!SYOU // co-designed sneakers

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!SYOU // co-designed sneakers

Amsterdam, NetherlandsMedellin, Colombia
Organization type: 
for profit
Budget: 
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Time for Change

The global sneaker industry is dominated by a handful of giant brands. Domination of retail margins, marketing strategy and production techniques is paramount. Money is spent on marketing, pouring value into sports-derived products. Production is done as cheaply as possible in Asia. At its core this model has existed for decades. It’s time for change in the sneaker industry.

‘Trade, not Aid’ in action

Introducing the new way of walking: !SYOU. Unique sneakers produced in collaboration with DAC-listed nations*. Co-designed with local creative talent and designers around the world, produced by local manufacturers with locally sourced materials, and sold at a fair price and at fair margins all across the world. And the best bit? Everyone involved receives a fair share of the proceeds from each sale. From local producers to local creative talent to local communities. This is ‘Trade, not Aid’ in action.

By producing a sneaker in DAC-listedcountries and marketing to consumers in developed markets we meet two distinct needs: Firstly, our desire to help drive positive economic change in local communities through two-way trade, not aid. As such we also hope to contribute to the positive image of the country. Secondly, our consumers’ desire for more sustainable products that do not sacrifice fashion-forward design or quality.

Walk WithUs

Co-Design is a simple ‘fair-trade’ philosophy, which builds creative and commercial partnerships in every nation we work with. Design talent and local material producers collaborate with the !SYOU team to produce each new sneaker. Co-Design is unique to !SYOU and it’s why we get up in the morning.

It’s a totally fresh approach to sneaker design. A global viewpoint that sets us part from the every other two-footed brand on the racks. And it gives us the chance to do our thing in a good and honest way. Walk with us!

* The DAC List of ODA Recipients shows allcountriesandterritorieseligibletoreceive official development assistance.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The global sneaker industry is dominated by a handful of giant brands. Domination of retail margins, marketing strategy and production techniques is key. Money is spent on marketing, pouring value into sports-derived products, produced as cheaply as possible in Asia. At its core this model has existed for decades. It’s time for change in the sneaker industry. In times of recession, funds for developing aid decrease. At all times big NGO’s suffer from an image problem - ‘Which part of my donation is spent on salary and overhead of the organization and which part is truly distributed to the aid in developing countries?’ In the developed world, DAC-listed nations are perceived as poor, helpless, conflicted, even war-torn.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

By producing a unique, sneaker in DAC-listed* countries and marketing to consumers in developed markets we meet two distinct needs: Firstly, our desire to help drive positive economic change in local communities through two-way trade, not aid. As such we also hope to contribute to the positive image of the country. Secondly, our consumers’ desire for more sustainable products that do not sacrifice fashion-forward design or quality. Introducing !SYOU: unique sneakers produced in collaboration with DAC-listed nations. Co-designed with local creative talent and designers around the world, produced by local manufacturers with locally sourced materials, and sold at a fair price and at fair margins all across the world. And the best bit? Everyone involved receives a fair share of the proceeds from each sale. From local producers to local creative talent to local communities. This is ‘Trade, not Aid’ in action. * Countries eligibeligible to receive official development assistance.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The current market is dominated by a handful of global brands , in whose sales strategies retailers play the leading role and retail margin is paramount. Marketing is focused on sports and budget spending prioritises endorsement deals and traditional television and print advertising. 95% of the production is still located in Asian countries and completed as cheaply as possible. These basic principles have formed the pervading business model for decades. It’s time for change in the sneaker industry. Giant brands such as Nike, Adidas, Converse, Puma, VANS dominate the market place. Luckily more (sustainable) brands are also entering the market like Veja or TOMS. Quality and price wise we will not outperform these players on the market. Story-, value and content-wise we hopefully will.
About You
Organization:
!SYOU // co-designed sneakers
Background Information
First Name

Jaap

Last Name

Spoorenberg

The competition is only open to people between 18-34 years-old and resident in UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands. Does this apply to you

Yes.

Country of residence of entrepreneur

The Netherlands

Tell us about your personal background. Why are you passionate about this issue? Making an idea a reality takes innovation, dedication and strong leadership. Do you have the necessary entrepreneurial skills to realize your vision?

We represents a new generation of entrepreneurs, looking beyond just our own interests. Success can be shared. We are Merijn ten Thije & Jaap Spoorenberg. The initial idea was hatched whilst one was working for Nike EHQ: researching & defining opportunities for Nike in Africa. Merijn & Jaap are two like-minded entrepreneurs and friends since they met as student brand managers at Red Bull, bonding over a shared passion for marketing, creation and ethical brand-building.

Together, we want to launch !SYOU the way it deserves to be launched: on an international scale with a global reach. In order to achieve this, the team needs to be complemented with global influencers and skilled partners, who join us and change the way people think about sneakers.

We believe in an alternative to the rigid and conservative business models that have driven the fashion industry for many years. We believe fashion, commercial success and a positive, sustainable approach to production can work hand-in-hand. !SYOU is an abbreviation for I SEE YOU. We see, and collaborate with, talent all over the world. This co-design philosophy is the heart and soul of !SYOU. This is why we get up in the morning.

