Patagonia’s Sugar & Spice: A Disassembling Shoe That Makes Recycling a Snap

Sugar and Spice Shoe by Patagonia

Despite its groundbreaking premise, the Sugar & Spice hasn’t been the roaring success that Patagonia had hoped it would be. The first—and so far, only—shoe of its kind in the ethical activewear brand’s stable, the otherwise unassuming Mary Jane features components that snap together and use minimal glues or cement. There are a couple of reasons why it never quite took off, theorizes Les Horne, senior product manager of Patagonia’s footwear division and one of the designers behind the disassembling shoe.

Sugar and Spice Shoe by Patagonia

LOST IN TRANSLATION

“It’s great to have an eco-friendly story,” he told Ecouterre over the phone, “but the bottom line is people buy shoes for the aesthetics.” The Sugar & Spice, he admits, is on the heavy side, and the fact that it isn’t feminine (or conversely, masculine) enough doesn’t boost its case. “We went for a more unisex style, instead of making two different molds,” he says.

It’s great to have an eco-friendly story, but the bottom line is people buy shoes for the aesthetics.

Still, the shoe, which made its debut last fall, presented a great learning curve, says Horne, who notes that the project was less about eliminating glues and more about ease of deconstruction for recycling—something that Patagonia doesn’t have in place for footwear but is willing to explore.

Sugar and Spice Shoe by Patagonia

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCEED

Inspired by the apparel division’s Common Threads Recycling Program and Nike’s foray into sustainability, the Sugar & Spice took more than a year to develop because the different components had to fit together seamlessly, leaving no room for error. “We had to do them over and over again,” Horne says.

The shoe took over a year to develop because the different components had to fit together seamlessly.

Patagonia is revisiting the concept, which is sound in theory if still lagging behind in execution. If one of the trio of main components (upper, thermo polyurethane frame, outsole) wears out faster than the others, you can replace it without purchasing a whole new shoe. After all, the most eco-friendly shoe, Horne says, is one that “lasts a really long time.”

+ Sugar & Spice $120

+ Patagonia

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7 Responses to “Patagonia’s Sugar & Spice: A Disassembling Shoe That Makes Recycling a Snap”

  1. tara says:

    interesting concept — too bad they’re not cuter!

  2. jeffhalsey says:

    I had the men’s version of this design, the Toast & Jam, and it was the best pair of shoes I ever owned. I had them for 3 years and they were only getting better as they broke in. I had to unfortunately part with them when the top strap piece broke and no replacement or repair could be made. These shoes fit my foot like a glove and were comfortable, not too heavy and breathed well. It’s unfortunate that the superficiality of consumers makes a really great design null and void simple because of looks. I admit what we wear should look good (which I think these do actually), but a good shoe is truly utilitarian in nature. Your body will last longer and be more healthy if you are wearing well fitting, comfortable shoes. On top of all of that Patagonia pushes forward this social and environmentally responsible design that is better for the people who are making it, wearing it and can be folded back into the product cycle. I guess it’s just harder to spend good money on ethical and wise decisions than it is to spend it on one season trends and conspicuous designer names.

  3. Kirsten Lioba says:

    I really like the idea, and am seriously thinking about buying a pair. I actually find them rather attractive. I hope Patagonia is not discouraged by a lack of initial success. I would like to see this sort of strategy in many other product lines.

  4. PaulDF says:

    I agree with everything Jeff said- I have the Patagonia toast & jam design, have worn them constantly for over two years and they are still in good condition, just starting to show signs of wear & tear. I would love to buy another pair if anyone knows where I could find them (UK size 10)

  5. natanadaz says:

    Sugar&Spice is still on sale? someone can tell me where i buy it?

  6. LoriCae says:

    I found a pair of these at a second hand store. They are my first pair of Patagonia shoes and I am hooked! I weather them more than any other shoe just because of the comfort they provide! I’d love to have another pair.

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