Field Trip: Melissa Plastic Dreams

I'm a bit of a Melissa Shoes fan. I have two Vivienne Westwood versions - flats and booties. What I like most about the brand is their reduced waste manufacturing. Because they are made of PVC (in and of itself, not a great thing), it can be poured into molds to form the shoe. This means there is none of that cut-away scrap material involved in a shoes' inner and outer-sole construction the way there would be if they were cutting shapes out of pleather/leather/textiles. This also means less waste in landfills and waterways. They are often written up on "green" websites as being "recycled and recylable." As much as I love the shoes, I'm bummed to report that I'm not sure how true that is. (More on that below.)

Ever since Melissa Shoes opened in SoHo, I've been meaning to haul my cookies over there. How fantastic would it be to be in a store that carried all of the available Melissa styles...not just a select few? Freakin' fantastic. As I walked in, I noticed a sign for an art installation light show which I expected to be some kind of projection on a blank wall. It was actually a projection over the entire store (see pics). And I was the only customer in the store. With about 4 salespeople. If I wasn't being asked if I could be helped, I was being blinded by projections. But I managed. Hangin' tough.

{The store is at 102 Greene Street near Prince}

Perhaps the strangest feature of the store:

stairs that lead down to a tiny circular display room with 3 shoes on pedestals

Glorious shoes, above and below!

I was excited to check out the construction and feel of shoes I'd oogled online. A few pairs of flats and sandals are slated for future wish lists. But I also had an ulterior motive - find out where these shoes could actually be recycled.

Months ago I realized that once my flats were worn down a tad more, I would need to get rid of them. Remembering that they had been cited as being "recycled and recyclable" I trolled their website looking for how and where I could make this cradle-to-grave closed-loop recycling happen. Nothing. I did find a listing for their NYC offices and an email contact so I reached out to them months ago. No response. So I thought, "Dude, just go to the store and ask them. I'm sure they'll know. Maybe they'll even have a collection box." Nay.

I did ask the lovely salesperson. She indicated I could recycle them wherever other recyling happens. I explained that no, actually, the city takes a very limited number of plastics (narrow-necked plastics only) and even volunteer plastic recycling groups only take certain numbers and shapes. Only some plastics have facilities willing to make the magic happen. She then - bless her - said it was a good question and she should check with her manager when she's around.

I still think Melissa Shoes is a good company. I like their "cradle" (manufacturing) process and I like that it's a totally vegan line of shoes. I like their aesthetic. But I'm confused as to their being recyclable -- but having nowhere to recycle them.

Melissa Shoes (or anyone else, really) - help?


  1. Damn! I bought a pair of Melissa shoes on ebay to solve the Eternal Ethical Shoe Dilemma... but the dilemma remains. Plus, the shoes don't fit me too well, so I paid too much for ill-fitting plastic shoes that may never be recycled.... curses.

    Ah well. I suppose they're still closer to ethically produced than my other shoes.

    Thank you, Detective O.

  2. Oh, I like that lattice black pair. I wonder if they can be melted down and made into a new pair of shoes--is that what you're thinking? Also, I imagine that stores of the future will be essentially show rooms only and that all merchandise will have to be ordered.

  3. Your blog is so great. This post is too funny--the display with 3 shoes and the excellent query about recycling.

  4. How did I not know about this store?? You know I'm a Melissa addict!

  5. fantastic post! the store itself seems a bit overloaded for the senses for my taste, but i do love the style of melissa shoes. i had read that they were recyclable, but i'm a bit of a skeptic and didn't actually believe it. hopefully your due diligence & sleuthing will pay off and you can report back otherwise!

  6. Jesse, this is a bit off topic, but I remember ages ago you did a post on when you visited SanFrancisco...if you have you remember when so I can re-read? I'm going there end of June! x.

  7. I currently have a pair of the heart shoes and had a pair of heels that tortured my feet and had to sell. I like their aesthetic, but this whole story is kind of strange. Why even claim something you cannot back up?!

  8. Melissa shoes are always great in design and specially after having contract with Vivienne Westwood Anglomania it is rocking!


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