Kanye West is launching Yeezy shoes made partially from algae.
West and Yeezy head designer Steven Smith recently unveiled a prototype for the Yeezy Foam Runners at the Fast Company Innovation Festival. The brand has made the shoes from harvested algae foam blended with ethylene-vinyl acetate.
Algae is a sustainable material choice. The aquatic organism grows fast, farmers can harvest it daily, and it absorbs CO2 as it grows.
According to Smith, Yeezy is starting to become more environmentally-friendly. “Eco concerns are intersecting with what we do,” he said at the event. “This is just the beginning of the future that Kanye envisioned for us to start working on and creating and challenged us to.“
‘Seed to Sole’
The brand’s HQ is now on a 4,000-acre ranch in Wyoming, where it will grow crops such as cotton and hemp. The HQ will also include a hydropronic farm. West said, “we’re going to be farming and going seed to sole.”
Not everyone was initially impressed with the new Foam Runners. Mashable reports the pair shown at the Innovation Festival were an “unappealing, washed-out beige.” According to West, the team is looking into this issue, but the brand is aware that the process of dyeing products has a huge impact on the planet.
The dyeing process uses a lot of water. Dye that doesn’t bind to fabric often runs into wastewater streams, becoming a source of toxic chemicals that can be harmful to local communities and aquatic life.
“[We’re] getting into how we can have less impact with the dyes because our color is a big signature of the brand,” said West. “But also dyeing is one of the main things that’s impacting the planet in the fashion industry. So just being responsible from A to Z in what happens.”
A number of footwear brands are creating new shoes out of sustainable, innovative materials. Nike Air Max 90 sneakers are made from upcycled sawdust, recycled foam, and cotton.
Other brands — like Italian company Womsh — have utilized apple leather, and some — like Dutch footwear brand Mercer Amsterdam — have created sneakers from Piñatex, a form of pineapple leather.
Yeezy’s algae-based Foam Runners will go on sale in early 2020 at $75 a pair.