Sunday 29 May 2022

Jesse Tran, CEO of Rens: “Our stylish sneakers are made out of coffee waste and recycled plastic bottles from the ocean”

Jesse Tran CEO and Co-Founder of Rens Original: “For the first generation, we used coffee grounds that are processed and mixed with recycled plastic pellets to create polyester yarn for the upper part of the sneaker. A pair of its first-generation "Original" shoes contains about 150 grams of coffee waste and six recycled plastic bottles. The second generation, named "Nomad", is made also from coffee polyester yarn, with laces made from coffee waste and recycled plastic from plastic bottles from the ocean"

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MILAN – We interviewed Jesse Tran CEO and Co-Founder of Rens Original, a Finnish startup, which launched in 2019 via Kickstarter – raising over half a million dollars from over 5.000 customers in 100+ countries worldwide – the world’s first crowdfunded climate neutral sneaker, that is made from coffee waste and recycled plastic: Nomad.

Rens is a project that combines two very different sectors: coffee and sneakers. How was this project born and why?

“It was born in late 2019. Son and I, the two co-founders, are both from Vietnam originally and we lived in Helsinki for 10 years, we’re both very sneakers fans. We also had a very short experience as the previous job in the e-commerce and manufacturing sectors. We looked around and we didn’t find many sustainable brands for sneakers dedicated to young people.

Jesse Tran and Son Chu – Rens Co-Founders

We started with organic cotton and after half a year we realized that it wasn’t the right material to work with, it needed a big amount of water in the process.
We decided to look for another material that could have a connection with the manufacture in China and we discovered this coffee waste material that has many amazing functions: antibacterial, it contains tiny micro-pockets that trap unpleasant odors and it dries 200% faster than traditional athletic apparel.

We chose coffee this time because in Finland we consume very much coffee. And then also Vietnam is one of the biggest producers of Robusta: from a marketing point of view, it was perfect.

The product that we created with coffee waste was a better result also from the aesthetic point of view, but that’s because we had worked on a new design. We had new ideas in collaboration with a design team and they look quite better than the first version.”

Where and why did you choose to work in China and Vietnam and not in Europe?

“Actually we got the coffee material in Taiwan, and then we produce the sneakers in Vietnam in the same region: it makes sense having the material to be local. We produce in China and not in Europe because it’s too expensive, the price is not competitive, in Europe the industry can’t count on the same technology that exists in Asia: tech, new machines for the water proof, are weaker in Europe. In China and Vietnam, all factories are the best certified in the world. I’ve personally visited most of them.

We are based and all the intellectual properties are here. We got here the design and the marketing. Our main market is the USA and then Germany. In Italy, we don’t have a good distribution yet. We have nothing featured the same way in the other countries: people don’t know us as much as they do in Germany. We’re going to open a channel also in Italy though.”

Rens team celebrating

With which recycled materials are your sneakers composed?

rens
One of shoes during a running

“For the first generation, we used coffee grounds that are processed and mixed with recycled plastic pellets to create polyester yarn for the upper part of the sneaker. A pair of its first-generation “Original” shoes contains about 150 grams of coffee waste and six recycled plastic bottles.

Nomad waterproof

The second generation, named “Nomad“, is made also from coffee polyester yarn, with laces made from coffee waste and recycled plastic from plastic bottles from the ocean. These two materials combine to make all of the textiles on the upper side. Coffee brings the features. Recycled plastic brings flex and durability. For both generations, they are provided with a waterproof membrane, powered by our AquaScreen Tech, which allows air to pass through easily while maintaining 100% protection from water penetration. We actually are going to release a new generation but for now, it’s a surprise.“

From the first model launched in 2019, until nowadays, have you received any good feedback from the market, above all among coffee lovers?

“We now have a really wide audience because of the design appeal of our models. At first, to be honest, we just randomly create and choose the design, the first generation according to the opinion of a really small community. Now we have made some choices for the second generation with the consultation of manufacturing and design partners and the stakeholders. It’s a really customer-driven process.

Our shoes are waterproof so you can use them for many things, from trekking to dancing. Sneakers in the market, but our target is young people, they mostly buy cool designed shoes with the best material, and they are very sensitive to the sustainability subject. It’s a combination of the two factors: the design and the fact that it is made from waste base materials. “

And now, what are your future projects with Rens?

“I can’t say so much. We started on Kickstarter and then we are like a direct customer brand and we’re available also on Amazon and Zalando. We will also be in London and New York, the main fashion capitals in the world. We’re quite excited and we hope that we’ll become bigger and reach more people in 2022.”

The question that you may ask is: what’s the price of these sustainable (and cool) shoes? The truth is that Nomad’s technology and design are quite expensive: a pair of the company’s latest footwear are currently available for 95€.

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