Sustainable canvas sneaker explores a unique design that lets you detach and repair your footwear

The Disassembly Lab is really one of those designs that doesn’t need much explaining. A lot of what makes this footwear great is clearly visible in its aesthetic itself, making it one of those shoes your eyes fall in love with LONG before your feet do. After all, isn’t that a hallmark of great design?!

What makes the Disassembly Lab footwear so great is its clever construction, featuring easy-to-disassemble parts that make the shoe simple to repair and even recycle. The shoe is characterized by two distinct halves, the upper body, and the outsole, with rivets/plugs that let you wind a piece of rubber band around. The rubber band holds the two halves together, also allowing for flexibility during movement. The result is a shoe that’s distinctly different, as the rubber band goes beyond being just a design feature – it becomes an iconic element of the Disassembly Lab’s design, turning sustainability into pretty much a visual motif!

Designer: Robin Luginbuhl

Chris Wawrousek, Innovation Studio Lead Designer at New Balance once said – “One day, laws are going to change, and brands will be responsible for the entire lifecycle of their products from beginning to end.” This phrase stuck with Robin as he designed the Disassembly Lab sneaker prototype. “Products can’t live on their own anymore; they have to be conditioned to a new system if they want to become more responsible,” Robin expanded. “Essentially, Disassembly extends the life of a shoe, making it repairable, restorable, replaceable, and recyclable.”

A major part of shoe assembly (and a major recyclability hassle) is the glue that’s used to hold components together. While fabric and leather elements can be stitched together, the upper half of a shoe is almost always glued to its outsole, giving it reliable durability during use, but becoming a big hassle when it comes to recycling because A. this glue can’t be ‘unglued’, and B. it’s almost always made of synthetic materials, so the shoes can’t be bio-degraded either. Robin’s alternative is simple, and frankly genius. Visually, it reminds me of the rubber bands used in braces, but technically, it’s an incredibly effective way to hold the shoe upper and sole together in a way that allows for flexibility without a hassle.

The result is a combination of iconic and genius. The shoes look great, with their patterned ‘belts’ that can be adjusted, customized, and even tightened or loosened depending on overall flexibility. The pegs on the upper and lower halves can be shaped in circular or rectangular designs, causing the rubber band to adopt different patterns, much like sound waves (sine, sawtooth, square, etc.) There’s even an experimental 3D-printed upper that has jigsaw-style pieces that plug into the sole (concept visible below).

“These shoes, with their TPU soles and 3D knitted upper, are reduced to the essentials, enabling simple, rapid production and assembly by hand, and easy recyclability,” Robin mentions in his project post on Instagram. The Disassembly Lab is currently just a concept, but even as a proof of concept, it’s rather remarkable. We could use a few wearability-test videos to really get a sense of the practicality of the design, but otherwise, both functionally and ecologically, we’re sold on the idea!