Footwear is one of the most innovative fields in the fashion industry today. Brands like Rothys, Greats, Converse, Nike, and Everlane carry shoes with uppers made completely from recycled plastic bottles. Nothing New creates sneakers made with only recycled materials (including its soles). And Adidas has made the first fully recyclable performance running shoe.
Each year we see more and more brands popping up using innovative materials (like plant-based leathers, sugar cane-based soles, etc.) or recycled plastics in the hopes to curb plastic waste.
Pretty soon using recycled or sustainable materials will be the norm. So, that leads us to the big, billion-dollar question: what’s the next big thing in footwear?
The Canvas by Querencia is placing its bet on 3D-printed footwear.
The Brooklyn-based ethical fashion retail platform will be the host of the launch of 3D printing footwear company Zellerfeld. It will be the world’s first retailer of the start-up’s technology and experience, which will allow customers to have their feet scanned on site and crafted specifically to their liking.
“Our whole team at Zellerfeld is excited to unveil what we have been working on for so long,” says Cornelius Schmitt, co-founder and CEO of Zellerfeld. “We want to establish The Canvas as the place in New York where independent footwear designers can showcase and sell their creations to the world. Besides, we would love to establish The Canvas as the hub for footwear designers and enthusiasts. The team at The Canvas share our most important missions: offering more sustainable solutions and empowering talented designers and brands.”
Attracted to 3D printing for its ability to create something out of seemingly nothing, Schmitt began building a 3D printer and materials business while he studied industrial engineering at the Clausthal University of Technology. He saw the potential for 3D printing technology to streamline almost any industry. And with a passion for shoes, that’s where he decided to take it.
Cornelius ended up spending over three years developing 3D printers out of his basement in Clausthal-Zellerfeld. He quickly met his partner and cofounder Peter Graeff who is a trained and experienced shoe engineer. Together they worked day and night to refine the technology which is the foundation for Zellerfeld today.
While companies like Adidas and Reebok manufacture sneakers with singularly 3D-printed components, Zellerfeld is printing entire shoes—sole, midsole, and upper—all in one print.
The shoes they print are based on a 3D scan of your foot, are custom made-to-order locally, and ready within 24 hours. There is no overproduction, no shipping, no expensive molds or machinery, no risk of exploitative working conditions, and no waste. In fact, when your shoes become worn out, all of the material can be recycled and used for another print.
The Canvas and Zellerfeld teams have been working closely together since Zellerfeld spent time in New York City further developing their 3D printers and sharing an office area together within The Canvas Williamsburg, where they further collaborated on designs.
“Zellerfeld has brought passion, energy, and a unique invention to The Canvas community. Watching what they have built and seeing their creative process in real time, we are sure that the introduction of this technology to the world, and at The Canvas, will change the way people see footwear, both from the perspective of technology and in terms of sustainability. The Zellerfeld experience will be a remarkable one, and we are thrilled to have them at The Canvas,” states The Canvas’ Co-Founders Devin Gilmartin and Tegan Maxey.
Their first shoe released for sale, “The Earth Suit Shoe,” was created in partnership with Querencia Studio for the Earth Suit Project by thier lead designer Kate Walz. The shoe was released for pre-order on Querencia Studio’s website on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and kicked off the partnership.
So what’s next for Zellerfeld?
“After fulfillment of pre-orders and once we are set up, our next step is to give independent designers and labels a stage, and to do so at The Canvas,” explains Schmitt.
Even with a vision for every shoe in the world to be a 3D printed one, they’re in no rush. Their focus is on streamlining the process, scaling operations, and communicating with designers to make their designs a reality. No matter what comes their way, they’re taking it one step at a time.