Running has a relatively low environmental impact, especially compared to other sports, yet Zen Running Club are still doing all they can to make the activity even more environmentally sustainable.
The up-and-coming brand is breaking into the sportswear industry with revolutionary plant-based and vegan-approved running shoes engineered from recyclable sugarcane, eucalyptus tree fibers, and natural rubber.
For a recent ongoing social media campaign, they tasked lifestyle and advertising photographer Andy Smith to capture the visuals, as well as a series of short videos. Andy recently relocated from London, UK, to Los Angeles and, since moving, has been focused on putting his work in front of clients he respects, who convey integrity and authenticity in their operation. Zen Running Club ticked all these boxes.
Zen Running Club is a company I greatly admire. I hadn’t worked with them before, but after our initial conversation, it felt like a good fit for all parties.
Zen Running Club wanted to tell a running story in a way that was genuine, clear, and had production value, so they settled on a minimalistic documentary feel and approach for the shoot. Their main product is a road shoe, so Andy knew roads were the terminus a quo. To ensure the products were displayed at their best, Sustainable Wardrobe Stylist Charline Zeroual worked with each of the models to keep it feeling natural.
The creatives at Zen Running Club definitely have a ‘less is more’ approach which I love, and they were keen to make sure we were showing just the right amount of Zen Running Club branding/logos.
Zen Running Club’s brand values are present in every aspect of its business, from sourcing materials to production, distribution, creativity, and marketing, with product performance as its top priority. Community building is just as important to them as their environmental values. They were keen to affirm Andy understood and shared these principles, so they had extensive conversations about the brand, its origins, and overall vision.
It was important to all of us that we made an effort to implement the brand’s values into the shoot as much as possible, which is why an experienced stylist who specializes in sustainably sourced wardrobe was a perfect fit. We aimed to have a diverse cast of models, including competitive athletes and daily runners, and we had food stops at vegan cafes, restaurants, and ice cream shops. We’re all imperfect, but if human beings are going to stop using the planet as a trash can, every effort is significant.
Andy did two shoots, one with the ZR01 shoe, which is Zen’s original shoe. The other was with their new ZR S performance road shoe. The aim was to have an authentic blend of documentary/lifestyle and product-focused images and videos that didn’t feel contrived.
Zen Running Club’s brand identity is an extension of the beliefs and values of the owners. They’re completely transparent about their business practices, they don’t claim to be perfect, but they’re making every effort to use the brand to bring people together, support their passion for running and make them feel and look good in the process.
The running route needed to look like a daily run route, so the locations were urban and residential streets.
I scouted the running route at different times of day, mainly to check out the light and, by carefully choosing locations, made sure there was a balance of urban and residential streets, clean backgrounds for copy/logos, and to make sure we were at the right places at the right time for light.
There was a strong start, a slow down, a lull in the middle, and an energetic finish. All shoots seemed to follow this pattern in my experience, but ice cream certainly helps!
Andy already knew a few of the models from previous shoots, so he felt an instant rapport with them.
One is an Ironman athlete, so I knew there was no chance of tiring him out. Another was a few weeks out from running the New York Marathon (not his first), and another was a competitive track runner. There were definitely some years of training experience between the crew, but this shoot was never about competitive running; the brief was focused on the brand’s community aspect and having fun.
The biggest challenge for Andy was sticking to the shot list.
We were moving around, so there were dozens of opportunities to stop and shoot something cool and interesting, and I had to stop myself from getting carried away.
In the frantic world of photography, proceedings are seldom straightforward; despite the weather forecast being good, clouds rolled in towards the end of the first day of shooting, which limited the number of images because of the lack of continuity with the day’s previous shoots. Luckily, Andy had already exceeded the number of images on the list with the other set-ups, so everything fortuitously turned out well.
I learned that even in California, you can’t rely on the weather!
See more of Andy’s work on his website.
Wardrobe Stylist: Charline Zeroual
Read more about Andy on our Published blog.