Project Footprint- innovative and sustainable shoes made of paper!

Project Footprint- innovative and sustainable shoes made of paper!

Hi! My name is Heleen Overbeek (24), I'm a shoe designer. My job is to do research on how to make beautiful products. For me, the most beautiful products are those which make a positive contribution to the world instead of polluting it in the post-consumption phase. This intention stems from my frustration about the gap in the market between fast fashion and durable brands. I think it's too shallow to see things as good or wrong, there's also a middle way. The shoes I make allow shameless consumers to enjoy beautiful fashion that can be thrown away.

In order to accomplish this philosophy, I developed a design theory for fashion designers in my bachelor research at the HKU (Netherlands). This theory means that when designing products, you incalculate them to be thrown away. In some aspects, this idea has much relation to the cradle to cradle principles. In my designs I will add a top notch by making sure that my products will be portable for a month. By using them, they will break down. This makes it a parody of consumer behavior of fast fashion clothing. The statistics tell us that fast fashion clothes are worn on average 4 to 5 times before they are thrown away. In my opinion, this behavior does not have to be a problem at all, you only have to take it into consideration as a designer in your material and product selection.
Currently I do the MA Footwear at the London College of Fashion. Here I am developing the Disposables collection. This is a collection of shoes that are eco-friendly disposable because they are made of paper and natural binders. You wear them a couple of times and when you are finished, you can throw them in the paper tray. Here they become part of the recycle process of paper and new paper is made. Possibly they will eventually come out at my studio, so I can make your shoes from yesterday, your shoes for tomorrow.


Making the paper shoes proved to be challenging and complicated soon, but fortunately not unreachable. After a period of successful and failed material tests, I now have boxes of material research that provide a huge knowledge base. The tests were a search for the best flexibility, stretch strength and degradability of the paper material. Especially finding a proper binder proved to be difficult. After testing with everything that is natural and sticky (think jam, honey, gelatin, oil, etc.), the result is two types of paper that can make you shoes.

The current prototypes show much potential for the near future. The collection has now been fully tested and on this basis, I can start the next phase of prototypes to refine and improve my prototypes . In all probability, the collection is ready for production in December. This will start with a small edition, after which I would like to grow up and introduce the idea within a larger brand to make a real impact with this concept. I want to ensure that conscious design becomes the rule, rather than the exception; so that design is no longer the problem, but the solution.


If you would like to follow the project, keep an eye on my Instagram and website:

See also the sociii sustainable shoes collection at