Taking its name from the butia yatay, the tallest palm tree that’s indigenous to South America – where Umberto de Marco, founder of sustainable sneaker brand YATAY escapes to on the regular – the footwear label to know now is an ode to nature in its rawest form.

Born from a palpable passion for style and the environment – produced using 100% sustainable materials – the Italian-made kicks are pioneering eco-friendly footwear, and putting their foot down when it comes to fashion that cares.

We met Umberto to learn more about his shoe revolution...

Where did your relationship with sustainability begin? How did that lead to YATAY?
Sustainability has been instilled in me for as long as I can remember – in part, this is down to my father who has been innovating ethical materials for over fifty years. 

I noticed that there was a gap in the market for sneakers that were simultaneously minimal, sophisticated, cool and sustainable. Sustainability needn’t forfeit luxury or appealing silhouettes – that’s why our initial release boasts a spectrum of seven different colours, from jet black to Gulf Stream blue, which are designed to carry you from the office to any party.

Let’s talk shop... What is it about each shoe that's sustainable?
Every single component is a product of extensive research – it’s been a 360 degrees sustainable project to get the box that you’re holding (which, itself, was fashioned from five recycled plastic bottles) into your hands.

The upper of the shoe is crafted from recycled fabric and 70% bio-based resin; the buttresses and toecap are organic cotton; the lining is solvent free, feather-soft and breathable; the sole is bio-based polyurethane with biodegradable cores, and the laces are Italian hemp, which requires less water than conventional cotton. These are also my favourite feature, as they make each shoe immediately recognisable from afar.

You’re supporting global re-forestation with the not-for-profit organisation One Tree Planted. Tell us more.
For every pair of shoes sold, we plant a tree through One Tree Planted. We decide where in the world to plant it; it can be anywhere from South America to Africa.

YATAY only went to market last month – but, so far, we’ve planted 70 trees for 70 pairs. I hope that we’ll be able to be much more helpful in the future!

What’s your goal for the future of sustainability?
My mission is to make 'sustainability' cool – at the moment, this isn’t happening with sneakers. There are some brands that call their trainers 'vegan' because they’ve put synthetic leather on a shoe… That’s never been our goal.

I will keep working on new ideas and innovative ways to push working sustainably further. Alongside a tattoo designer from Milan, my technicians have already created a new material that you can actually tattoo. This is completely new territory – in the past, it’s been impossible to tattoo onto real or even synthetic leather, as the ink tends to not absorb.

More than ever, people care about what they’re buying and a brand’s narrative. I’m confident that, in the coming years, what is now seen as totally new will become something that’s old – and that brands will continue to move forwards in a positive direction.

Click here to discover YATAY sneakers.

In case you missed it, watch Mother of Pearl's Amy Powney talk 'sustainability' in its most fashion-forward form.