The Future of Footwear

Hylo footwear

Future Fashion Factory Community Member Hylo is leading the way in accelerating environmental change in the athletic footwear market. Their mission is clear, to be a movement of Athletes for Planet, using materials science to make performance products in a better way. Their products are built to perform but with minimal impact to the environment. Their long-term goal is to eradicate the use of petroleum-derived materials in their products using materials science innovation. Their new £2.5 million investment by Eka Ventures, with participation from Redrice Ventures will help to accelerate them to reach that goal.

With their drive to inspire positive change in the fashion industry and their passion for material science innovation, it is no coincidence that they are part of the Future Fashion Factory community. Through their collaboration with Professor Richard Blackburn at the University of Leeds they trialled new end-of-life recycling processes for performance,  supporting their development of a circular manufacturing model where used footwear can be recycled back into new products.

Polyester is the world’s most consumed textile fibre, yet recycled polyester only contributes to 15% of total production, almost all of which is made from plastic bottles. In order to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of recycling 90% of PET plastic by 2030, chemical recycling, specifically fibre-to-fibre recycling is essential.

However, this does not just apply to standard polyester. For true circularity of consumer products, it is essential that we can recycle all products, so developing methods that enable fibre-to-fibre recycling of polylactide will bring about a circular economy for Hylo products through consideration of their full life cycle, and not just the materials from which they are made.


man in trainers
Hylo footwear

Hylo’s Product Life Framework sets out a methodology and vision for keeping products and materials in use for as long as possible. The framework provides consumers with a variety of options to consider when their footwear is no longer wearable; they offer re-sale, care and repair, and recycling services. Customers receive a credit against a new pair of shoes when they return their old pair. The need for change was one of the reasons that attracted Eka Ventures to the company. Their overarching aim is to extend the product’s life and, on disposal, prevent the product from going to landfill. Sustainability is truly built-in throughout the product lifecycle.

Professor Blackburn commented that ‘It is great working with a Hylo because they are a company who understand sustainability and the importance of understanding the environmental impact of consumer products through their full life cycle. The collaborative research we’re working on is moving Hylo products towards increasing circularity, and is adopting a detailed scientific approach to recycling the materials using new innovation. It is great to be working on a project that is uncovering both new science and also has the potential for impact at the product level.”

One of Professor Blackburn’s critical research interests is looking at how we make more sustainable choices in the materials we use in consumer products. This has increasingly meant shifting the focus to renewable sources of materials, and polylactide, a polyester derived from corn represents a more sustainable option, compared to standard polyester. The materials used in Hylo footwear represent a significant step forward for sustainability in the consumer market. Michael Doughty, Hylo’s Co-Founder and Managing Director commented that “We are delighted to have the support of the FFF as we continue to make innovation our activism, in our mission to protect the future of running and sport”

Hylo’s new investment will be used to help more people find the shoes. Currently only available direct from Hylo, brand awareness will be a major focus. Using their Athletes for Planet network — which includes footballer Patrick Bamford, Olympic cyclist Jack Carlin, and Rugby World Cup winner Vicky Fleetwood — they want to influence positive change through the brand.