1. Turning Trash into Treasure: VIVAIA transforms discarded plastic bottles into chic, comfortable shoes, proving that sustainability and style can walk hand-in-hand.
  2. Backed by Tech Giants: With investments from Sequoia Capital and ByteDance, VIVAIA is poised to revolutionize the footwear industry with its innovative approach and global ambitions.
  3. Direct Connection, Rapid Innovation: VIVAIA’s DTC model allows them to engage directly with consumers, gather real-time feedback, and iterate on designs with remarkable speed.
  4. Beyond Eco-Friendly, Exceptionally Comfortable: VIVAIA’s dedication to comfort is as strong as their commitment to sustainability, ensuring their shoes are not just good for the planet, but also a joy to wear.
  5. Made in China, Leading the Sustainability Charge: VIVAIA leverages China’s robust recycling infrastructure and agile manufacturing to create a closed-loop production system that minimizes waste and environmental impact.
  6. Investing in VIVAIA is Investing in a Better Future: By supporting brands like VIVAIA, consumers are making a conscious choice to contribute to a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry.

Walking down a bustling street in any major US city, it’s hard to miss the sight of reusable water bottles, canvas totes, and clothing emblazoned with messages promoting sustainability. Gone are the days when “eco-friendly” was a niche market for the granola-crunching few. Today, environmentally conscious choices are increasingly becoming the norm, especially amongst Millennials and Gen Z, who are keenly aware of the impact their consumption habits have on the planet. This shift in consumer awareness has sent ripples throughout industries, with the fashion world experiencing a seismic change. No longer content with fleeting trends and fast fashion, a growing segment of consumers are demanding transparency, ethical practices, and sustainable materials from the brands they choose to support.

Enter VIVAIA, a rising star in the sustainable fashion firmament, illuminating the path toward a more mindful way to strut in style. Founded in 2020, VIVAIA has captivated the hearts (and feet) of fashion-forward consumers worldwide with their unique approach to footwear – crafting chic and comfortable shoes from recycled plastic bottles. Their origin story is as compelling as their designs: six discarded plastic bottles, meticulously transformed through a multi-step process spanning seven hours, culminate in a single pair of VIVAIA shoes. This commitment to reducing plastic waste and promoting circularity has resonated deeply with consumers, propelling the brand on an impressive growth trajectory.

In just three years, VIVAIA has gone from a fledgling startup to a global force in sustainable footwear, amassing over 820,000 customers across 61 countries and garnering a loyal following of over 1.1 million on social media. Their meteoric rise has not gone unnoticed by investors either. In 2021, VIVAIA’s parent company, Starlink, secured a staggering 700 million RMB investment from a consortium of prominent investors, including Sequoia Capital and ByteDance, signaling a strong belief in the brand’s potential to disrupt the footwear industry.

Jeff Chan, the founder of VIVAIA.

At the helm of VIVAIA is Jeff Chan, a Singaporean entrepreneur with a profound understanding of Western culture and a deep-seated passion for marrying fashion with environmental responsibility. Chan’s vision for VIVAIA extends beyond crafting aesthetically pleasing shoes; it’s about creating a brand that stands as a testament to the power of conscious consumption, where style and sustainability walk hand-in-hand.

This article will unravel the story of VIVAIA, exploring how the brand expertly tapped into the conscious consumer market, leveraging China’s robust and innovative supply chain, and harnessing the power of digital marketing to craft a global success story. From their commitment to using eco-friendly materials to their agile response to consumer feedback, VIVAIA demonstrates that walking the walk in sustainable fashion is not just good for the planet, but also a recipe for business success in the era of conscious consumerism.

The Genesis of VIVAIA: A Passion for Sustainable Style

Jeff Chan’s journey into the world of sustainable footwear began not with a “Eureka!” moment, but with a gradual awakening to the inherent contradictions within the industry he knew so well. Having spent over two decades navigating the intricate labyrinth of footwear production, Chan had witnessed firsthand the industry’s relentless pursuit of fashion trends often at the expense of both comfort and the environment. While luxury and style reigned supreme, the true cost of those exquisitely crafted shoes – the environmental footprint, the ethical implications of material sourcing, and the often overlooked discomfort endured by women in the name of fashion – became increasingly difficult for Chan to ignore.

“I realized that for most women, footwear needs to satisfy more than just the desire for style,” Chan explains. “Our everyday shoes, the ones we wear for work, running errands, and life in general, must be comfortable above all else.” This realization was born not just from professional observation, but from personal experience. Chan fondly recalls his wife’s extensive shoe collection, numbering in the hundreds, with many pairs remaining unworn, relegated to the back of the closet. This sparked a question: What if a shoe could seamlessly blend style with comfort, offering versatility for various occasions without compromising on sustainability?

