Meet Solana—the Culturally Inspired, Consciously Made Shoe Brand
Are you taking any steps to make our world a better place?
Yasmine Idriss, founder of Solana, has made it her mission to create a sustainable shoe brand that benefits the world. Instead of using wasteful materials and production processes, she instead leads a sustainable way of living. We were so intrigued that we needed to know more. Keep reading for our full interview with Yasmine Idriss, founder of the culturally inspired and consciously made shoe brand, Solana!
Sweety High: Tell us a little bit about yourself! What prompted you to start Solana?
Yasmine Idriss: Solana is the result of my life's journey so far. My family roots are in Syria, but my parents grew up in Lebanon, and I grew up in Saudi Arabia. I attended high school in Europe and university in the U.S. I was French-educated and learned a fourth language in middle school. I never had a solid identity to grab onto and, although that was frustrating at times, I now see that it was a blessing in disguise.
Not having a strong allegiance to one place allowed me to appreciate each place for what it was, really noticing what made it unique, what set it apart. I grew an appreciation for these so-called "foreign" places. Sometimes, I would even sense a feeling of familiarity in a place I'd never visited before. Having been formed by my travels, I realized early on that there's a common humanity that unites us all as human beings. I understood that under the veneer of our cultural norms, we're not that different from one another, and Solana was born from this idea. We exist to create a cleaner, more culturally aware planet.
SH: What sets you apart from other sustainable fashion/shoe brands?
YI: I think our motto says it all: culturally inspired, consciously made. We're a brand that promotes cultural awareness while striving to create the highest quality shoe with the lowest possible ecological footprint. My goal is for Solana to inspire and speak to the pioneers of the future. We're saying, "Let's be kinder to one another, let's build a world where we care less about arbitrary borders drawn on a map, and more about each other's well-being and the wellbeing of our planet." I fully recognize that climate change is the underlying problem beneath a lot of world issues, from resource scarcity to communities being displaced. I believe that now more than ever is the time for humanity to come together to overcome this common challenge.
SH: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
YI: For our shoes, I draw my inspiration from the culture that we're featuring! As part of our model, I travel to that country and spend time getting to know the place and the people. I try to experience it as authentically as possible. To me, this means both "seeing the sights," as they say, while experiencing a deeper sense of the local way of life. Having learned several languages, this is something I value because each place has its own way of thinking—its own philosophy. Mostly when traveling to these places, I just let myself be carried away with whatever comes, trying to say yes to the unforeseen without being too rigid. It usually comes easily on these trips. Back home, when I get stressed, I often try to recall how easygoing I am on my travels—how simple life can be. I know it's an oversimplification, but it does help!
Specifically regarding the design process, I usually start with the senses—how did the palace make me feel, what scents intrigued me, what colors caught my eye, what was the energy like, what sounds seemed unique?
SH: Where do you source materials? What materials do you use?
YI: We use only vegan, natural and recycled materials. For the upper of our shoes, we work with local fabric sellers in the south of Spain who have built a network of sustainable fabric makers from all over the world. We like to work this way because all our materials are certified recycled, and we know exactly where everything comes from and how it's made. For our soles, we use natural jute, which is the traditional material used for espadrilles. Like hemp, it grows abundantly and is a sustainable material. Our outsoles are made with a mix of recyclable plastic and bits of plastic that have been removed from the ocean by volunteers. The latter accounts for about 12% of the outsole. I'm really excited about the visual we've created. The recycled bits of plastic offer a unique pattern for every shoe that's always different. The plastic also stands as a visual reminder of what our oceans look like.
SH: What are some of your most popular shoes?
YI: That's a tricky question because we only have seven designs at the moment. As a new company, we don't want to overextend our production. And as part of our sustainable efforts, we want to avoid being wasteful, so we've kept our runs small in order not to overproduce.
We're finding that the favorites change seasonally. Through winter, Sumatra ($180) and Borneo ($180) were popular because of their material and colors. Sumatra is black and made with a recycled velvet and Borneo has muted tones. As spring nears, we're finding more interest in our mules and brighter espadrilles, like the Gili ($165). Even though espadrilles are thought of as a one-season-shoe, our espadrilles and mules are handcrafted with impeccable attention to detail that ensures they will last for years. Quality is a critical part of our model because a lot of mass-produced espadrilles last one season, which is not sustainable. For us, handcrafted means intentionality and the transition to more conscious living, which we believe will ultimately drive the world's transition to sustainability.
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