The collection offers a spin on Yatay’s signature Irori unisex sneaker style, rendered in four color combinations created for the occasion by No More Plastic ambassadors and models Helena Christensen, Cindy Bruna, Amelia Windsor and Azza Slimene.
Yatay’s founder Umberto De Marco traced the first contact with the nonprofit organization to last year, when he got in touch with No More Plastic’s founder Rosalie Mann through a common friend.
“We noticed we had a lot in common so the idea of a collaboration came up, but at the time our sneakers’ lining was made of recycled plastic bottles, so we had to rework that element to align the style to No More Plastic’s policy,” explained De Marco.
The result is a sneaker style assembled from 13 sustainable components, including bio-plastic derived from cereals and corn; bio-polyols; recycled tires; natural resins, and water-based and solvent-less glues. Each sneaker also comes with two pairs of shoelaces made of hemp and bio-leather derived from cereals.
“We then chose together the four ambassadors, and we opted for personalities hailing from different countries and with different backgrounds,” continued De Marco. Customization made by Christensen, Bruna, Windsor and Slimene ranged from a dark combination of black, olive green and white to a bolder version juxtaposing rose and baby blue with acid green and red.
Beginning Wednesday, the style will retail at 290 euros — the standard Irori sneaker comes with a 270-euro price tag —and half of the profits generated from sales of the collection will be donated to the organization.
“I like to think this is just the first chapter of our collaboration, as we would like to continue our partnership with No More Plastic, developing styles with other ambassadors, too,” said De Marco. Hence the decision to make the sneakers available for pre-order exclusively on Yatay’s e-commerce to test the market first, “while we will evaluate the possible release of a limited series and implementation of other materials for future drops.”
De Marco revealed the debut of the collaboration was postponed due to the pandemic, in an attempt to launch the range in more favorable market conditions. Yet, overall the company expects to end 2020 with revenues flat compared to last year, as losses at brick-and-mortar were balanced out by a boost in online sales.
“The global situation also reawakened a certain awareness in customers toward sustainability and a penchant for Made in Italy, long-lasting products rather than fast-fashion ones,” noted the executive.
In establishing the brand in 2018, De Marco believed the concept could resonate best in North European countries, which are considered more receptive of sustainable practices and eco-product offerings. Although the U.K. is the best-performing market for the label, the founder said that Italy and France are quickly catching up with it.
In addition to its e-commerce, the brand is distributed in 22 doors globally, including Antonia in Milan, Selfridges in London, L’Èclaireur in Paris and Aishti in Beirut.
“Now all our efforts are focused on creating a stronger brand awareness on digital platforms, because a product like ours needs to be explained and narrated. It has a very sleek, minimal look, so to simply showcase it in stores next to other sneakers doesn’t do it justice,” said De Marco, who is also president of Coronet SpA, an Italian company that specializes in the production of environmentally friendly materials and supplies an array of fashion and accessories labels.
Yatay currently counts the two main Irori and Neven styles, offered in both low- and high-top versions, but is readying its first running shoes to be released next year. In keeping with the palindrome names, the sneaker will be dubbed Renner and is expected to boast a bolder look.
De Marco’s ultimate goal is to keep pushing the boundaries in research and develop new materials to manufacture a 100 percent recyclable sneaker. “So far only the sole of our styles is entirely recyclable and we encourage our customers who want to get rid of our old sneakers to return them to us, at our expense. In that way we can recycle the soles, dismantle all components and sustainably dispose or repurpose them, promoting a circular practice,” said the executive.
The brand’s sustainable commitment extends beyond the manufacturing process. Through the Trees for Shoes campaign, the label aims to safeguard the environment and offset the emissions it produces. For every pair sold, Yatay plants a tree in a forest in Kenya.
In particular, each sneaker style comes with a Yatay code embossed on the heel and a related QR code featured on the box that enable customers to access their profile page on the brand’s web site and pick the species of tree they want to plant. “Within a week we plant it and when the tree absorbs the same quantity of CO2 used to manufacture that pair, the customer receives an e-mail informing that the emissions have been offset and gets a 20 percent discount on the purchase of another pair of shoes,” concluded De Marco.