The founder of Norwegian shoe brand New Movements is a third-generation shoemaker with a twist, using his experience and passion for a circular value chain to make a difference in the world’s second most polluting industry. We chatted to Martin about the challenges facing a sustainable start-up and the importance of focussing on the solutions instead of the problems.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I was born in 1990 and grew up in Oslo where I was surrounded by Norwegian values and nature. After a near-death experience, I decided I wanted to dedicate my life to work that made a genuine impact. I believe studying and working in Oslo, Stockholm, Barcelona and San Francisco helped me develop a deeper understanding of cultures, people, business and fine arts.
I have degrees in anatomy, physiology, massage, personal training and a bachelor in fashion and merchandising from Academy of Art University in San Francisco. To gain experience I worked for start-ups in San Francisco as well as tech and retail companies in Oslo.
In the fall of 2017, I went all in and started a new kind of shoe company for men and women, called New Movements.
For the last three years I’ve spent pretty much every day developing New Movements, but I make sure to find time for friends, family and the most amazing and supportive person in the world, my girlfriend Ingrid. I feel that the best version of myself comes out in nature.
What does a day in your life look like?
I believe my days are exciting and challenging from beginning to end. I usually get up between 6 and 7 am and go to bed between 11 pm and 2 am. What I like about my days is their variation; from financial forecasting, profit and loss statements, marketing and sales to travelling, product development, sourcing, manufacturing, distribution and logistics. Gaining a deep understanding of the entire flow of the business from start to finish is fascinating (and quite challenging at times).
Like every other person, Coronavirus affected New Movements and me, but I’m built to focus on solutions rather than problems. I’ve spent a lot more time in nature to get away from the city and get clarity and some fresh air.
What does 'sustainability' mean to you?
I think about it as two different words; sustain and ability. If you have an ability, you can make something possible. ‘Sustain’ makes me think of something that can be carried on or continued for a long time.
What do you find most challenging about running a brand that is socially and environmentally aware?
It’s challenging starting a brand that takes a clear stand on social and environmental responsibility when you’re competing against industry giants with ridiculous profit margins and huge marketing budgets. Making footwear overseas, in big volumes and using virgin plastics (which is basically petroleum), is extremely cheap. At New Movements we do the opposite – which is extremely challenging for a start-up.
Tell us about New Movements
At New Movements we want everybody to be able to enjoy good looking and comfortable footwear. Always ensuring the highest quality and original designs, New Movements also maintains affordable prices.
We are currently enrolled in the global accelerator program of Innovation Norway in New York, but due to COVID-19 the programme is now digital.
What made you decide to start a sustainable brand?
The main challenge is that it’s impossible by today’s standards to produce a shoe without extracting more from the earth than you’re giving back. This challenge drives me to stay focussed on designing footwear that will last for the next generation.
New Movements is challenging the status quo of the shoe industry. The vast majority of sneakers produced in today’s market are overpriced and made from materials which are poor quality and not renewable. It’s time for a change – that’s why I started New Movements.
What measures do you take to ensure that the New Movements products are sustainable?
At New Movements we make footwear in Europe with responsibly sourced circular materials like rubber, tree fibers, gold-certified leather, recycled plastic bottles and recycled cardboards. All of our suppliers are certified and follow European rules and regulations – ensuring responsible footwear manufacturing.
What is your advice for someone wanting to start a sustainable brand?
Never take no for an answer and focus on the solution and not the problem! I’m a strong believer in stepping forward into growth instead of backwards into safety. Stay humble, respect others and be as good as you can.
Name your favourite sustainable brand
There are many great brands out there, but I would say I admire Patagonia’s eco-conscious ethos and how their logo almost counts as a political statement. It seems like the people at Patagonia don’t spend too much time thinking about what’s trendy – instead, they’ve focussed on making easygoing high-performance gear that leaves a lower footprint and can be repaired. Authenticity, thoughtful design and a strong ethos are the main reasons why I like this brand. I hope they focus more and more on circularity so that their products can be used again and again after their lifetime is over.
The Coronavirus has affected every person around the globe in some way. And while we would never say that a pandemic is positive, we have seen some changes in the way businesses and individuals live. How do you think the world will change once things go "back to normal'?
I do not think things will go "back to normal” for a long time. I believe the Coronavirus has not only been bad, but also a good thing because it has given people time to think, reflect and react. It has been ages since the world has seen as many protests and demonstrations over topics such as the climate crisis and #blacklivesmatter. I believe many have reached a crossroad. Now it’s time to decide – where, and how, do we go from here?
How do you envision the buying behaviour of millennials in 5 years in terms of how they value sustainable products over price?
Over the last decades, goods have been shaped by fast fashion and its inherent democratisation and popularisation. Analysing the new reality of our world, in five years’ time millennials will hopefully be reflecting even more on their scale of purchasing. New Movements represents that change and we're here to contribute to shifting people’s buying behaviour towards impactful footwear.