Footwear that Never Ends and Only Changes





A recent winner of the 2018 James Dyson Award, the Layer shoe explores modularity and sustainability without sacrificing style. Designed using biodegradable and recycled materials, users can customize their shoe from the start and continue to repair and reimagine their footwear to keep up with trends or adapt to their changing style over time.

The product arrives with the uppers, soles, insoles, and fastening laces fully assembled. If one of the components wears out, users can replace just that part. Its unique lacing system requires the user to fasten the upper and sole when replacing any of the 3. This encourages the wearer to have a greater connection to the footwear in which they’ve had a hand in making. Using a convenient online ordering platform, users can cipher through a selection of different recycled parts in a variety of different colors and finishes to create a look that’s all their own.

Designer: Evan Stuart

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INSPIRATION

Recently, “Fast Fashion” trends have resulted in shoes becoming seasonal, cheap and disposable products. However, at what cost to our planet and our society? Unfortunately, it is a fact that it is incredibly difficult to recycle footwear. Each year, roughly 22.5 billion pairs of shoes are made and 300 million pairs are discarded to landfill because they cannot be recycled. Most casual footwear is designed to be bonded and glued together in manufacture but are not designed to be repaired. Layer was designed as a possible solution to reduce footwear waste. It is a statement to the industry that sustainable footwear is a viable alternative.

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DESIGN PROCESS

This project required an in-depth understanding of the current issues of footwear recycling, product manufacture and it’s end of life. Initial research began with several interviews with industry experts in textile recycling and multiple site visits were arranged to view textile recycling companies. Over the course of 2 months of research, process studies and focus groups it was discovered that most footwear waste is generated because shoes cannot be easily separated back to individual materials. With this key insight, ideation and concept generation began. The importance of developing ideas in tandem with verifying them in a physical form was essential. Over 43 physical working models were explored to design a viable attachment mechanism. A lacing method was chosen. Initial prototypes were generated using EVA foam and cardboard reinforcing. These low fidelity prototypes were essential in understanding basic footwear principles. After analyzing and improving the design, a high fidelity functional prototype was created by utilizing various design techniques including CAD, 3D printing, molding and casting. Polyurethane was used to create flexible soles, while all other materials are the intended final materials and sourced from suppliers specializing in recycled polyester fabrics.”

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HOW IT WORKS

Based on the idea that footwear waste can be eliminated from landfills around the world, Layer allows users to repair and customise their shoes to keep up with trends. By creating products from biodegradable plastics and recycled polyester fabrics this decreases the overall impact of the product. Initially, the product will be purchased by the customer and arrive fully assembled. Comprising of four key components: The Uppers, Soles, Insoles and a Fastening Lace, the shoe is totally repairable. In time, as parts wear, tear and date, the user can replace individual parts with ease by ordering new ones online. A lacing system is used to sew the uppers to the shoe soles. Beginning at a start point, the user threads the lace through both parts until the reaching the endpoint. These endpoints fasten the parts together, preventing the lace from coming undone.

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