Meet Patxi Sota, Product Design Director at El Naturalista
We are proud to be working with El Naturalista. Thanks to this collaboration we have been able to create a comfortable and resistant high-quality shoe in Spain.
What led you to innovating in sustainable footwear?
Since we started back in 1998 sustainability has been part of El Naturalista’s DNA. Searching for new materials and designing in the most eco-friendly and honest way, drawing inspiration from nature, is integral to each of our models.
Which challenges do you face when designing and manufacturing sustainable footwear?
Finding the balance between the materials we use whilst offering a wide and diverse collection. We need more than 30 different components when manufacturing a pair of shoes, and quite often the most sustainable options are not the most durable or quality ones. We aim for a balance between sustainability, comfort, quality and durability. Our brand philosophy is to make our footwear last as long as possible.
What do you think makes El Naturalista stand out from other footwear brands? What makes you unique?
Our inspiration comes from nature, and the soles of our products are unique; they always tell a story in which the texture is part of the design. We have a model called Angkor, with a rocky pattern that radiates nature; our Borago soles have some starflower leaves that create a unique texture; the texture of our Yggdrasil models recreates the bark of the Tree of Life, and so on.
What would you emphasise of your collaboration with Canussa?
Our connection and our shared passion when striving to achieve an honest product. The continuous communication flow and our enthusiasm for working with others have also been remarkable.
Since we met, this union and esteem have created, as I like to say, a great travel companion.
Why do you consider yourself a sustainable brand?
We try to be sustainable from the very beginning. When we think of a new product we search for a theme for its sole and we incorporate and test the new materials and technologies. Usually the improvements in sustainability come from other industrial sectors or from the textile world, as in these areas they are easier to achieve than in the footwear industry.
I like to say that we are eco-friendly, because many times, at the end of its lifecycle, a less ‘sustainable’ product has proven to be superior to a supposedly better one. How does one measure a product’s sustainability? Do we believe everything we’re told? How is everything certified in a fair manner, from the origin of each material to its production, the logistics, its social impact? What effect does the offshoring of the production have? And so on.
This may sound confusing, but it’s a subject in which nothing is black and white. We want to be transparent and tell our brand philosophy, creation process, materials, and strive to make our footwear meet any person’s expectations for a long time, so when they buy one of our products they feel they have paid a fair price for it. Quality, comfort, durability, price and satisfaction are the main values of our brand.
What does your collaboration with Save the Med consist of?
Sea Project and Save the Med stem from an idea, a collaboration, with a friend, Alfonso, who runs Innovarty, an innovation consulting firm, his concern for the environment and his love for the Mediterranean. Sea Project is the creation of a sneaker that is ground-breaking in its use of recycled and eco-friendly materials. For instance, the soles of these sneakers contain recovered fishing nets, and use a fabric made with seaweed. The reinforcements are biodegradable and with components made with recycled wood, cotton and PET. But the main thing is that by purchasing our shoes, customers are collaborating with Save the Med. Save the Med will soon have an office on the Costa Blanca and El Naturalista will make its first contribution towards awareness and conservation of the Mediterranean Sea.
Do you think it’ll be possible to create totally circular footwear? Which challenges do you face?
Our main challenge is to create circular footwear. We are working on it, and are going to start a European project in order to establish how to do so. The difficult part is making anything we want to do exportable to the whole word; if that is not achieved, circularity will never be a reality.