Just six months after launching its world-first sneaker designed to biodegrade, Kiwi eco footwear start-up Orba has won two major awards.
Achieving national and international acclaim for its Ghost sneaker, the footwear company with its head-office staff based in Waikanae have won the sustainability category at the Global Footwear Awards and the Sustainable Product Design category at the Design Institute of NZ Best Design Awards, with judges commenting on the start-up's "remarkable" and "outstanding" work.
The Global Footwear Awards recognise the world's most exceptional footwear designs, with the Sustainability category evaluating creativity, design and innovation.
It is judged by industry professionals from brands and publications like Vogue, Adidas, Vera Wang, Hugo Boss, Prada, GQ and the MIT Institute of Design.
The Best Design Awards is an annual showcase of Kiwi excellence in graphic, spatial, product, digital and motion design, judged by respected design professionals.
Orba co-founder and sustainability manager Gillian Boucher said two wins for sustainability endorse their world-first, unique approach.
"We launched our Orba Ghost just six months ago, so to achieve both national and global recognition like this is incredibly exciting and validates our approach to design and sustainability, especially as the calibre of competition is so high."
The revolutionary product was the brainchild of Kāpiti man Greg Howard who started the company during the 2020 lockdown after years of planning and research into creating a footwear company that would fight to reduce the amount of pollution caused by 20 billion shoes that go into landfill each year.
The result is a 94 per cent plant-based, bespoke, durable shoe with a bio-rubber sole made of natural rubber, rice husk ash, coconut oil and insoles of cork, coconut husk and natural rubber, launched last year.
The formulation that is not only a global first but is designed to eliminate the problem of synthetic shoes, which can take up to 1000 years to break down and release contaminants during the process.
Feedback from Global Footwear Awards judges pointed to Orba's originality, interesting design and application and thanked them for showcasing their "remarkable work".
They particularly liked the end-to-end approach where Orba-wearers can feel good knowing their shoes go back to nature - with Orba taking full responsibility for their end of life.
Comments from the Best Design Awards judges said compelling sustainable credentials combined with stylish design impressed them with the "thoroughness and effort taken to achieve the goal of a world-first mass-produced biodegradable shoe".
Gillian Boucher said their approach goes deeper than just thinking about which materials to use and the impact the production of those materials can have.
"Orba's materials were chosen with thought about the pesticide and irrigation impacts that crop farming can have on local communities.
"We've chosen some of the most highly renewable plant-based materials in the world and with a low carbon footprint.
"These have very low environmental impacts during farming and cultivation, and they don't degrade our soils."
Available to only the New Zealand market, production is done in Indonesia, which has one of the largest footwear manufacturing industries in the world.
Part of the sustainable ethos has included creating social development initiatives and funding training programmes to help improve efficiency and promote sustainable practices for weavers and partners in Indonesia.
-New Zealand BEST Design Awards 2021 Winner - Sustainable Product Design
-Global Footwear Awards 2022 Winner - Sustainability