3 Questions for FYE’s Emmanuel Cortez

For Emmanuel Cortez, starting a sustainable sneaker brand was a step in the right direction.

Cortez, a 10-year sneaker industry veteran who works for Italian sportswear company Kappa, decided to try his hand at a greener sneaker production in 2008. Last year, he launched For Your Earth, a eco-focused sneaker brand for men and women that is produced from within Kappa’s offices in Nantes, France.

“I decided to create the [brand] with the goal to try to make things better, or at least to give to the consumer the right to choose,” he said.

FYE offers high- and low-top styles for men and women, with most styles retailing between 50 and 70 euros. Today, FYE shoes are sold online (last week, the brand launched its first Facebook e-shopping site) and in specialty boutiques in France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. Cortez said he’d like to expand into the U.S. in future, preferably with a partner already established in the sustainability market.

Here, Cortez tells Footwear News about what makes FYE green, talking to consumers and what it will take for green shoes to take off.

1. What are the main eco-friendly attributes of your shoes?
EC: We started with organic cotton, but it was very difficult to find. Now, we use mostly recycled PET — we use it for the upper and the lining. It satisfies [our green criteria] and we can use a large number of colors. We don’t want to use leather. We’ve also had the chance to use [recycled] ultrasuede. We want [the product] to be easy to recycle, so we don’t want to use metallic eyelets — you can do embroidery to replace the eyelets. [We also combine recycled rubber we collect for the outsoles] with natural rubber and also synthetic rubber for a longer life. We don’t want to make soles that would be destroyed in two weeks. These aren’t just for fashion; [we want] them to have a long life.

2. What role does the green attributes of the product play in your marketing and presentation of the shoes?
EC: We don’t want to focus only on the [green side of the] project. The key is to seduce people with the shoes, with the look. It’s a part of the brand, but it is not the front door. We are targeting conscientious customers but not only [them].

3. What will it take for green products to resonate with shoppers?
EC: If we find good solutions to produce eco-friendly products at reasonable prices then we have a chance. We also need a distributor that is able to explain [eco-friendly] products and projects.

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