Nanyang turns to ocean for flip-flops

Nanyang turns to ocean for flip-flops

Mr Chakrapol says trashed sandals are a major contributor to Thailand's ocean litter. Pitsinee Jitpleecheep
Mr Chakrapol says trashed sandals are a major contributor to Thailand's ocean litter. Pitsinee Jitpleecheep

With marine litter a growing concern not only globally but also in Thailand, Nanyang Group, the canvas shoe and sandal maker, is eager to find a solution, turning ocean trash into flip-flops.

The initiative began when Chakrapol Chandavimol, general manager of Nanyang Marketing Co, saw a TV report that said 8 million tonnes of ocean garbage are found each year.

Thailand ranks No.6 for ocean garbage globally, with between 159,000 and 410,000 tonnes a year.

Sandals are a major portion of the trash, along with other plastic items, Mr Chakrapol said.

"Would you believe that half a million flip-flops are found at beaches per month," he said. "This is part of an epidemic that will make ocean garbage exceed fish in the sea in 30 years."

A group including Nanyang Industry Co and Nanyang Marketing Co, the maker and marketer of Nanyang canvas shoes and Changdao flip-flops, worked with Tlejourn, a non-governmental organisation, for a year to find a way to reduce ocean waste, developing the Khya flip-flop brand from upcycled ocean garbage.

Flip-flops by Khya ("trash" in Thai) were made available yesterday at retail stores. Pre-orders are available at, Shopee and Lazada, and at Thailand Post Mart and Thailand Post from Aug 14 to 23.

The products will be delivered to buyers in November.

"We will produce only 1,000 Khya flip-flop pairs, focusing more on communicating concern about ocean waste," Mr Chakrapol said.

Revenue from the brand will be given to sustainable development organisations, he said, with sustainable product development applied to future Nanyang products.

Thailand's footwear market is estimated at 20 billion baht. Of the total, 8 billion baht is from sports and fashion shoes and 5 billion baht each is from student shoes and sandals. The remaining 2 billion baht is from other categories.

Mr Chakrapol said the student canvas shoe market was flat in the first half of 2019 because of low consumer spending and Thailand's low birth rate.

But Nanyang bucked the trend, reporting that its sales in the first half grew by 3% year-on-year, driven by student canvas shoes.

"We are very happy about the performance because Nanyang canvas shoes remain popular among the new generation without any changes in product design for several decades," Mr Chakrapol said.

He attributed the higher sales to strong distribution channels. Some 80% of total sales rely on traditional trade, which is still a touchpoint for customers.

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