Adidas Parley for the Oceans

Adidas AG took a chance at turning plastic bottles into woven shoes.

Now, buoyed by the interest in that initial test, the Germany-based sporting goods firm is building on its 2015 partnership with the group Parley for the Oceans with the most ambitious sustainability initiative to come out of the collaboration. Spring 2018 will see the debut of a full collection around the partnership that includes apparel and footwear for men and women.

The roots of the venture between Adidas and Parley centered on the question of how best to take plastic washed up on shore and keep it out of the ocean. The solution was to take the bottles and convert them into thread. Last year saw the introduction of boating shoes knitted from material derived from those bottles.

Parley for the Oceans is a think tank in a way, trying to figure out what would be the best ways of keeping plastic from filling up the oceans,” said Greg Thomsen, who serves as managing director of the outdoor division’s U.S. business. “So the idea was we’ll come together and come up with some solutions and Adidas was able to chop up those bottles, turn them into thread and then turn the thread into shoes. Last year we introduced a line of boating shoes that were knitted out of this material that has worked really well and it’s been expanded into a number of shoes this year. Coming up in spring 2018, they’ve taken the same threads and turned them into garments.”

The apparel — consisting of T-shirts, sleeveless tops, hoodies and shorts — will begin rollout in the second quarter with items geared toward warmer weather, but Thomsen said the Parley lineup will continue to be expanded into areas such as product for the rainy season.

“The fabric is amazingly soft and comfortable. Nobody would recognize it as being recycled fabric even,” Thomsen said.

Adidas is also set to introduce a series of no-dye shoes in February for men and women in walking, boat and trail running styles that are also expected to cut back on the impacts to the environment.

“It’s the base material color,” Thomsen explained. “That saves almost 5 liters of water and all the chemicals that go into it per shoe. It’s a pretty interesting area and I think we’ll be expanding on that. It’s about how do you eliminate chemical dyes from being used?”

Adidas Outdoor’s riding on a broader interest in health and wellness that has seen a surge in general activity as seen in the popularity of gyms ranging from the traditional to activity specific, Thomsen noted. All of this is good for not just Adidas’ work with Parley, but the overall business.

“In general there seems to be a resurgence in people looking to have outdoor adventures and to go outdoors more,” he said. “I’ve been involved in the outdoor industry my whole life so I’ve watched and you can feel a whole new generation of hikers and climbers going back to nature. It’s a nice time to be in the outdoor business.”

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