About Your Organization
Organization Name

!SYOU // co-designed sneakers

Organization Country

, NH, Amsterdam

Country where this project is creating social impact

, ANT, Medellin

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Innovation
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities

Co-Design is a simple ‘fair-trade’ philosophy, which builds creative and commercial partnerships in every nation we work with. Design talent and local material producers collaborate with the !SYOU team to produce each new sneaker. Co-Design is unique to !SYOU and it’s why we get up in the morning. It’s a totally fresh approach to sneaker design. A global viewpoint that sets us part from the every other two-footed brand on the racks. And it gives us the chance to do our thing in a good and honest way.

The !SYOU concept is truly unique in the market. From our co-design philosophy to our product design, our packaging to our service, we hope to become a revolution in the sneaker industry. Our global journey to develop new collections with new DAC-listed countries allows to continually innovate, thus retain and protect our concept.

The soul of the !SYOUbrand is positive collaboration. Inspired by and produced in collaboration with DAC-listed nations. !SYOU is co-designed with both local creative talent and top-designers from around the world and produced by local manufacturers with locally sourced materials. Everyone involved - from local producer – to local creative talent – to local communities - receives a fair share of the proceeds from each sale. This is ‘Trade,’ not ‘Aid,’ in action.

Select the stage that best applies to your business

Operating for 1-5 years

Social Impact
What is the social impact you have had to date and how you measure it?

In June 2010 the first !SYOU collection launched as a test-run in the Netherlands. A limited batch of 600 pairs was co- designed with talented artists and material producers from Burkina Faso.

Furthermore, !SYOU was invited to participate in several competitions and events where we could tell our story. We invited the creatives from Burkina Faso to Amsterdam to co-design with top-talents in the Netherlands for a week (with aid of the Mondriaan foundation). This action was an ultimate recognition of our philosophy of international collaboration, and a positive approach towards working with DAC-listed countries and talents.

In a nutshell: on a small scale we stimulated economic activities, and we hope we shared our story and philosophy and showed a positive side of Burkina Faso.

What barriers might hinder the success of your business? How do you plan to overcome them?

A highly competitive market. A small number of new brands have entered the market and survived. We hope that our story and combination of a commercial initiative and do-good, while still being an A-brand help us to enter this market.

The DAC-listed countries: The countries we work with are on the official list of developing countries (by the World Bank). Many of these nations are unstable both political and/or economically, and sadly, obstructive bureaucracy and corruption are both regularly observed. We invest time in selecting the right local partners/organizations and communities to collaborate with to minimize these risks.

Sustainability
How does your model address financial, social, and environmental sustainability?

At !SYOU we see talent and collaborative opportunity all over the world and we aim to help change the way the consumer sees our developing nation partners. It makes no difference if you are a photographer from Ouagadougou or Tokyo, if you are an artist in Medellin or NyC, a local manufacturer in Bulgaria or Argentina.

Our approach is trade...not aid. A structured solution that puts each developing nation as an equal trade-partner, utilising their resources to generate jobs and revenue. For example; When a consumer buys a Nike sneaker they (maybe unwittingly) support and contribute to cheap, possibly exploitative production in Asia, huge retail margins and athlete sponsorship deals. !SYOU offers a distinct alternative – equal on quality and fashion edge, but combined with the knowl- edge that their purchase directly (and with full transparency) supports economic and creative development in developing countries.

By producing a unique, premium sneaker in DAC-listed countries and marketing to consumers in developed markets we meet two distinct needs: Firstly, our desire to help drive positive economic change in local communities through two-way trade, not aid (and as such contribute to the positive image of the country); and secondly, our consumers’ desire for more sustainable products that do not sacrifice fashion-forward design or quality.

Awareness & learning
How do you see social entrepreneurship contributing to the improvement of developing countries?

In the developed world, DAC-listed nations are perceived as poor, helpless, conflicted, even war-torn. In reality many of these countries nurture a wealth of new talent and valuable resources. Take Colombia as an example. Asked for an instant association, respondents most reactions are: “Drugs.” “Violence.” “Poverty.” “FARQ.” Those interviewed had little or no idea of the creative talent the country offers.

Fair-trade or NGO initiatives in the fashion industry tend to focus to heavily on worthy aid or conservative diffusion product lines. Interest is generated by charity, rather than creativity. There are a small number of interesting exceptions to this rule, but the opportunity for cool, edgy fair-trade fashion brands like ours remains strong.

Consumer apathy is a very real issue for cause-related products. Our belief is that fair trade can feel good and look great. Make the product desirable with sole reliance on the fair trade ethic.

What aspects of your stay in Uganda as part of the competition do you think you will find most challenging and rewarding?

Beside the country itself; meeting and talking with like-minded entrepreneurs. Visiting the projects, and being on the look-out for new opportunities. We always have had the vision that we don't know it all. We love to gather people around us who know better and learn from them and each other.

We created an idea of how !SYOU would be as a person: 'He or she would be humble pioneer on a never ending journey. And like all adventurers, aid and inspiration comes from amazing friends at every step. The people and the journey are as important as the destination.

The brand is humble, without ego, or desire for fame and fortune. The challenge and the reward are all in keeping the independent spirit alive and in sharing this with as many like-minded souls as possible. It’s always more than money, more than fashion, because !SYOU is more than just a sneaker.'