Nera Enters the Luxury Sneaker Market Offering High-End Footwear With a Sustainable Edge

The luxury sneaker market has a new player.

After roughly three years of development, James Yip and Lucas DiPietrantonio are ready to introduce Nera, a brand focused on delivering luxury sneakers that are designed for everyday wear.

“Across the board, we’re starting to see casual luxury-wear really take over. You can see this just by walking into any high-end footwear boutique in SoHo [New York]. And sneakers are right in the center of that trend,” DiPietrantonio told FN. “People like the versatility and flexibility of being able to wear sneakers with anything. We knew we wanted to be in this space for that reason and wanted to tap into that versatility and release something that is able to change contexts easily. But the way we are approaching that story as a brand is very different from what I have seen in the market.”

Nera’s sneakers are handmade in Abruzzo, Italy, using premium materials, featuring a heavy influence from motorsport and car culture.

“I have been fascinated with exotic cars since childhood. Nothing captured my attention more than seeing and hearing an approaching sports car. Cars played central roles in the movies and TV shows that I watched growing up — I was really captivated by the Ferraris in ‘Miami Vice’ and the Aston Martins in ‘James Bond.’ This became the driving influence when Lucas and I sat down to discuss building Nera,” Yip explained. “During the design process, we thought of ways of combining automotive design elements with contemporary footwear design trends. We have pops of material similarities in the shoe, which we will continue to build on as the brand matures.”

Nera Montana
The Nera Montana.
CREDIT: Nera/Thomas Welch

What’s more, Yip and DiPietrantonio described Nera’s shoes as being made ethically. The co-founders stated they source ethically and aim to reduce Nera’s carbon footprint by producing just a few hundred pairs of each style.

“As a relatively small company, we are using ethical supply chains as a guiding light in our operational process and will continue to improve as we mature as a business,” Yip said. “Starting the brand, it was important for us to establish an ethical supply chain with fair labor conditions and working wages. I think we’ve got much more than that with the factory we’re working with. It looks like a chemistry lab.”

DiPietrantonio added, “We still have a long way to go on this front, but we wanted to provide a direct way for sneaker lovers to support the century old tradition of Italian shoemaking in an industry where a lot of major players — and large fashion houses — are moving to cheaper labor in Asia. We didn’t want that for Nera, even though a lot of the luxury players that charge a much higher price point — with objectively lesser quality products — are moving in this direction. For us, it’s about paying homage to Italy and producing with a slow-wear mentality, bringing small quantities back and focusing on quality.”

Model with pairs of Nera luxury sneakers laced up.
CREDIT: Nera/Thomas Welch

Nera will debut with four looks — Montana, Panda, Marmo and Enzo — with prices ranging from $250 to $330. The looks will release via Nerashop.com.

DiPietrantonio told FN that Nera footwear will be exclusively e-commerce for the launch of the brand, however Yip said there have been discussions to work with strategic retail partners down the road. 

“While e-commerce is our jumping off point, we have discussed retail at length. What it comes down to is we are hyper-specific about who might carry our shoes and want to be sure we align with the right partners,” Yip said. “We have identified some great potential places for the brand and are in some preliminary talks.”

But Nera is launching in uncertain economic times. The coronavirus still has much of the world living with restrictions, and performance footwear has taken center stage.

Despite this, the co-founders aren’t overly worried.

“When we started the brand, we obviously had no idea that a pandemic would be in the cards. It was definitely a surprise and something we were concerned about,” Yip said. “However, our strategy was always digital-first and e-commerce has seen an incredible uptick in the past year. I think it’s now played to our advantage.”

Looking ahead, Yip revealed Nera’s goals for both the short- and the long-term.

“In the short term, we are eager to hear the response from the market and are excited to get these out into the hands of our customers. We have a number of exciting new releases, special drops and collaborations that will come out this year,” Yip said. “In the future, we hope to lean into our design methodology of creating footwear for specific environments and locations. Ultimately, we are designing for a particular lifestyle, and generally want to continue to release products that people want to wear. That’s the main goal. We want to continue making a range of contemporary re-interpreted footwear and apparel products that reflect our ethos.”

A model in Nera shoes.
CREDIT: Nera/Thomas Welch

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