Von-Röutte is the local minimalist sneaker you can actually afford

Words by Eliza Sholly

Fresh out of Sydney.

If it takes you five years to build a brand while ensuring everything is considered and perfect, then you can probably claim the mantle of a slow and conscious company. That’s exactly what the couple behind Sydney shoe brand, Von-Röutte, did.

Brazilian duo Marina Tokarski and Gus Agra first met at an Australian university in 2011, both from completely different backgrounds.

Marina had professional experience in biology and conservation and Gus had a background in graphic design, yet both found themselves working within the fashion industry.

They quickly recognised a gap in the mainstream fashion market.

“We were constantly looking for a brand that provided really nice leather goods and sneakers,” says Gus. “We could never find one at an affordable price point.”

Drawing on their combined expertise, the pair commenced their own industry research and after four or five years, Von-Röutte was born.

They started simple, first introducing a limited run of leather wallets. “As a graphic designer, I thought that would be the easiest prototype to design,” explains Gus. “After that, we did a bag and then came the sneakers.”

It’s evident when browsing the range that functional simplicity stands at the forefront. Silhouettes are minimal, with varying degrees of experimentation through pattern, texture and materials.

“We started designing with a very unisex aesthetic in mind,” adds Marina. “We created products that both of us wanted to wear, without being too feminine or too masculine.”

As a result, there is no obvious difference between the male and female product lines. The leather sneakers have since become the bread and butter of the Von-Röutte brand. “Ninety-five per cent of our sales come from the shoes,” notes Gus.

Like many of their contemporaries, sustainability also stands at the forefront of the brand’s ethos. From the beginning, Gus and Marina have been committed to ensuring that Von-Röutte products are made using ethical, durable materials.

This has guided their decision to utilise leather, a weighty decision considering how synonymous the material is with the company’s aesthetic.

“Coming from my background in biology and sustainability, I was more than aware of the negative implications of leather,” explains Maria. “It was important for us to know the animals were treated humanely, ensuring our manufacturer upheld ethical standards.”

A search for the right supplier led the pair to extensive trial-and-error runs in Brazil, Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Germany, before landing in Portugal. 

“The Portuguese were very well prepared in regards to knowing high-quality, expert standards in leather materials,” Gus explains. “Everyone was ready to provide a certificate of sustainability, which ultimately swayed our decision.”

Since its inception, the label has blossomed alongside customer demand. In 2018, the pair opened their first Bondi pop-up store. A second Paddington pop-up followed a year later. Now, customers can visit Von-Röutte’s permanent Bondi space on Gould Street.

“We knew the only way to keep our sneakers at an affordable price point was to sell direct to consumer,” notes Gus. “We couldn’t have a large distribution because our margins are quite tight.”

Following recent successes, Gus and Marina hope to use this momentum to explore more innovative ideas like, say, an in-store footwear cleaning service. Later this year, customers will be able to take their worn and scuffed shoes into Von-Röutte’s flagship store where they can be given some professional TLC.

“We want our products to last, and for people to continue purchasing in a conscious way. A good leather shoe can last more than five years if it’s taken care of properly, so that’s an idea we’re really excited about.”

Ultimately, for Marina and Gus, everything comes back to the name Von-Röutte. “It’s actually a made-up word,” says Marina. “Our concept from the start was all about our brand taking you on a journey, so we wanted the name to reflect that. We took elements from different languages and put them together – the accent, the dash – these all resemble different cultures and different places.”

“It’s also a bit of our story,” adds Gus. “We came from far away, we took five years to create the brand. We’ve been on a journey, and everyone else is on their own, so we wanted to take that story and put it in the name. We are very proud to say that the brand is from Australia, but at the same time, Von-Röutte is a tribute to the cultures and places that we’ve travelled.”


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