightly slower process. I started seeing the health benefits of a plant-based diet early on, but still only ate vegan foods at home. It was by thinking about the animal welfare aspect of this way of life that I totally converted. As for discovering Ananas Anam, it actually started with a different pair of sneakers. I had read about Hugo Boss Piñatex sneakers and really wanted them. I came to London and bought a black pair. Believe it or not, I reached out to the company on Instagram and asked them if I could be involved in some way with their journey. Before [embarking] on a football career, I planned to study financial economics [at Loughborough University], so I have always had an interest in start-ups. It seemed like the perfect match given my beliefs, and I really liked the enduring angle.

How is veganism perceived in football?

Fortunately, there is a lot more awareness about plant-based diets, especially since [Netflix docuseries] Game changers started to air. Even in Rome, a good part of the team ends up feasting on my dishes! They ask questions and really want to know how my breakfasts are prepared.

How important is it to you that trainers become more sustainable?

Players go through a lot of [football] boots, so ultimately the goal would be to create a fully durable Piñatex model for the field. This is the beauty of the material, innovation is there to develop high-performance shoes as well as kits in the future. Piñatex is resistant and sneakers [made from this material] last for years, much longer than leather.

I heard there was a vegan hotel room furnished by Ananas Anam…

That’s right, the Hilton Bankside in London has a vegan suite with upholstery and Piñatex furniture. I actually stayed there not too long ago with my wife which was great. It’s really cool to buy a pair of [Hugo Boss] sneakers, then follow a project like this as it evolves into bigger things, from furniture to Nike sneakers!

Nike Pinatex sneakers details

Did you facilitate this Nike project?

Nike has been my sponsor for years and I have always felt supported in my [lifestyle] choices. I suggested the idea of ​​a collaboration, starting with the sneakers and working on the football boots. There has been a lot of talk about the launch [a biomaterial range] and I certainly pushed for Piñatex. the [development] The team sampled a lot of different materials so I was delighted when they settled on us.

Are you planning to become a sustainable start-up mogul in the future?

I currently have seven or eight investments in different sustainable companies, so maybe! I think that will be my vocation later, after having given everything to football. After 15 or 20 years [as a player], I’m not sure I want to be a manager, but I really want to take an active role in the game. One of the charities I support is Football Beyond Borders, which supports kids in sport and that’s an area vitally important to which I look forward to devoting more time.

You are going to be a big hit with the kids when you tell them you have pineapple sneakers…

Haha! Yeah that’s right … And the little pineapple logo is pretty cool too!

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