Skip to content

Sneaker LAB founder Jo Farah on teaching us to take care of what we love - Sneakerjagers interview

April 21, 2024 12:00 PM
Sneaker LAB founder Jo Farah on teaching us to take care of what we love - Sneakerjagers interview

Sneaker cleaning kits that are not only good for sneakers, but also give back to the planet and the community - it sounds almost too good to be true. Yet Jo Farah, founder of Sneaker LAB, has succeeded in doing so. The South African-based brand has been committed for years to developing the best and most sustainable products for cleaning sneakers, and with success.

Having collaborated with brands such as Dior, Nike, Karl Lagerfeld, PUMA, and Crocs (and soon Sneakerjagers), Sneaker LAB has made its name in South Africa and beyond. In an interview with Sneakerjagers, Farah talks about how the label got big and why the community is so important to Sneaker LAB.

Getting to know Jo

After months of email back and forth, we meet Jo Farah in the Sneakerjagers office in the heart of Utrecht. The founder of Sneaker LAB was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is in Europe for a week on business. After a brief tour of our property, we sat around the table and Farah started talking about founding Sneaker LAB. 

"I started Sneaker LAB in 2012 in the heart of Cape Town," Farah says. "At the time, I was working with a marketing agency working with brands like PUMA, Nike, New Balance, and adidas." After working at the agency for an extended period, Farah found himself wanting more. "I always dreamed of having my own brand and had built the right network here to do so."

No sooner said than done. "The sneaker community at the time was just blossoming," Farah explains. "There was only one sneaker store that everyone went to, and here you also only found sneakers, no products to maintain them."

Working with the people he met as a marketer, he pitched his idea for Sneaker LAB to retailers and major brands. "I saw a gap in the market between the growing interest in sneakers and the lack of cleaning products. This is where I came around the corner."

His idea caught on and the first Sneaker LAB batch sold out within two days. Overwhelmed by the positive feedback and success of the cleaning kits, it tasted like more.

Sneaker LAB Mission

With branches worldwide, outlets in more than seventy countries, and several collaborations, things have gone fast for Sneaker LAB. The brand has grown, the collection expanded and the formulas improved. Despite that, Sneaker LAB's core vision has never changed, which is to give back to the community and the world.

"For us, the community is the most important thing," Farah explains. "With Sneaker LAB, besides developing a good product, I wanted to create jobs in a country where inequality still plays a big role. Sustainability has always been an important thing for me and Sneaker LAB had to embrace this as well, not only in the formulas used but also in the way we work."

Farah is aware that the sneaker industry is far from sustainable. Every day, hundreds of sneakers are released in a not-so-green way. With Sneaker LAB, Farah wants to teach people to take care of products they care deeply about, be it sneakers or garments. Not buying new sneakers, but maintaining your old pair. The brand pursues its own stated ‘Green Philosophy,’ a philosophy that translates into everything Sneaker LAB does.

"With Sneaker LAB, we try to do our part to make the world a better place," says Farah. "We are transparent in how we operate and focus on every step we take on what impact it has on the world." This, of course, also applies to the people who use Sneaker LAB. "Know that when you buy something with our logo on it, you are already contributing in some way to taking care of the planet."

The formula

Creating a formula that works well that is also, truly sustainable was a big challenge for Sneaker LAB. "Greenwashing is a big problem right now that many brands, including sneaker brands, are guilty of," Farah explains. “A lot of brands are not as sustainable as they claim to be.” Sneaker LAB had to be a counter to this, although finding the right formula to do this as green as possible was not an easy task for someone without any background in chemistry.

"The development process of Sneaker LAB’s kits consisted mostly of trial and error," Farah explains. "After doing some research, I started trying out cleaning agents from different brands, this often went unsuccessfully." That was until he came to a remedy that people mainly use when cleaning ships. These products need to be harmless to the water and nature and use natural bacteria and enzymes, to do so.

These bacteria and enzymes, which are harmless to humans, animals, or nature, are also used in Sneaker LAB's products. "You could even drink our products if you wanted to," Farah says with a laugh. Another unique feature of the formula is that the bacteria remain active for 72 hours. So, after cleaning a sneaker, this cleaning process extends for the next three days.

The formula has proven itself effective time and time again. Having collaborated with big names in the sneaker industry and created innovative methods, Sneaker LAB has made its name in today's sneaker community. The brand is Green Tag certified and works together with brands such as WeForest, which plants trees and helps feed the youth of South Africa together with the Peninsula School Feeding Association.


An impressive portfolio that will even extend in the next couple of years, since Farah is not planning on slowing down. In the upcoming months, Sneaker LAB will extend its goals. "We want to focus on servicing apparel and accessories in addition to sneakers," Farah says. "Our next launch focuses on taking care of caps, something that is a big thing in South Africa."

In addition, he talks about products suitable for maintaining and cleaning denim. "We want to educate the consumer about taking care of what they have. We are against fast fashion and want to teach our audience how to make a change. That is the most important thing for us."

Several unique collaborations are planned, including one with Sneakerjagers. On Wednesday, April 24, 2024, the Sneakerjagers x Sneaker LAB cleaning kit will be launched in the Sneakerjagers webshop. The kit consists of Sneaker LAB's signature products; the Sneaker Cleaner, an Odor Protector, Premium Brush, Sneaker Protector, and 2 Sneaker Wipes. Keep an eye on the Sneakerjagers news page for the launch of the kit.

As for other collaborations, Farah is not yet allowed to say much about them. He looks positively at what Sneaker LAB has put up and what the brand will put up in the next years. "I am very happy with the work I do," Farah says. "I get to meet people all over the world, including you guys, and this continues to inspire me. I never thought I would be passionate about cleaning, but I am. I love it!"