Solana brings new life to plastic found in ocean

When each family generates around 551 pounds of plastic waste each year, it’s natural to want to do something about it. For Yasmine Idriss, Founder and Creative Director of Solana, she decided from the beginning of her shoe company that she wanted to make an impact with her product.

The soles of Solana shoes are speckled with a light-catching design. It’s one that resembles fish scales catching in the sunlight but just like fish scales, these specks come from the water. Each sole contains tiny bits of plastic that have been repurposed to create Solana shoes.

At the beginning of her Solana journey, though, it wasn’t easy trying to locate the right workshop to create the shoes. Initially, Yasmine wanted to use all-natural materials but everywhere she went, she was offered only an abundance of extra plastic. They traveled all over the world finally landing in Spain where her options opened up a bit more.

“When they showed us this outsole, it had speckles that looked like little bits of plastic that you would find in little turtle’s mouths in the ocean,” she said. “It was such a clear visual message and a bit of a slap in the face. But at the same time, it looked pretty. It was perfect, both a reminder of what needs to be changed and a cool design.” 

Solana’s atelier has a clean process that’s quite simple.

First, volunteers grab the plastic waste and take it to the factory where it’s thoroughly cleaned and treated. After that, the waste is turned into yarn to be used in fabrics. For soles of shoes, like Solana, the plastic bits are used to create a checkered pattern that gives it a sparkling appearance.

According to Yasmine, when the process was explained, it became clear that it was in line with the message she planned to send. 

“If we have enough of these little bits that we can make these outsoles for God knows how many shoes it would be a constant reminder of the use of plastic,” she said.

For Yasmine, it’s a sustainable step that’s been years in the making. Growing up near a  desert country, where everything is imported and water is desalinated, she didn’t consider recycling until later in life.

“I did not grow up with a recycling mentality at all,” she said. “At some point in my life, sustainability reached even the desert and parts of the world where that’s not something people thought about often.”

She spent summers by the sea and at first finding plastic there wasn’t as prevalent but as she grew older it became more and more commonplace.

So, she changed her lifestyle. Yasmine started recycling and stopped eating meat, taking a stand where she believed it was important. To this day, she strays away from contributing to fast fashion and instead only focuses on brands like Solana that adhere to the slow fashion process.

Fast fashion is a term used for clothing companies that constantly churn out styles from the runway to the store – enticing buyers and using too much energy. Conscious companies, like Solana, use a slow fashion process that uses less energy overall and often uses fabrics and materials that are recycled or safe for the environment.

“Why not? [If] someone gives me a fabric that is recycled and a fabric that is not and the difference is minimal,” Yasmine said. “Why wouldn’t I choose recycled?”

When talking about Solana shoes, Yasmine said, “[The shoes] will last a long time as they should and it’s a beautifully made product with a lot of intention behind it.”

That’s the goal, she said.

“How amazing would it be that you could wear a shoe for 5 years and then bury it in the ground and it dissolves,” she said. Even though Solana isn’t there quite yet – the journey to that type of shoe is sprinkled with material that won’t cause harm to the environment.

“What is made in our factory is the jute that is all-natural and doesn’t require much energy at all,” she said. “Handmade just fits with our story.”  

Solana isn’t just about preserving our world but the culture within it.

 “Clothing is clothing, and we all make choices about what kind we buy and what industries we support.”