World Footwear


Interview with Miguel Pomares from Ecoalf

Feb 20, 2024 Spain
Interview with Miguel Pomares from Ecoalf
At the latest edition of the World Footwear Congress in Istanbul, we took the opportunity to speak with Miguel Pomares, Senior Footwear Specialist at the Spanish-based brand Ecoalf. Read the interview today
World Footwear: Miguel, thank you very much for being here. I was going to ask you: can you tell us a little bit more about Ecoalf? What is the production process? 

Miguel Pomares: Ecoalf was born 15 years ago in Spain by the president and founder Mr Javier Goyeneche. He created Ecoalf because he was tired of fast fashion and he wanted to create a brand for the future of his sons. That’s why the name Ecoalf: eco and alf because his sons are Alfredo and Alvaro.

So, he started with several… For one year, just looking for new materials around the world. He travelled and he couldn’t find what he really wanted, the best-recycled materials with the same properties as the non-recycled ones. He couldn’t find it, so he started to develop new materials just for Ecoalf. That’s also related to the name of Ecoalf 1.0 because it was the name of the first fabric of the brand. After developing new materials, one day, he received a call from a fisherman near the coast of Alicante. He told him just “I would like to see how many rubbish you can find after we go to the sea, to work”. So, he joined them in a boat for just one day, and he realised the problem. That’s why he also created the Ecoalf Foundation, upcycling the oceans that we have all around the Mediterranean with more than 3 000 fishermen involved with around 600 boats. We have a container in each boat, and then when they finish their work, they leave it in the port, we collect and we transport to separate, and we transform these plastic bottles into recycled materials, recycled plastic. This is the Ecoalf project.

I was involved in around eight years ago. I was in love with the idea, and I was also very happy to share the same ideas. I have been a shoemaker for 30 years, so I was very curious about this recycled material, and that’s why I joined the programme. Since then, we have developed new different processes for recycled material.

In the beginning, we worked for two years to develop recycled tires for outsourcing. It took a long time. We joined the Institute of Technique de La Rioja, and after 18 months, we launched a flip-flop with the tires. It is one of the best main projects. You know, eight years ago, we are talking about eight years ago, so it was unbelievable. After that, we have done several big projects in our lines. After this, we focused in the algae from the rivers. That was a big problem around the world. As you can see, all the seaweed surrounding the rivers blocks the water and the trash. This seaweed, this algae is what we take, separate and mix. And we joined with another company, Bloom, and we add it to our outsourcing. We are talking about seven years ago. Nowadays, many brands are using it, but it’s very nice to be at the beginning of these projects.

We are doing a very strong way with our sea thread, which is the thread of the plastic bottles from the bottom of the sea. This is the main core, main soul of Ecoalf. We also have several collaborations with Michelin, Vibram, Dupont, mainly the number one in fabrics around the world. And we have many, many different new projects every year.

World Footwear: At Ecoalf, there is a concern to ensure that sustainability goes hand in hand with fashion. How would you characterize your shoes?

Miguel Pomares: The brand is timeless, absolutely, timeless. Fortunately, we sell 50% to women and 50% to men. This is very curious in our brand, and our shoes have an identity. Just to launch an Ecoalf shoe into the market, it has to be approved by our department and has to be from 60 to 70% recycled. If not, we cannot launch it. We also have to get a balance between properties and durability. That’s another important way that we are working. It has to be recycled, but you have to study very carefully the properties and our shoes have to be approved. Every single line has to have a story-doing, not a storytelling. We are a “story-doing” company. We are not working in a greenwashing way. We have been doing so for a long time ago, and you can go to ports just to see what we are doing.

So, this is mainly what our shoes have: nylon from discarded fishing nets, recycled PET from plastic bottles. We also use pineapple fibre. We have used in the past apple skin. We never use anything from animals. We are 100% vegan. In the shoes of Ecoalf, there are not any metallic components and for sure it is free of PVC.

World Footwear: We have been talking about sustainability. I know it's very difficult to find a single definition of this concept. But in your view, how can we define sustainability?

Miguel Pomares: Sustainability is a lifestyle way that everyone has to have, and everyone can have an idea. Our purpose is to assist in protecting the natural resources of the planet. So, this is mainly the soul of each one. And sustainability is also to do like that, mainly taking care of and protecting natural resources… Just to have a lifestyle, we are a lifestyle brand.

World Footwear: During the congress, you participated in a panel about consumer demands. Do you feel that the consumer is putting the sustainability topic on the agenda? Are they the ones driving this change? And on top of that, in your view, what are they looking for now? So, what kind of demands do you feel the consumers are putting on the brands?

Miguel Pomares: You know, there are different kinds of consumers. There is the consumer who personally lives every day the sustainability and there are consumers for whom it’s a bit imposed by the market. For me, what we love is very loyal consumers. We believe that consumers or clients are like fans, like wearing a pair of shoes of Ecoalf means that you are protecting the planet, but are also feeling comfortable and are wearing shoes that you are going to pay to last as long as possible. And also, sustainability… Everyone is starting using a car or using a bicycle and starting the day by taking care of dividing the trash, the plastic, the cart… Everything is sustainability: it’s a way of life, you know.

World Footwear: And what role do you think innovation and technology can play in this search for more sustainable processes, more sustainable materials? And basically, what is the role that technology and innovation can have in helping to achieve a more circular economy? 

Miguel Pomares: For example, one of our best-seller styles has the lowest carbon footprint in the market, studied by the Instituto Nacional de Calzado Espanol, INESCOP. And why? Because we use the sea thread, but we use the sea thread in a way that is really done like a sock. So, they do like a sock, and then what we are getting is to reduce three times the average of the carbon footprint of other brands. So that’s the main important innovation with Ecoalf. There is no waste in this process. Why? Because it’s complete with just one piece, join at the back part of the shoe and just glue it; and glueing oil from solvent components as much sustainable and easy, using less electricity, less water. So that’s why we study very carefully everything from the beginning.

World Footwear: Thank you, Miguel. These were some insights from Ecoalf. Continue to follow the World Footwear for more updates on the footwear industry.

This interview was conducted in Istanbul in November 2023 during the World Footwear Congress

Check some of our previous interviews HERE