New Footwear Brand HOLO Wants to Change the ‘Unaffordable’ Stigma of Eco-Friendly Gear
The Portland startup is focused on making sustainable gear accessible for everyone
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
With 18 years of design experience at some of footwear’s biggest companies—including Merrell, Keen, and Puma—Rommel Vega decided it was time to use that knowledge to create a more accessible brand. Next year, that’s exactly what the outdoor industry veteran will do—by launching Holo Footwear, a shoe company focused on dependable products, made sustainably, that aren’t prohibitively expensive for the majority of consumers.
“Sustainability should be for everyone,” Vega told Outside Business Journal this week, explaining his reasons for starting the company, which already has placements in a handful of Nordstrom, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Public Lands stores, along with 50 Macy’s doors and several smaller specialty shops.
Vega’s main goal with Holo (short for the current “Holocene” era we’re living in) is to use recycled and renewable materials alongside smart engineering to drive down the cost of outdoor-ready footwear and bring those items to demographics that have traditionally been left out of the space.
“I feel like a lot of Latinx and minorities are out of the conversation,” Vega, who identifies as Latinx, said. “With the price of entry, some of us can’t afford a sustainable shoe.”
Vega and his team of footwear-industry veterans focused on the basics of outdoor shoes to create their first line, which helped keep overall pricing down.
“[Our shoes have] everything you need and nothing you don’t,” Vega said.
Sustainable Outdoor Shoes at an Accessible Price
For its first collection, Holo will feature three models: the “Maverick,” a hiking/walking lifestyle shoe ($64); the “Maverick ES,” a suede, waterproof version of the same ($74); and the “Credimus” slip-on ($59).
Come spring, Holo will unveil two unisex sandals—the “Ares” ($60) and “Poseidon” waterproof ($80)—as well as a trail runner called the “Hermes CR” ($100).
There’s plenty of durability built into each of Holo’s shoes, according to Vega, and every product uses post-consumer recycled EVA or rubber in its construction. Vega says that as the brand gets moving, Holo plans to kick off a return program for worn out shoes to be reprocessed into new products.
Getting the Business off the Ground
The brand got its start at REI with the help of the retailer’s new Path Ahead Ventures program, which offers investment and mentorship opportunities to entrepreneurs of color and helps connect upstart brands with REI buyers. Through connections made via the program, Holo plans launch at REI in the spring of next year. The brand will also launch direct-to-consumer sales in 2022 as part of its next phase of growth strategy.
Above all, Vega envisions his brand contributing to a democratization of sustainability in footwear. Given all of his experience, he’s seen what goes into the pricing of outdoor gear, and wants to ensure there’s a future where all can afford to enjoy it.
“I don’t want anyone to choose between making their car payment and buying a sustainable shoe,” he said. “We should all be able to participate in this.”