Unlike plenty of its kind that are made for one specific sport, the unisex Trainer AD 1 is designed for a range of workouts, from lifting to running to long-distance walking. It’s also environmentally-conscious: vegan microfibre is used in place of suede in high-wear areas of the upper to increase containment and abrasion-resistance; the bouncy, foam midsole is algae-based; and the knit upper is constructed with recycled polyester yarn. Every pair recycles the equivalent of 11 single-use plastic bottles, captures 64 cubic meters of CO2, and returns 31.5 litres of clean water back to local waterways.
The first thing that impressed me about Lane Eight’s signature was that it is light, but also substantial and sturdy. There’s good support underfoot without the bulk. The stretchy knit upper hugs your foot like a sock, yet still allows for breathability. A secure, wide lacing system further locks the shoe in place. Its midsole features TPU sidewalls to ensure side-to-side stability during hard cuts and lateral movements. Extra cushioning comes by way of the sockliner, which has a squishy beaded surface for comfort and won’t go flat like conventional types.
For a couple of weeks now, I’ve worn these kicks to my workouts on my patio, to the park for a run, and to do errand runs. They’re a joy to wear on active days. But you know what it’s also good for? Everything else. Lane Eight’s Trainer AD 1 has a sleek, timeless lifestyle silhouette and comes in 14 colourways, most of which are monochromatic for easy matching. I’d wear them to work on days that don’t require me to be formal, if I went to the office. And I’ll wear them to dinners and parties when that vax status turns green.
Ahead of its launch in Singapore, founders James and Josh Shorrock, who count stints at Adidas and Hypebeast, tell Prestige more about the brand, their goal to be carbon-neutral and the challenges they face in building the company on their own.
How did Lane Eight come about?
Lane Eight develops performance footwear for everyday athletes – those who aren’t defined by their fitness regime but live an active lifestyle. We do this by focusing on versatility, developing footwear that can take you from the gym to your runs to your office and everything in-between. In addition to our focus on versatile performance, we’re also making shoes that are better for the planet by using sustainable, renewable and recycled materials across our products and packaging.
We started Lane Eight because we ourselves are everyday athletes, and we were tired of big brands telling us that we needed a running shoe, a gym shoe, and an everyday shoe to go about our days. We knew that we could build a more versatile performance shoe that could handle the rigours of all our workouts, and do so with a design that could seamlessly integrate with our day-to-day wardrobe. We launched our first model, the Trainer AD 1, in August 2018, and we’ve been making updates to it ever since, while also working on new models.
Tell us more about Lane Eight’s sustainability efforts.
Our ultimate goal is to be a carbon-neutral business. We’re now measuring the impact of what we do across our business and supply chain so that we can start reducing our impact company-wide. It starts with our products. Since our launch, we’ve moved away from industry-standard materials and ventured into more sustainable and renewable alternatives like post-consumer recycled plastic for our knit uppers, and Bloom algae-based foam into our midsoles. All of our shoes are also vegan; no animal products here.
We’re also really proud of some of the partnerships we’ve created to support our communities. Two of our key partners in Hong Kong are Run HK, an NGO that assists refugees in the country through sport, and A Plastic Ocean, which is dedicated to stopping plastic pollution through education and advocacy.
What are the biggest hurdles when it comes to being sustainable in your business?
One of the biggest challenges has been a general lack of awareness and knowledge of the impact of the footwear industry. Part of our communications is about helping educate and raise awareness of this issue.
As a start-up, gaining access to sustainable materials is also a challenge, like achieving minimum order quantities and being meaningful to sustainable material suppliers. We are making good progress by partnering with companies such as Bloom (which uses algae to replace petroleum-based materials). Fortunately, there is now a much greater focus on sustainability in our industry, so alternative materials are becoming increasingly available. You’ll see this in our future models, which are currently in development.
Beyond sustainability, what has been your biggest challenge with starting the business and how did you overcome it?
We are a self-funded business, and it has been a challenge competing against the big players on our modest budgets. However, that has also been an opportunity for us as it forces us to be more creative in order to compete. It has helped us focus on building the business in a measured and sustainable way. We feel confident that because of this, we’re in a much stronger position for future growth.
Lane Eight’s shoes are designed to handle a multitude of sports. How do you achieve that?
The big brands will tell you that you need multiple sport-specific shoes because their starting points are always elite, world-class athletes. Because our focus is on everyday athletes, we start with addressing their needs, which are very different from the needs of a pro athlete. Our everyday athletes are runners, lifters, HIITers and everything in-between, so we’ve focused on developing shoes that can handle all those various disciplines. We achieve this by looking at the product needs for each type of activity to find, through trial and error, the right balance of stability, flexibility, and fit.
What is the best thing you’ve heard from your customers?
That the Trainer AD 1 is their new favourite shoe. There’s nothing more validating than seeing customers come back for new Lane Eights and ditching their old sneakers.
How has your business changed your life?
It’s certainly reduced the amount of sleep we get! All jokes aside, it’s been such an incredible learning experience moving from working in a company to running our own business. Perhaps the biggest thing has been learning about the environmental impact of running a business like ours, and the opportunities that exist to do things better. It’s also made us examine what we can do in our personal lives to minimise our impact on the environment.
How has the pandemic changed your business?
During the peak of the pandemic, we saw massive growth in our business as a result of everyone being locked-down and forced to interact with the world through their phones and computers. We are a digital-first business, so we were well-placed to take advantage of the uptick in time spent on digital devices. Building brand awareness during the pandemic meant that as things open up, we are able to serve our customers across both online and offline channels.
What are you most proud of about Lane Eight?
Our customers see us as a genuine competitor to the established brands, and the work we’ve done on sustainability has helped to educate our customers about the importance of more conscious consumption.
Looking back now, what would you have done differently?
There are a lot of things we would do differently. However, everything that we have done has got us to where we are today, so it’s hard to say that we would change things.
If you were to start another business or invest in another startup, what would it be?
We’d still be in the footwear industry. This industry is what we know and with all the learnings around starting and managing a business over the past few years, we would be much better prepared the second time around.
How do you define success? Do you consider yourself successful?
Developing Lane Eight into a brand recognised for both its commitment to sustainability and providing great products for all of our everyday athletes. Seeing people making moves in Lane Eights. We are on the path to success but lots more to do.
What’s next for your brand?
We are hard at work on our next models, and we’ll be launching our second model later this year. For Singapore, we’re looking at opportunities to open a physical store so that customers can experience our shoes in real life. Beyond that, we’re looking at additional markets in the SEA/APAC region. Stay tuned!