We had the pleasure of sitting down with Tony Hendrix, the visionary founder of Kytin, a groundbreaking footwear brand that seamlessly blends minimal comfort, support, and sustainability. With a passion for revolutionizing the industry and a keen eye for innovation, Tony has created the world's first 3D Recovery Sock, a product that is set to redefine the way we think about foot health and well-being.
Driven by a desire to address the staggering waste generated by the footwear industry, Tony embarked on a mission to reduce environmental impact while providing invisible support for our feet. Drawing from his experience in the field and witnessing the immense waste firsthand, he was inspired to develop a unique category of footwear that challenges traditional norms and combines the best elements of shoes, socks, and orthotics.
In this interview, Tony takes us on a journey through the inception and development of Kytin's remarkable products. He shares insights into the brand's sustainable practices, including the use of recyclable materials and their innovative 3D knitting process, which reduces cut-and-sew waste by over 90%. Moreover, Tony delves into the exceptional features of Parasoles, highlighting their ability to promote natural foot motion, improve balance, and alleviate foot fatigue and tissue stress.
So, join us as we delve into the mind of Tony Hendrix, the driving force behind Kytin, and learn more about his vision for a more active, sustainable, and foot-friendly future.
Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind creating a new category of footwear that combines minimal comfort, support, and sustainability?
I was inspired by two things: having previously worked in the footwear industry, I witnessed firsthand the immense waste embedded in the development process alone. I learned that over 300 million pairs of shoes end up in landfills each year. I asked myself, "How can we reduce this waste?" Additionally, I was inspired by the concept of invisible support. I wanted to create a product that could provide minimal or invisible support without relying on traditional footwear like shoes or sandals.
How did you come up with the idea of the world's first 3D Recovery Sock?
What was the process like in developing this innovative product? The idea began to take shape during a creative thinking session one Saturday. I started 3D modeling supportive anatomical footbeds to test prototypes, with the aim of improving a person's recovery process.
What sets Parasoles apart from traditional shoes and socks in terms of foot fatigue relief and tissue stress reduction?
Our patented technology combines a dual-layer compression sock with an anatomical footbed. The generatively designed sole features dynamic arch support, which improves pressure distribution and alleviates various foot ailments.
The concept of "minimal barefoot" is intriguing. Could you elaborate on how your footwear design promotes natural foot motion and improves balance?
Parasole helps adapt to the natural contours of your foot, even on hard flat surfaces like wood floors. The minimal sole allows for proprioceptive feedback, enabling you to feel the surface you're walking on, which is a departure from most shoes. While initially designed to aid athletes in recovery, we discovered that we are all athletes in our daily lives and need to prioritise recovery.
Sustainability is a key aspect of your brand. Can you share some details about the sustainable practices incorporated into the production of Parasoles?
We are extremely conscious of waste throughout the manufacturing process and the end of the product's life cycle. Our goal was to solve one problem without creating another. Our recovery socks are 100% recyclable, made from a recycled nylon blend or regenerative merino wool. The anatomical sole is moulded using 100% recyclable TPR or TPU. We are actively seeking more opportunities to utilize recycled materials in our footwear.
How does the 3D knitting process reduce cut-and-sew waste by over 90%? Could you explain the technology behind it?
Our 3D knitting process employs circular knitting to produce nearly the exact amount of fabric required for a specific size. This differs from the cut-and-sew method, which involves cutting patterns from templates.
Being environmentally conscious is crucial in today's world. Can you talk about your vision towards zero waste and how it reflects in your product's lifecycle? We have implemented a Re-Loop program to take back old or worn pairs. Our aim is to recycle them into new pairs or other products, minimizing waste and promoting circularity.
What role does the lightweight TPR polymer play in creating a supportive sole? How does its recyclability contribute to the overall sustainability of Parasoles?
The lightweight and flexible TPR polymer possesses favorable properties for injection molding, enabling us to create a supportive sole. Its recyclability allows for continuous reuse with minimal degradation. Giving the material a second life extends its usability and reduces waste.
Considering the focus on sustainability, are there any plans to expand the use of eco-friendly materials or explore new manufacturing techniques in the future?
We are actively working on developing new materials and forming partnerships with like-minded manufacturers.
In terms of arch support, pressure distribution, and micro-cushioning, what are some unique features of Parasoles that customers can benefit from? Parasole is a unique lightweight recovery sock that combines the best features of a compression sock, orthotic, and shoe. It is the most comfortable and supportive sock you'll ever find, suitable for any occasion. It's the product we've all been missing from our closets.
Are there any plans to expand the range of Parasoles products or introduce new designs that cater to specific needs or preferences?
Yes, we recently launched our Kytin QTR, which adds additional functionality to our current style. We also have exciting new products currently in development and hope to help even more people discover the benefits of our recovery products.
Could you give us a glimpse into the design process of Parasoles?
How do you ensure that aesthetics and functionality are balanced in your product? Our design process always begins with function. If the anatomical function and integrity are not prioritized, aesthetics hold little meaning.
As the founder, what has been the most rewarding aspect of creating Parasoles? Are there any particular moments or achievements that stand out to you?
We find it incredibly rewarding to hear from our new customers about how recovery socks have positively impacted their lives. They have proven invaluable during physical therapy or in aiding recovery from surgeries. These stories drive us forward. We truly believe that we can create a better footwear product in a sustainable way that genuinely benefits the wearers.
Looking back since launching the brand, is there anything you would do differently?
If given the chance, I would have secured all our investments from the beginning. Lack of funding is the only thing holding us back from making a significant impact on people's well-being and activity levels.
Can you share any upcoming initiatives or collaborations that the brand is working on to further promote sustainable living or raise awareness about foot health?
We have some exciting initiatives and collaborations in the pipeline, but we can't disclose the details just yet.
For those who are new to the brand, what message would you like to convey about Parasoles and its mission? Our mission is to help people lead more active and healthy lifestyles by rediscovering the importance of our feet. We provide enough freedom and support to make them an extension of your foot—nothing more, nothing less.
Our readers love to travel. What destination is at the top of your bucket list?
Let's not forget that Kytin Parasoles are perfect for travel. You can breeze through security and onto the plane with ease while enjoying lightweight support and protection from germs and bacteria. Right now, visiting the Netherlands is at the top of my list.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are passionate about creating sustainable and innovative products in the fashion industry?
As an industrial designer, I believe that form informs function. Always strive to do things better. Functional products hold a stronger position than those solely driven by fashion. Look for ways to create products using superior materials or improved techniques. That's the best path to success.