Vivobarefoot has always been at the forefront of innovative footwear, and their latest launch, VIVOBIOME, is no exception. Introducing the world to a new era of scan-to-print circular barefoot shoes, the brand promises a future where every step is in harmony with nature. We had the privilege to speak with Asher Clark, Vivobarefoot's Co-Founder and Design Director, to delve into the inspiration behind this groundbreaking development and understand its impact on the industry.

Asher Clark’s vision for Vivobarefoot was always clear: to revolutionise the footwear industry with regenerative barefoot wear that benefits both the feet and the planet. "Traditional manufacturing is inherently wasteful," Clark explains. "Shoes are literally trashing our feet and the planet. All that cushioning and support that you’re used to under your feet is actually making them shoe-shaped and weak - which negatively impacts your ability to move naturally and ultimately impacts your health."

The conventional industrial supply chain model, often involving extensive energy and labour, contributes significantly to environmental degradation. "Today, shoes are made in industrial supply chains on the other side of the world at huge environmental cost," Clark elaborates. "It's a slow, analog, complex, ‘subtractive process’ which is wasteful by design and totally out of date." This industrial model is not only inefficient but also fails to account for the individual variability of human feet, leading to a one-size-fits-all approach that often results in discomfort and poor foot health.

Enter VIVOBIOME. In stark contrast to traditional methods, this innovative approach is characterised by its fast, digital, simple, and additive process. Utilizing 3D printing, 3D knitting, and robotic assembly, VIVOBIOME only uses the material needed for each specific pair, drastically reducing waste and energy consumption. "In the words of the infamous Buckminster Fuller, ‘You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old one obsolete,’" Clark says, emphasising the need for a paradigm shift in footwear manufacturing.

The Hybrid Wing, the first shoe released under the VIVOBIOME line, embodies the essence of this new system. "HYBRID is a combination of knit, 3D print, and robot assembly," Clark notes. "The Wing design incorporates a wing that wraps up to create heel lock down with lace connected to the sole. It’s a simple, functional, but iconic silhouette." The design ensures a snug fit while maintaining the flexibility and freedom associated with barefoot footwear.

Cousins Galahad Clark and Asher Clark.

The limited edition Hybrid Wing is available in two colourways: Obsidian/Origin Red and Obsidian Origin Blue. These choices are deeply rooted in human history and natural origins. "Red clay, given a red hue by the mineral hematite, was used in the first cave paintings, while blue came from the crop Indigofera tinctoria, which was the origin of blue/indigo dye," Clark explains. These colours not only highlight the shoe’s connection to natural elements but also symbolize the blend of tradition and innovation.

The transition to VIVOBIOME’s on-demand manufacturing process has profound implications for environmental sustainability. Traditional industrial processes are labour and energy-intensive, contributing to significant waste and emissions. "Cutting waste is around 40% during manufacture," Clark states. "Making stuff for stock also results in inevitable overproduction." This overproduction often leads to unsold stock ending up in landfills, exacerbating environmental issues.

VIVOBIOME's model, however, produces footwear locally and on-demand, ensuring that only the necessary materials are used. "In order to make on-demand local footwear, it needs simplified processes, just knit and print, which means very low waste production and you only make what you need when you need it," says Clark. This approach dramatically reduces energy consumption, waste, and emissions, setting a new standard for sustainable production. By using only what is needed, VIVOBIOME not only minimises waste but also significantly lowers the carbon footprint associated with traditional manufacturing and transportation.

One of the most revolutionary aspects of VIVOBIOME is its fit visualiser, which allows customers to control and adjust their preferred fit. With over 100,000-foot scans informing the development, this data-driven system ensures a perfect fit, reducing returns and promoting responsible purchasing. "The Vivobiome 'hybrid' fit visualiser offers a data-driven, precise representation of your feet, footwear, and fit," Clark explains. "Our goal is to foster a culture of responsibility and sustainability by providing the customer with the ability to achieve a perfect first-time fit, ensuring zero returns direct from a foot scan on their phone."

The visualiser's hybrid fit is based on two key aspects: prescribed fit, which is the optimal amount of space needed to enable the barefoot condition, and preferred fit, which is based on individual preference. "Some like a snug fit and some like a more loose fit, but most prefer it as we prescribe through our fit data," Clark notes. This personalised approach not only enhances comfort but also ensures that each pair of shoes supports natural foot movement.

Looking ahead, Vivobarefoot is poised to enhance the VIVOBIOME system further, aiming to offer wholly bespoke footwear and establish local production cells. "For those of you that know shoemaking – welcome to a future of no shoemaking," Clark declares. "No last maker, no fitting engineer, no tooling experts, no 75 workers on the gluing line, and no warehouses full of stock. Tons less waste as a result." This vision represents a radical departure from traditional shoe manufacturing, moving towards a more sustainable and efficient model.

The immediate focus is on selling the first 2,000 pairs of Hybrid Wings while optimizing processes and fully connecting the system. "We’re building our first ‘on demand’ scan-to-print biome production cell with our partners and we aim for it to be all under one roof at our new nature home in Bristol in 12-18 months," Clark reveals. "After that, we will go global country by country, with the goal to democratise and decentralise footwear that is healthy for people and planet." This localised production model not only reduces environmental impact but also supports local economies and reduces shipping distances.

Vivobarefoot, a B Corp, is dedicated to reconnecting people to the natural world through innovative barefoot footwear. Founded by cousins Galahad and Asher Clark, the brand champions wide, thin, and flexible designs that promote optimum foot health and natural movement. Vivobarefoot’s mission extends beyond footwear to include initiatives like ReVivo, a secondary market for reconditioned shoes, and the Livebarefoot Fund, which supports mission-aligned innovation, research, and advocacy programs. These initiatives reflect Vivobarefoot’s commitment to sustainability and their broader vision of promoting natural health and environmental stewardship.

To become part of this revolutionary movement, customers can sign up to the biome community online and access the password-protected VIVOBIOME launch site. With a deposit, they can reserve their place in the print queue and complete a personal foot scan to customise their Hybrid Wings. This process not only ensures a perfect fit but also engages customers in the journey towards more sustainable and personalised footwear.

VIVOBIOME by Vivobarefoot is not just a new product; it’s a new way of thinking about and creating footwear. As Clark aptly summarises, quoting the infamous Buckminster Fuller, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old one obsolete." With VIVOBIOME, Vivobarefoot has undoubtedly built that new model, leading the way to a future where footwear is made-to-order, made-to-measure, made locally, and made to be remade. The future is indeed at our feet.

Share this post