Meet Roth Martin, Maker of Planet-Friendly Footwear for Go-Everywhere Women
Roth Martin (Photography by Guru Khalsa)

Meet Roth Martin, Maker of Planet-Friendly Footwear for Go-Everywhere Women


If you run in San Francisco's well-heeled artsy circles, then you're already familiar with native Roth Martin, whose Hedge Gallery, in Jackson Square, has been known for its trendy exhibitions and as a kind of unofficial headquarters for stylish soirees over the past 13 years. But did you know that Martin kind of has a thing for ladies' shoes? It's true.

Martin shows off a pair of Rothy's Point flats, made in a nearly zero-waste process of recyclable rubber soles and uppers woven from threads made of recycled water bottles. (Photography by Guru Khalsa)

But seriously, how exactly did a one-time commodities trader and biotecher, established gallery owner, husband, and father of four come to unleash his inner Kenneth Cole? Long story short, he's had footwear on the brain for years, thanks to the memory of a sock-like kids shoe he once saw in Europe. That, combined with a growing desire to create a fresh shoe that would be versatile enough for his wife, Emily, to wear all day long and literally everywhere, and well, the rest, as they know.

"The thing is," says Martin, contemplating this seemingly incongruous career move, "I have always had a passion for art, design, and fashion. I believe my calling is creating things."

So, Martin, along with his business partner, finance guy Stephen Hawthornthwaite, turned his focus toward innovation, drawing from his experiences in art and technology to develop a computer program that would make a stylish yet truly eco-friendly shoe. "Basically, our seamless 3-D knitting process hasn't existed before," he says, noting, with a well-earned humblebrag, that Rothy's design and manufacturing process creates virtually zero waste. And the shoes themselves are as green as they come, made of fibers from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles, with rubber soles and foam insoles that are carbon-free and recyclable. For an added perk, these puppies are even machine washable.

But are they cute? Let's just say that Gwyneth likes them: Rothy's made its unofficial coming out as a featured brand at Goop Mrkt's San Francisco pop-up this past May.

Since then, the simply chic, ready-for-hill-schlepping flats (which are available for purchase online) have been catching on with well-heeled fashion girls and working moms alike who are happy to trade in their heels for attractive rubbers. Rothy's come in two styles—a rounded-toe silhouette (The Flat) as well as a pointed-toe version (The Point)—and a slew of colors and patterns that run the gamut from basically elegant to just-splashy-enough. As for comfort, they are off the charts.

So what's next? Men's kicks? "No," deadpans the Belgian Loafer-wearing Renaissance man. "Right now we're all about the women." Fine by us.

Favorite Gallery That's Not Hedge

"SFMOMA. Who says the works have to be for sale?"

Design Heroes

"Dieter Rams, Raymond Loewy, and Elsa Peretti."

At Home With Roth

"I'm always striving for less is more, but that less needs to be damn good. I'm all about simple design...period. Architect-designed furniture. Japanese simplicity ideal. With four kids, it's all a pipe dream, though!"

Martin carries a cork wallet made for him by his son.(Courtesy of Roth Martin)

The Uniform

"Patagonia vest, Dege & Skinner custom navy-and-white check shirt, a belt I made, Levi's jeans, Belgian Loafers and, if necessary, a sport coat, custom made by Henry Poole Tailors. I'm the fourth generation buying clothes from Poole—they last forever and never go out of style. I have sport coats that are already 20-plus years old, and I still wear my grandfather's clothes, which still look brand new. I'm all about fewer, better things. This is what we are after at Rothy's, too."

SF Shopping Spree

"Unionmade, Heath, Aether, and the Ferry Building."

Best 'Hood

"Russian Hill. We lived there 12 years."

On a recent ski trip to Japan.(Courtesy of Roth Martin)

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