Yatay sneaker.

To create high-quality, Made in Italy sustainable sneakers was the goal of Umberto de Marco when he founded the footwear label Yatay, which was officially launched in October.

The son of Enrico de Marco, a successful pioneering entrepreneur in the eco-leather business, Umberto de Marco is the president of Coronet SpA, which provides an array of fashion and accessories labels with leatherlike materials.

“Sustainability is in my DNA since my family business is producing alternatives to leather since 52 years,” de Marco said. “So three years ago I dedicated a team of my company to study the evolution of this material and we created the first eco-friendly leather that is 75 percent sustainable, since 50 percent comes from corn and 25 percent from recycled plastic.”

Internally developed by de Marco’s family business, this material is used to craft the upper part of the Yatay sneaker style, while the remaining components are supplied by other Italian companies.

In particular, the sneakers’ lining is made of a breathable microfiber composed of recycled polyester and waterborne polyurethane, while the sole is crafted from bio-derived polyurethane and features two fully biodegradable green plastic cores obtained from industrial waste. Finishes include hemp strings sourced in Italy to minimize the shipping environmental impact and toecaps realized with an organic cotton base treated with a water-based, solvent-less technology.

The result is a unisex, minimal sneaker style, available in both a low-top and high-top version, and coming in a graphic box made out of recycled plastic bottles.

Retailing from $270 to $330, Yatay sneakers are available online at the company’s e-store, as well as at Gio Moretti in Milan and at L’Eclaireur in Paris, for which a dedicated capsule collection was developed.

In keeping with its sustainable approach, the company teamed with One Tree Planted, a nonprofit organization that focuses on global reforestation, which for each pair of Yatay shoe sold, will plant a tree in a deforested area around the world.

Yatay sneaker.

Yatay sneaker.  Courtesy Photo

Key sustainability achievement of 2018: “To have been able to create a product that really looks like the best quality, handmade in Italy leather sneaker but it’s totally made with sustainable materials.”

Sustainability target for 2019 and why: “We came out with the sneaker six months ago, so for the moment this is the very best we could achieve….Now the upper part of the shoe is 75 percent sustainable but our next goal would be to raise this percentage as much as we can to reach 100 percent.”

Biggest challenge to overcome: “To create a shoe that has exactly the same look of the most high-quality leather shoes but keeping at the same time very high technical performances…without accepting any compromises in terms of sustainability or comfort.”

If you could wave a magic wand: “I would like to change people’s mentality in thinking…of leather as the top-quality material and its eco-friendly version as a cheap one. I would like people to be much more flexible and open to the idea that this material can be more prestigious, comfortable and luxurious than real leather. This would not only help us but drive all the other brands to invest their money in R&D to create more sustainable products.”

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