This in-depth review of Vessi explores the pros and cons of this sustainable direct-to-consumer brand and whether their minimalist, waterproof shoes for men and women are an essential casual shoe for the new normal.
Based in Vancouver, Canada, Vessi is a direct-to-consumer fashion startup that makes breathable, “creature-free” and ultralight knit sneakers and shoes for men and women.
What kind of shoes does Vessi make?
Vessi launched in September 2018 with their minimalist Cityscape sneaker, a 100% waterproof shoe that helped propel the company to become one of the quickest-growing Canadian e-commerce start-ups.
Today, Vessi makes a range of stylish knit sneakers for women and men:
- Cityscape sneakers are Vessi’s original ultra-light sneakers.
- Weekend sneakers are available in a variety of colors and feature a stylish outer texture on the upper.
- Everyday sneakers include added cushion in the footbed.
- Vessi’s Everyday Move sneakers feature even more structure, support and breathability.
- Sunday Slippers are cozy, low-heeled slip-ons for knocking around the house or venturing outside.
Vessi also released a lineup of waterproof sneakers for kids.
Vessi’s appeal to nurses, dog owners, travelers and delivery drivers
“Our brand angle and mission is inspiring happier communities in a couple of different ways,” Co-Founder Andy Wang told me in an interview.
“One is by making amazing waterproof shoes that help people do whatever makes them happy in the rain, snow, sun, mud or sand,” Andy said. “The second is inspiring happier communities by giving back to them through our customers.”
Vessi is an excellent example of a stylish Direct-to-Consumer menswear brand helping guys dress sharp in the digital age, and one of several companies that specialize in minimalist knit sneakers for women and men.
Their minimalist athleisure footwear brand caught fire with sales so strong at one point that Vessi was forced to halt online selling to replenish inventory.
“Being niche-focused and functional helps us speak to specific audiences including dog owners, nurses, travelers, and delivery drivers,” said Co-Founder Tony Yu.
This is the first Vessi shoe you should try, according to their founders
I asked Andy and Tony which Vessi shoe someone who wasn’t familiar with the brand should try first.
Andy pointed me to The Weekend Sneaker, which he calls “a classic style that you can dress up and down in making it a super versatile shoe in style and function.”
Tony suggested trying Vessi’s new Everyday Move for more active days outside.
Review: Vessi makes effortless, waterproof casual shoes
Vessi’s shoes have fallen into my heavy rotation over the past several months thanks to an excellent combination of style and construction.
Vessi’s knit shoes are 100% waterproof and minimalist and sleek enough to wear across a variety of smart casual occasions as well as to the dog park and backyard barbecues.
Reviewing Vessi shoes’ construction
The thing that I love most about Vessi’s minimalist knit shoes is that you don’t have to worry about whether it’s going to rain.
“Before Vessi, the rainy season meant wet socks or ridged hiking shoes and clunky rubber boots,” Tony observed.
Vessi’s shoes are:
- 100% Waterproof;
- Produced from a breathable knit;
- Made from 100% vegan materials;
- Constructed with a sock-like fit.
Vessi’s shoes are constructed from a patented “Dyma-tex” breathable and completely waterproof knit. The insoles are treated to be antibacterial and feature a “cloud support” cushion.
Vessi outlines its shoe technology in more detail on its website:
Dyma-Tex is a waterproof membrane that… create[s] the most breathable waterproof footwear option possible. It contains millions of pores large enough to allow heat and moisture to escape, and small enough to prevent the outside elements from getting in – ensuring you have the most lightweight, breathable shoes that keep you cozy and dry even in the rain or snow.Vessi: Vegan Footwear
Underneath, Vessi brags that its sneaker soles are “ultra lightweight and bouncy” and feature a herringbone grip for traction.
“We’re on a mission to inspire happiness in wet weather by creating the world’s most comfortable waterproof athleisure products that get people moving, rain, or shine,” Tony added.
