Black Flag's Mike Vallely Launches Vegan Skate Shoe Line With Cariuma - Rolling Stone
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Black Flag Frontman and Pro Skater Mike Vallely Launches Vegan Skate Shoe Line With Cariuma

“My heart and soul went into it just like when I make music,” Vallely says of his new line of Cariuma sneakers, now available for preorder

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Courtesy of Cariuma

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Long before Black Flag singer and pro skater Mike Vallely worked with footwear label Cariuma to develop his upcoming namesake skate shoe, he’d seen the company’s eco-friendly footwear on Instagram.

“I liked what I saw,” Vallely tells Rolling Stone. “The style, yes, but more so I was impressed by what seemed like their genuine, focused attempt to change the culture and make more responsible, sustainable products.

“But I was just a fan on the sidelines,” Vallely continues. “I kept looking at the existing products because I wanted to wear their shoes and support a brand doing great things. I just didn’t think they’d be durable enough to skate in. Then I heard they were entering the skateboarding market and I was blown away. Then, they reached out to me to collaborate and I couldn’t believe it.”

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Courtesy Cariuma

Buy: The Vallely Sneakers by Cariuma at $89

Despite his shock, the B Corp-certified Brazilian brand known best for its eco-friendly sneakers and slip-ins says partnering with Vallely was a no-brainer when the company decided to get serious about developing a green skate shoe. “We knew he was the right partner for our first pro model,” says Cariuma Co-founder Fernando Porto. “His legacy in skate and the position he currently holds in the industry are true to our mission, caring about the world around you and doing better every day. Mike is a champion of positivity and evolution for the culture. We’re thrilled to bring that energy to skate together.”

Vallely likened the design process to “putting out a record or a signature model skateboard.”

“My heart and soul went into it just like when I make music, and Cariuma worked very closely with me to design the shoes to my exact specifications,” Vallely says. “The shoe had to have my fingerprint, look like something I’d wear, and do the job it’s supposed to do.”

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Courtesy Cariuma

Buy: The Vallely Sneakers by Cariuma at $89

First and foremost, the Vallely, which is now available to preorder, had to look good. “But it was really important to me that the shoe also be functional and durable,” Vallely says. “Professional or sponsored skaters have the ability to just blow through shoes, but the skater on the street is paying real money, so they should have something that’s gonna last underneath them and be able to withstand tricks and falls. Longer wear is also a huge part of being sustainable and that’s true to Cariuma’s vision.”

The solution? The Vallely, which comes in four colorways, retails for $89 and is a nod to the Eighties basketball shoes the skater preferred to wear whenever on deck. “The side profile looks like a modern skate shoe, but when you look down — which you’re always doing when you skate — the top view is very purposefully meant to look like an old-school basketball shoe. They are styled off of the basketball shoes I wore to skate back in the day like Jordans, Converse Dr. Js and Adidas. I love that aesthetic. They remind me of when I was first starting out — when skating was most exciting for me.”

Porto adds that Vallely brought “so much to the design process beyond aesthetic,” namely putting the proprietary high-performance vegan suede they created for this line through the wringer.

“True sustainability [includes] extending the longevity of wear and Mike was adamant that this [be] the most durable skate shoe on the market. We created that,” Porto says. “Our vegan suede is better for the environment and 2.5-times more resistant than animal suede. We did months of stress tests and reinforced all the stress points that skaters wear through the quickest. These shoes hold up against serious pressure.”

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Courtesy of Cariuma

The other materials including the nylon, mesh lining, laces, threads and labels are all recycled. The outsole, meanwhile, is made of pure natural rubber, and the insoles are plant-based and made with mamona oil, making Vallelys ethically crafted and completely vegan.

“They remind me of when I was first starting out — when skating was most exciting for me.”

While their main function is skating, Vallely vouches for the shoes’ wearability on stage, which he has gotten to go back to a little after the pandemic shut down Black Flag’s South American tour. “We were having a great time; played a couple of really great shows in Argentina and Brazil, and then all of a sudden it was over as it was for every band,” he recalls. “It was so hard to wrap my head around. We haven’t talked about doing anything since. I’m sure we will eventually. I moved from California to Des Moines, IA, a year ago, and now I’ve got a band that I’ve been doing there called Mike Vallely and The Complete Disaster. We call it barn-burning rock & roll and we’re doing some original tunes and tunes from Black Flag and other bands I’ve had in my 20 years. We just played Tampa and we’ve got a bunch of shows coming up. It’s been a lot of fun and it feels great to be performing again.”

Vallelys also work well for his new hobby of cycling, which is what sparked the move to the Midwest. “I was on tour with [Black Flag’s] Greg Ginn as Good For You in 2013 and I fell in love with the city that night. The real attraction to Des Moines and Iowa, in general, is the incredible bike culture. I’m not even an avid bicyclist. I don’t own any spandex, but I’ve always been attracted to cities where bicycling is facilitated and respected as a part of the fabric of the city. From my house, I can go almost 200 miles in any direction on paved trail and there are breweries and restaurants along it. It’s very social. I just like riding my bike and to be places where bicycling is a part of daily life for people.”

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