This question became the driving force behind the creation of VIVAIA. Chan envisioned a brand that would break free from the constraints of traditional footwear production, embracing a more holistic approach that considered the entire lifecycle of a shoe, from material sourcing to the end consumer’s experience. The genesis of VIVAIA’s signature innovation – using recycled plastic bottles to craft their shoes – emerged during a period of introspection forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world ground to a halt, Chan and his team found themselves with the unexpected gift of time, a time to re-evaluate, rethink, and reimagine the future of footwear.

“During those months of lockdown, we kept asking ourselves, how can we create a product that gives back to society instead of burdening it further?” Chan recalls. The answer lay in addressing the global plastic waste crisis, a problem particularly acute in China, the world’s largest producer and consumer of plastic. Inspired by the idea of circularity, Chan and his team embarked on a journey to transform discarded plastic bottles into a durable, comfortable, and stylish material for shoes. The process involves meticulously shredding, cleaning, and melting down the plastic bottles, converting them into yarn that is then expertly woven into a breathable, flexible fabric for the shoe upper.

The brand name VIVAIA itself is a testament to this unique approach, encoding a powerful message of sustainability and consumer connection within its very structure. “The double ‘V’ and ‘A’ symbolize the design of the shoes, originating from opposite directions, representing the duality of style and comfort,” Chan explains. “The double ‘I’, on the other hand, represents the plastic bottles used in the production, connecting our customers to the very core of our sustainable practices.”

VIVAIA’s commitment to environmental responsibility goes beyond just their signature recycled PET fabric. Every element of the shoe is carefully selected with sustainability in mind: from the natural herb-infused, odor-resistant insoles to the carbon-free rubber outsoles, and the packaging made from 90% recycled cardboard. This dedication to minimizing their environmental footprint sets VIVAIA apart in a crowded footwear market, resonating with a growing segment of consumers who are no longer willing to compromise their values for the sake of fashion.

Cracking the Code: DTC and the Power of Consumer Connection

Launching a new brand, especially in the fiercely competitive fashion industry, is akin to navigating a minefield. Established players, intricate retail networks, and fickle consumer trends can make it daunting for a nascent brand to gain traction, let alone thrive. However, VIVAIA recognized that their unique value proposition – merging style with sustainability – required a different approach, one that would allow them to forge a direct connection with their target audience and bypass the traditional gatekeepers of the fashion world. The solution? Embracing the Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) business model.

DTC is more than just a fancy acronym; it’s a revolutionary approach that reimagines the relationship between brands and consumers. By selling directly through their website and other owned channels, VIVAIA sidesteps the traditional retail labyrinth, opting for a more agile and personalized route to market. This allows them to exert greater control over every aspect of the consumer journey, from shaping the brand narrative to gathering invaluable customer feedback and rapidly iterating on product development.

“Choosing DTC was crucial for us, particularly because we were introducing a new concept, a new type of shoe,” explains Marina Chen, VIVAIA’s Category Director. “DTC allows us to directly interact with our customers, understand their needs, and receive feedback in real-time, which is invaluable for a brand focused on sustainability and innovation.”

One of the most significant advantages of DTC is the ability to control the brand narrative. Instead of relying on third-party retailers to convey their message, VIVAIA can communicate their values, their story, and their commitment to sustainability directly to their target audience. Their website, social media channels, and email marketing campaigns become platforms for authentic storytelling, showcasing the meticulous process behind their shoes, from the sourcing of recycled plastic bottles to the intricate craftsmanship involved in transforming them into stylish and comfortable footwear.

Furthermore, DTC enables VIVAIA to build a deeper relationship with their customers, fostering a sense of community and shared values. By engaging directly with their audience through social media, VIVAIA can answer questions, address concerns, and solicit feedback on their products, creating a dynamic and responsive dialogue. This fosters a level of trust and transparency that is often lacking in traditional retail models.

“We are constantly listening to our customers, learning from their experiences, and incorporating their feedback into our designs,” says Chen. “This iterative process, fueled by real-time data from our direct interactions, allows us to improve our products and ensure they meet the evolving needs of our conscious consumers.”

For a brand built on sustainability, this feedback loop is invaluable. VIVAIA can gauge consumer sentiment towards their eco-friendly materials, their innovative production techniques, and their overall commitment to environmental responsibility. This direct line of communication empowers VIVAIA to refine their approach, ensuring they stay aligned with their core values and the expectations of their discerning customer base.

