February 10, 2012

Kevin Flanagan has done his due diligence at action-sports brand machines as vice president of marketing for Reef, group show director at the Action Sports Retailers Trade Expo and VP of marketing for Globe shoes. For his new venture, The People’s Movement shoes, Flanagan partnered with Mark Wystrach and Chris Swortwood to start a brand that stood for their personal values—products that were made with environmental responsibility and promoted environmental awareness.

“As a surfer, I am connected to nature. I wanted the sneakers to stand for something, to stand for opening a dialogue about how we can produce and consume more responsibly,” Flanagan said. “I am a father. I wanted my company to make a positive impact on people and our world. This is why we partner with like-minded causes that push eco-friendlier materials.”

One of these organizations is Bombastix Plastix, a group Wystrach met in Bali that cleans up plastic pollution from beaches and “up-cycles” them into textiles. The group inspired The People’s Movement’s “Clean Act” collection, which features plastic bags “up-cycled” into different purposes, such as the pattern details on the shoes, re-useable shoe-bag packaging and on wallets. The shoes are also made out of organic-cotton canvas, natural dyes, water-based glues and organic-cotton shoelaces.

Flanagan said that explaining the story about the plastics used on the shoe opens the door to talk about single-use plastics in a larger sense.

“Often, the world’s problems can seem overwhelming, and you feel helpless as just one voice, but by taking the Plastic-Pollution Pledge against plastic, you are joining an ever-growing coalition, making a difference every day by using alternatives to petroleum-based plastics,” Flanagan said.

The sneaker itself is inspired by a Chinese worker-shoe template, which the founders slimmed down in the outsoles. They also tweaked the curves and proportions of the nose to make it more fashion-forward and incorporated the “V” MOVMT logo.

“I’ve spent my career in eyewear and footwear. I believe these two categories define people’s style,” Flanagan said. “You can wear a paper bag, and if you’ve got hip  shades and shoes, you are in! The canvas-sneaker market is huge and is saturated by a ‘sea of sameness.’ I saw a huge opportunity

to create a company that speaks to a new, open-minded generation. Mark and I loved the ‘era’ look and durability of the Chinese proletariat shoes, and we felt they served as a great touchstone for thinking globally.”

The People’s Movement has been sold to stores such as Convert in Berkeley, Calif.

For more information, visit or call (858) 345-1066.—Rhea Cortado