Umberto and his company Yatay are trying to bridge the gap between Italian designer and ethical.
Umberto and his brother wanted to change the way in which sneakers were made for the better, so they started Yatay with a goal of prioritising not only ethical and sustainable practices, but also to prove luxury does not have to compromise people or the planet. Umberto’s most valued piece of advice, “don’t give up what you want most for what you want now”, is something we wholeheartedly agree with.
What made you start Yatay?
Three years ago, I realised that if I wanted to buy a sneaker I was forced to choose between quality and sustainability. At that moment no brand was offering a product embedding the two. Together with my brother I decided to create Yatay to prove that “Made in Italy” and contemporary design can coexist while still respecting the environment.
What has been the most challenging thing you have uncovered since the beginning?
Our greatest challenge has been finding the best supplier for every single component of the shoe. A sneaker is indeed composed of not only upper, lining and sole. There are so many details in it. Our mission has been ensuring that all of them were sustainable. Mission achieved.
Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is ‘who made my clothes?’. In the scope of Yatay, who made your footwear? Can you tell us a bit about them?
When we had to outsource our factory work, we knew we wanted a partner that ensured a living wage and safe working conditions. So many clothing manufacturers today do not mind their workers’ rights and needs and in any way we would have been that kind of company. We therefore appointed a family run company based in the Italian region of Marche with twenty years’ experience in the footwear industry.
Why did you pick the fabrics or materials that you have chosen to work with?
I’ve set up an R&D team within Coronet specifically for this task. Coronet has been the leader for 51 years now in the production of highly advanced footwear materials and had previously developed eco-friendly fabrics. It just came naturally to me to move forward with conceiving a new sustainable fabric for the shoe’s upper that had a nice look and feel.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
“Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.”
What is something others wouldn’t know about starting an ethical business that you think they should?
In fashion it implies much more time than a standard one. But gives proportional satisfactions.
One tip you’d give to others who are wanting to start their own business?
Be persistent. When knowledge and ability aren’t enough, be persistent.
Where do you envision Yatay in the future?
We’d like Yatay to be part of the “Green Revolution” in the fashion industry. Not only in terms of aesthetic and production, but also for what concerns the lifestyle. Our main goal is that to prove that brands are nowadays able to achieve a genuine synergy between luxury and sustainability.
What or who inspires you to do what you do on a daily basis?
Being one of the main promoters of the green revolution of our generation.
Do you have a morning routine? If so, what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
I work out four times a week at 6am. It gives me energy and motivation for my workday.
One book everyone should read? Why?
Eating Animals by J.S. Foer. We know something is wrong with how completely estranged we are from the process that turns animals into product. We have that general feeling and we don’t want the specifics and don’t want to face being held accountable for what we know. The fact that someone decides to unveil what’s really happening within the production processes when everyone else is doing what they can to cover it up prompted me do my own bit.
One documentary everyone should watch? Why?
Netflix’s “The True Cost”. It gives you a totally unusual point of view of the fashion business.
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