Another key benefit of DTC is the ability to bypass traditional retail markups, offering competitive pricing without compromising on quality. By eliminating the middleman, VIVAIA can offer their shoes at a more accessible price point, making sustainable fashion a more attainable choice for a wider audience. This is particularly important for a brand targeting Millennials and Gen Z, demographics known for their discerning taste and value-consciousness.

To amplify their brand message and reach their target audience, VIVAIA has embraced the power of social media. Recognizing that their core demographic lives and breathes on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, VIVAIA has cultivated a vibrant online presence, sharing captivating content that showcases their stylish designs, their commitment to sustainability, and the diverse community of women who wear their shoes.

“From the very beginning, we noticed a strong community of women on Facebook and Instagram who resonated with our brand values and were eager to support a sustainable footwear option,” recalls Chen. “These platforms allowed us to connect with them directly, share our story, and build a loyal following.”

VIVAIA’s social media strategy goes beyond just showcasing their products; it’s about creating a dialogue, fostering a sense of belonging, and showcasing the versatility of their shoes for various lifestyles and occasions. Their Instagram feed, brimming with user-generated content, features women from all walks of life – working professionals, busy moms, adventurous travelers, and everyone in between – confidently rocking their VIVAIA shoes.

Furthermore, VIVAIA has strategically collaborated with influencers who align with their brand values, amplifying their reach and connecting with new audiences. These collaborations go beyond mere product placements; they are carefully curated partnerships that showcase VIVAIA’s commitment to sustainability, ethical practices, and empowering women. One notable example is their collaboration with Taylor Filo, a prominent sustainability advocate and social media influencer, who championed VIVAIA’s recycled PET fabric and shared her personal experience of wearing their shoes with her engaged followers.

Through their savvy use of DTC and social media marketing, VIVAIA has not only managed to break through the noise of the crowded footwear market but has also cultivated a loyal following of consumers who share their passion for sustainable style. By prioritizing transparency, consumer connection, and rapid iteration, VIVAIA demonstrates that the future of fashion lies in forging a direct path to the hearts and minds of their audience, empowering them to walk the walk in both style and sustainability.

Made in China: Leveraging Supply Chain Agility and Innovation

While the allure of a sustainable brand story and savvy marketing tactics undeniably contribute to VIVAIA’s success, there’s a powerful engine driving their operation behind the scenes – China’s remarkable manufacturing prowess. Often perceived solely as a mass production hub churning out cheap goods, China has quietly undergone a transformation, evolving into a global leader in sustainable manufacturing and supply chain innovation. This is particularly evident in the plastics industry, where China boasts not only the world’s largest production capacity but also a surprisingly sophisticated recycling infrastructure. VIVAIA, with its core product rooted in recycled plastic bottles, has strategically positioned itself to harness this unique advantage, forging a closed-loop production system that turns waste into a valuable resource.

China’s dominance in the plastics industry is undeniable. Accounting for nearly a third of global plastic production, China also consumes a staggering amount, with an estimated 200 billion plastic beverage bottles used in 2021 alone. While this level of consumption raises concerns about environmental impact, it also presents a massive opportunity for recycling and circularity. Recognizing the urgency of addressing the plastic waste crisis, China has invested heavily in developing a comprehensive recycling system, boasting a remarkable 95% recovery rate for PET bottles, the type commonly used for beverages and the very material VIVAIA utilizes for its shoes.

“The abundance of readily available recycled PET in China was a key factor in our decision to manufacture here,” reveals Chen. “Not only does it make sourcing our primary material easier and more cost-effective, but it also allows us to contribute to a circular economy, reducing the reliance on virgin plastic and minimizing our environmental footprint.”

VIVAIA’s partnership with Chinese suppliers extends beyond just sourcing recycled materials. They have tapped into the agility and responsiveness of China’s manufacturing ecosystem, enabling them to iterate on product designs and respond to consumer feedback with a speed that traditional footwear brands can only dream of. Unlike the leather industry, with its long lead times and complex supply chains, the recycled PET supply chain in China is remarkably streamlined. From bottle collection and processing to yarn production and fabric weaving, each step is expertly handled by specialized manufacturers within a highly interconnected network.

“The speed at which we can go from design concept to finished product is astonishing,” says Chan. “We can have a new design woven into a shoe upper within 35 minutes. From there, it takes just another two hours to assemble the entire shoe. This allows us to be incredibly responsive to customer feedback, constantly iterating on our designs and improving the comfort and fit of our shoes.”

