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Discover VYN, the First Renewable Sneaker Brand

A genuine passion garnered at childhood has helped to lay the foundations of exciting new sneaker label VYN. A brand that is challenging the world of ’sustainable shoes’ with its unique, premium product. Founded by Swiss friends Catherine Meuter and Stefan Mathys in 2019, VYN fuses a wealth of design knowledge and expertise with a genuine love of footwear bordering on the obsessive. Utilising the first ever changeable heel elements to lengthen the life of your favourite shoe.

With an experience that has taken in tenures at labels including Giorgio Armani, Kurt Geiger, Reiss and Swims as well as Harry’s of London, both Meuter and Mathys have a passion for design, where their individual areas of interest have come together to create an independent and forward-thinking product and business model.

Meuter, who was raised and has since returned to live in the beautiful Swiss city of Basel, and Mathys, born and raised in Bern, just a few kilometres away and now living in London, met whilst studying at Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz (FHNW) situated on the outskirts of Zurich where they both studied Industrial Design. 

“I was always passionate about shoes since my early childhood and my head was very much in the shoe design space,” says Meuter. “I have been sketching shoes and ‘designing’ footwear from a very young age. I even remember saving everything I could to buy a pair of Buffalo shoes as a teenager,” she recalls.

Mathys on the other hand was a ‘maker’ and interested in the structural design and detailing of design objects including vintage furniture. “I was never really into ‘fashion’ per say and my introduction was as part of a project where I had to design a piece of footwear, based around functionality and structure,” he says. Having met during Mathys’ final year shoe project where he required specific ’expertise’, the two became close friends and remained so throughout their career journeys up until VYN’s launch years later. 

“I had been close to securing a job with Armani soon after my studies and early freelancing period,” says Meuter, “I narrowly missed out due to the role being frozen at that point and was absolutely gutted. The disappointment lingered and really bothered me, and I worked as a styling and photoshoot coordinator in Basel for a while to make ends meet. However, out of the blue, around a year later, I received a phone call, and they were ready to take me on. It was fantastic.”

- Catherine Meuter
- Catherine Meuter

Moving to Milan in 2010 to work within the footwear design team for Giorgio Armani was a period of time that Meuter remembers fondly. “It was a great period for me. I loved Milan and the way of life, and the job was interesting and busy with lots of travel,” she adds. 

After two years and changes in management, Meuter looked for a new challenge and made another bold move by joining the then new Swims brand based in Oslo, Norway, a role that required her to up sticks again. “I had flown over to meet the team including founder Johan Ringdal and I found him to be very inspiring and charismatic. I was sold and we got on very well. There was a licence to be creative and to write a new rule book as opposed to the more stringent design model I had been used to before,” she says. 

During this time Mathys had been carving his own career in the UK with established shoe authority Harry’s of London, a role landed after a pint in the pub after a frisbee club meeting. “An odd one, but I had mentioned that I was a designer during a conversation over a drink with people in the club and one of them happened to know that her boss was looking for just that,” says Mathys. “Up until that time, despite the shoe design project in university, I’d not actually thought that I would end up working in the industry.”

Four years later, Mathys made the move over to Kurt Geiger, a role he enjoyed for three years, before moving over to Reiss where became head of the men’s accessories team for four years, before a shift in structure impacted his role. At this time Meuter had already experienced a sudden end to her five-year tenure at Swims. Similar to Mathys, structural changes at the top, meant that she was left first trying to balance a huge workload and then the company was sold. 

“I was faced with no job and having to move home, which was very disruptive,” she says. “I had to move back to Basel and in with my family, which of course was odd in my Thirties and after living independently for so long. It was a dark period and one that impacted me greatly.”

Having undertaken freelance roles including creating beautiful books with her father and creating her own book as a personal project documenting her passion and career as a creative in shoe design, Meuter and Mathys, after a meeting back home in Switzerland, decided that their wealth of knowledge, experience and creative impetus could well serve best within their own label. From that point, the idea of VYN was born. 

With a focus and infinite passion in creating a business around changing the footwear industry for the better that presents a new holistic approach of looking at a sneakers lifespan. VYN is the world’s first renewable sneaker that through its eco-innovation extends the product's lifecycle that marks something unique, independent and purposeful. Meuter and Mathys have a dogged determination that, during COVID, has seen them invite prospective buyers into Meuter’s home to view prototypes and pre-sell their collection which came close to the wire in generating revenue whilst building the brand.

Today, after an initial run of 500 pairs to test performance and wearer trials across Europe including the UK, VYN is a relevant name on the rise. The changeable heel elements, fused with the very best in materials and Italian craftsmanship means that VYN sneakers adhere to the Buy Better, Buy Less mindset with a vision for a complete lifecycle model based around refresh and Renew. 

“This is not just a labour of love, we are very serious about VYN,” adds Mathys “We are experienced people from the industry and want to rip-up the rule book and create our very own version around changing the footwear industry for the better with VYN leading the pack." 

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