Go green: Yatay sustainable shoes

Umberto de Marco explains how his search for the perfect sneaker led to him founding a footwear brand with a difference

Style 27 Jul 2018

Yatay offer sustainable and cruelty free luxury sneakers
Yatay sneakers
The sole of an ecologically sound Yatay sneaker

Three years ago, my brother and I were discussing sneakers, as often happens, and we had an epiphany: no brand was offering a stylish, and at the same time sustainable, luxury sneaker. After an in-depth search it became apparent, as absurd as it sounds, that consumers were forced to make a choice between style and sustainability. That was the moment when we decided to take matters into our own hands.

Yatay founder Umberto de Marco
Yatay founder Umberto de Marco

In fact, this decision did not come completely out of the blue. Coronet, the company owned by our family, has been producing cruelty-free alternatives to leather for 51 years. I’ve now been co-managing the family business for five years, and I realised (and worked to make people understand) that nowadays high-quality synthetic leather is not even remotely a cheap alternative to leather. Modern ‘future leather’, as we call it in the company, is an extremely refined technical product, with nothing lacking compared to animal leather in terms of looks, and easily surpassing it in terms of performance and ecological impact. There are ecologically illuminated brands that have been championing ethical fashion for a long time, and consumers are now beginning to adopt this new philosophy.

The name Yatay comes from a South American palm tree species: a truly perfect embodiment of our philosophy. In fact, passive sustainability is only part of our ecological efforts. We’re also in partnership with One Tree Planted, a not-for-profit company that, for every pair of Yatay we sell, will plant a tree in an area of the world plagued by deforestation. A welcome added bonus is that Yatay is a palindrome; even our first model was called Neven, to continue with this trend.

Between the search for the best suppliers, the development and fine-tuning of the appropriate materials, and the design process, it took us two years to create this new luxe sustainable sneaker. Every single element of a Yatay is produced and assembled in Italy – no cheating – and our launch line includes two models, low-top and high-top, in a range of seven colour combinations (available through our website). Our mission is not only to create a sustainable shoe, but also to make sustainability cool, as Stella McCartney managed to do. We’re simply trying to achieve the same result within the sneakers universe. In the spirit of this mission, we’ve got plenty of artist collaborations and new colours and models to come. Watch this space!

UMBERTO DE MARCO is the founder of sustainable footwear brand Yatay; yatayatay.com