This contrasts starkly with the traditional leather footwear industry, where lead times can stretch to months, making it challenging to respond to changing trends and consumer preferences. The reliance on animal-derived materials further adds to the complexity and ethical concerns surrounding traditional footwear production. Leather tanning, a resource-intensive and often polluting process, involves the use of harsh chemicals, posing risks to both workers and the environment. By opting for recycled PET, VIVAIA not only minimizes its reliance on virgin materials but also circumvents the ethical and environmental baggage associated with leather.

“Our partnership with Chinese manufacturers is not just about cost-efficiency and speed; it’s about shared values,” emphasizes Chan. “Many of our suppliers are equally passionate about sustainability and innovation. They are constantly investing in new technologies and processes to improve the quality of recycled materials and reduce their environmental impact. This aligns perfectly with our mission to create a more responsible and sustainable fashion industry.”

One of VIVAIA’s key suppliers, a leading textile manufacturer in Zhejiang province, has invested heavily in developing advanced recycling technologies that allow them to transform PET bottles into high-quality yarn with properties comparable to virgin polyester. “We are committed to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with recycled materials,” says the supplier’s CEO. “Partnering with brands like VIVAIA, who share our vision for a more circular economy, motivates us to innovate and create solutions that benefit both the environment and the consumer.”

VIVAIA’s strategic decision to leverage China’s manufacturing prowess extends beyond just practicality; it’s a testament to the country’s evolving role in the global shift towards sustainability. By embracing innovation, agility, and a commitment to circularity, VIVAIA and their Chinese partners are demonstrating that “Made in China” can be synonymous with both quality and responsibility, paving the way for a more ethical and sustainable future for the fashion industry.

The Future of VIVAIA: Walking Towards a Sustainable Tomorrow

In just a few short years, VIVAIA has accomplished what many established fashion brands strive for decades to achieve: global recognition, a fiercely loyal customer base, and a reputation for both style and substance. Their success story is a testament to the power of aligning a brand’s core values with the evolving needs of consumers, proving that sustainability and profitability are not mutually exclusive. With over 820,000 customers across 61 countries and a thriving online community of over 1.1 million followers, VIVAIA has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the burgeoning sustainable fashion market. Their innovative approach of crafting shoes from recycled plastic bottles has not only garnered praise from eco-conscious consumers but has also earned them industry accolades, including a coveted spot on Google’s prestigious “BrandZ China Global Brand Builders” list in 2022.

Jeff Chan’s vision for VIVAIA’s future is as ambitious as it is inspiring. He sees a world where sustainable fashion is not a niche market, but the norm, where style and responsibility are seamlessly intertwined. “We want to become synonymous with sustainable footwear,” Chan asserts. “Our goal is to show the world that fashion can be both beautiful and responsible, that you can look good and feel good about your choices.”

This vision extends beyond just footwear. Chan envisions VIVAIA expanding their product line to encompass a wider range of apparel and accessories, all crafted with the same unwavering commitment to sustainability and ethical production. “We want to create a complete ecosystem for conscious consumers, offering them a one-stop shop for stylish and sustainable fashion,” he explains.

This ambition is underpinned by a deep belief in the power of collective action. Chan recognizes that VIVAIA’s impact extends beyond just their own products; they have the potential to spark a ripple effect throughout the industry, inspiring other brands to embrace more sustainable practices. “We want to be a catalyst for change,” Chan emphasizes. “Our success is not just about selling shoes; it’s about shifting the paradigm of the fashion industry, making sustainability an integral part of the equation.”

This is already becoming a reality. VIVAIA’s success has served as a powerful proof of concept for other brands, demonstrating that consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that align with their values. This has encouraged other footwear brands, both established and emerging, to experiment with recycled materials, ethical sourcing practices, and more sustainable production methods. The ripple effect is also evident in the increasing demand for transparency from consumers, who are holding brands accountable for their environmental and social impact.

The story of VIVAIA is a call to action, a clarion call for both consumers and businesses to embrace a more conscious and sustainable approach to fashion. It’s a reminder that our choices have consequences, and that by supporting brands like VIVAIA, we can collectively make a difference. “Every purchase is a vote, a vote for the kind of future we want to create,” Chan concludes. “By choosing sustainable and ethical brands, we are not just buying products; we are investing in a better tomorrow.”

As consumers, we have the power to shape the future of fashion with our wallets. Let’s choose to support brands that are walking the walk in sustainability, brands that are crafting products with purpose, brands that are committed to making a positive impact on the planet. Together, we can transform the fashion industry from a source of environmental burden to a force for good, one conscious choice at a time. The future of fashion is in our hands, and it’s time to make it sustainable.


  1. https://www.xiaoyuzhoufm.com/episode/62fdbb25aa76db57c614972e

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