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I recently did a big closet cleanout -- and it left me feeling about five pounds lighter. I’ve moved a lot in the past few years, and I had made a bad habit of lugging retired garments from one place to the next. If 2020 gave me anything, it was time and reason to reset, so I waved goodbye to the old and… pressed pause before welcoming in anything new.
I’ve aspired to a capsule wardrobe for some time, meaning that each piece in my closet is essential, quality-made, and versatile enough to work with most other pieces. While I’m not quite there, I’ve set my sights on what I’ll call a “capsule-inspired” wardrobe in the meantime. As I’ve begun shopping for new additions to my very bare closet, Cariuma, the sustainable shoe brand that once logged a waitlist of over 12,000, has appeared everywhere I look -- from Refinery 29 to Who What Wear, and even Hypebeast. With seemingly everyone and their mother’s blessing, I recently tested a pair to see what the hype is about -- and my feet have thanked me each day since.
I’m aware that casual, everyday sneakers aren't exactly a novel concept (I removed several beer-and-dirt coated pairs from my closet during my recent purge, in fact). Cariuma’s founders are too -- both spent years working in the footwear industry before leaving corporate jobs to launch this venture. It’s no secret that giants like Converse, Vans, and Keds have dominated the everyday-shoe space for years. But, if you’ve worn or researched these traditional brands, you may have noticed that they’re hard on your feet…and just as bad for the environment. Cariuma was built as an alternative -- both for people and the planet.
At first glance, Cariumas appear to be in the Converse (or Vans, Keds) family: their high and low top everyday sneakers come in canvas, suede, or leather and a variety of prints and colors. But, I very quickly realized that while these brands may look alike, the difference between traditional everyday sneakers and Cariumas is like that of walking on rocks versus floating on clouds.
That’s because Cariumas are likely the most thoughtfully-crafted shoes I’ve put on my feet. Cariuma actually connects and listens to its customers, which is one element to the brand’s success: while most larger brands have neither the impetus or infrastructure for regular improvements and iterations, Cariuma is nimble and hungry to craft something better (and better, and better). Each new drop features a mix of in-house design and buyer feedback -- and the result is a shoe that’s as comfortable as it is cool.
Cariuma has gotten a lot of good press (like, a lot, a lot), but my favorite description of the brand actually comes from their own site -- Cariuma features an “old-school aesthetic as long as it’s made with new-school ethics.” Cariuma’s commitment to sustainability is real. They’re creating a new standard of production in their many environmental initiatives, some of which include:
I would be hard-pressed to find a brand as committed to the environment as Cariuma -- and I’m happy to know they’re proving that a new standard of ethics is achievable.
Choosing just one style to try was a process in and of itself. Cariuma currently offers five styles (OCA Low, OCA High, IBI, IBI High, and CATIBA Pro) ranging from high to low tops, skate-inspired to classic, and canvas to leather, so I had an abundance of options to choose from when browsing their site. I went with the brand’s “classic cool” OCA Low in Snow White, a collaboration with Pantone (the “global authority for color communication and inspiration”) designed to be worn for just about any occasion. Their functionality deemed them essential, their sustainable production checked the box for quality, and their timeless style earned them top marks for versatility -- the perfect fit for my aspirational capsule wardrobe.
I was stunned at how quickly my new shoes arrived and amazed at their thoughtful packaging (why do most other brands ship a shoebox within another box?!). My OCA Lows have been comfortable since the moment I stepped foot in them and required no blistering or breaking in. I’ve found them useful just about everyday, whether it be wearing them to walk the dog, run errands, or meet friends for happy hour. They look and feel how I’ve always wished everyday sneakers would, and it feels great knowing I’m supporting a brand that’s committed to supporting me and the environment.
It’s no wonder every outlet sings their praises, Pantone has launched two collaborations with them, and they regularly amass waitlists that range into the thousands. Buying a pair of Cariuma sneakers is much bigger than making a fashion statement -- it’s an investment in a brighter future and a brand that’s leading the charge in sustainable fashion. Where Cariuma leads, I will follow -- wearing my new favorite sneakers, of course.