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The process of creating sustainable shoes and what we’ve learned along the way.
The goal has always been to make comfortable shoes that will last for years. This was true even back in 1930 when Samuel Katz started the family’s relationship with footwear with the founding of the Hubbard Shoe Company. The workers who made shoes in those factories were proud of the finished products and there was a strong feeling of a ‘Hubbard family’ that pervaded the company. These were shoes people could depend on.
This sentiment was passed down to Samuel Katz’ grandson, Bruce Katz, who launched the Samuel Hubbard Shoe Company in 2014. Since its inception, Samuel Hubbard has been among the socially responsible shoes brands. In 1991, Bruce Katz, was present at the creation of Businesses for Social Responsibility and helped to finance its startup. Those early gatherings with companies like The Body Shop and Patagonia opened his eyes to the problems we face and the possibilities of using our business for social change.
The question was: how do we make this happen? What is the process of creating sustainable shoes? Samuel Hubbard already had the methods for making shoes that would last, but we are always innovating towards becoming a more sustainable company. This has culminated in the launch of our new collection: Hubbard Eco.
Below are the some of the steps we’ve taken to create Hubbard Eco and the lessons we’ve learned along the way.
With Hubbard Eco, we have a motto of “happy feet, healthy planet”. The trend of fast fashion, which often ends up in landfills, has never been a motivating factor at Samuel Hubbard. Instead, we embrace the ideals of the slow fashion movement and create shoes designed to last. Making shoes is part of the Hubbard family legacy, which means every part of the company is treated like family. This includes, most importantly, the people who wear our shoes and the planet on which we live. With this mindfulness approach, we are continuously motivating ourselves to do what’s best for people and the environment.
It’s our belief that ethical manufacturing is a requirement for sustainability within the shoe industry. We often get asked where our shoes are made, and we can proudly respond, “Portugal and Brazil.” We chose these locations because of their environmental and labor regulations, as well as their excellent shoemaking skills. Workers receive government-provided healthcare, several weeks vacation, paid holidays, and adequate breaks during working hours. Factories are required to recycle or repurpose scrap material, are monitored by environmental agencies, and look out for the welfare of their communities. Shoes are handcrafted by artisans, supporting generations of shoemaking families.
We don’t compromise comfort for style, and we don’t compromise style for comfort either. In our mission to create sustainable shoes, we design styles that people will love to wear for a long time. With the Hubbard Comfort System, all of our shoes are comfortable, no matter the style. From dress shoes to casual sneakers, each shoe is thoughtfully designed with comfort and longevity in mind. The Hubbard Comfort System includes triple-density memory foam insoles, Poron® heel cushioning, and the finest materials we can find. On the style side, we aim for versatility and fashion-forward designs. This mindset led us to innovations like the Un-sneaker, which merged the style of a dress shoe with the comfort of a sneaker, and the sock-meets-shoe design of our newest popular style, the Hubbard Flight.
Sourcing high quality, sustainable materials is one of the more challenging aspects of being a socially responsible shoe brand, but advances in technology are making it easier. New ways of recycling plastic have helped us create shoes, such as the Hubbard@Home Spring-Back, that are made with PET material, which comes from recycled water bottles.
We always work with the finest, high quality vegetable-tanned leather from environmentally-certified tanneries for our leather shoes. While chrome-tanned leather is cheaper to produce, the chromium is a heavy metal that is toxic to the environment and the people processing it. For this same reason, we choose plant-based dyes and use 100% merino wool, which is biodegradable and renewable, for styles like Hubbard Dreams.
Samuel Hubbard Shoe Company is more than a business; it’s a community. This means we put people first. We’re known for our top-notch customer service, where real people will answer the phone and respond to emails. We value the feedback from customers and employees, and have an Ambassador of Comfort group where customers weigh in on the design and production of our shoes. We also regularly partner with charities, such as our Trade-Up Program partner Souls4Soles, to support philanthropic initiatives. With the Trade-Up Program, we pay it forward by incentivizing people to donate their gently worn shoes.
Every step is part of the journey, so we weigh each footstep carefully. The Hubbard Eco collection is our next phase in creating sustainable shoes and reducing our carbon footprint. Hubbard Eco includes a new version of our most popular shoe, the Hubbard Flight, made with PET material. Hubbard Flight Eco is available in royal blue or cappuccino and comes with the same lightweight features as the original Hubbard Flight shoes.
We’re excited to continue on a path of sustainability and look forward to the journey that lies ahead. Where will your Hubbards take you?