Vessi’s sock-like fit
Another thing to note is that, like Allbirds, Vessi’s sneakers have a sock-like fit. While the laces aren’t entirely for show, you can simply pull on the shoes without having to lace them up each time you wear them.
Are Vessi’s shoes comfortable?
Vessi’s shoes are extremely comfortable. The vegan knit is pleasantly springy, and the cushioned sole is pleasing for long walks.
While Vessi’s sneakers aren’t my day-to-day running shoes, I’ve taken several very great jogs in their Everyday Move when it was raining out and I didn’t want my feet to get wet in my non-waterproof New Balances.
After wearing Vessi’s shoes for several more months, I’ve also found them to keep my feet not just dry but warm as well in cold climates.
I walked on a freezing cold beach on the Delaware shore in February and my feet stayed surprisingly warm.
They’re easy to slip on, and the Everyday Move shoes feature a small tab at the top of the heel to help.
Are Vessi’s shoes stylish?
Vessi produces a lineup of sleek and attractive casual shoes. They work well with jeans, joggers, cords and dressed-down chinos.
Make no mistake: These are definitely casual shoes. You’re not going to slip on a pair of Vessi’s Citiyscape sneakers with a suit. (At least I’m not.)
Vessi’s focus on sustainability
Their founders have set goals to eliminate waste and ingrain environmentally-responsible practices.
These include the use of 100% recyclable packaging with zero plastics and utilizing all-vegan materials from the knit upper to the glue. Andy and Tony noted Vessi’s focus on material innovation, which created 100% vegan waterproof shoes that are practical, comfortable and look good.
Vessi also works with certification, compliance and standards groups like Bluesign, Global Recycled Standard, Higg Index, Oeko-Tex, and BSCI to ensure responsible sourcing.
“Our community initiatives empower and fund entrepreneurs and businesses focused on sustainable solutions,” Tony said, and removes the need to have multiple shoes for different weather.
Andy told me that “we’ve created a more efficient use of materials in our current shoes,” and that Vessi will look to use more recycled materials as they introduce more materials in upcoming launches.
A perfect casual shoe for the new normal?
Andy noted that we’ve all grown accustomed to “comfortable and versatile apparel and footwear through the casualization of our closet during the COVID pandemic.”
“Our shoes are designed to be comfortable, minimal, versatile, and functional,” he said, adding that, “the versatility and comfort of our products make it perfect for people to get back into the world.”
Vessi’s shoes fit right into the current moment that celebrates athleisure, casual comfort and sustainability.
Vessi Everyday vs. Everyday Move
I had a chance to compare Vessi’s Everyday Sneaker vs. Everyday Move shoes side-by-side.
My favorite has to be the Everyday Move Sneaker, a minimalist knit shoe that is available in an array of “original” and “limited edition” colors.
Both the Everyday and Everyday move are waterproof, and keep my feet dry outdoors.
Structurally, the Everyday Move has more support and feels more like a traditional sneaker. The Everyday feels a bit more minimal and a bit more sock-like.
Aesthetically, the Everyday Move is a little sleeker. I favor the texture of the Everyday Move and the overall appearance more than the Everyday.
Other inspiring direct-to-consumer brands
During our interview, I asked Andy and Tony what other apparel startups or innovative direct-to-consumer brands they admire or recommend.
“They hit the ground running for the beginning and are industry movers as well as inspiration for other brands,” they added.
What’s next for Vessi
Tony told me that, “we have incredible new styles launching that further push people to embrace the wet weather, and are all waterproof of course. (The Everyday Move launched around the time of our interview.)
Since then, Vessi launched their cozy “Sunday Slippers,” which feature a collapsible heel and soft knit upper.
Verdict: Vessi is an excellent option for waterproof casual shoes
Vessi’s Everyday Move sneaker has been one of my go-to options for walking the dog and knocking around the neighborhood because they are waterproof, comfortable, slip on easily and pack a sleek silhouette.
While I wouldn’t rely on them for business casual or necessarily pair them with workleisure clothing, they are a marvelous choice for your everyday activities.
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
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