Circular Economy : Parley Adidas shoe

Case study curated by Christopher Papadopoulos

The case study that I have chosen explores the ‘Parley’ organisation and movement, specifically their collaboration with worldwide sports brand Adidas on a sneaker that reuses plastic that has been collected from the ocean and is weaved into the upper of the shoe. The plastic that has been incorporated into the shoe consists of fishing wire and plastic waste that has been collected and reused in the threading of the shoe. The shoe also promotes Parley through the Adidas brand and reaches to an audience that would not have known about Parley before.

“We need to defend diversity on land and in the sea and we need solutions, and these solutions can only be realized by harnessing the imaginative side of human culture – the arts.”

Parley is an organisation that addresses the major threats towards our oceans. It encourages Artists, musicians, actors, filmmakers, fashion designers, journalists, architects, product inventors, and scientists to reshape the way they think and approach the development of business models and ecologically sensible products that will help give consumers an alternative option, an option that will help make an actual change. Parley has done various collaborations in the past, such as the Underwater Pavilion Collaboration with artist Doug Aitken that allows divers to swim through these installations and witness the damage done to our oceans.

However, I was intrigued more-so with the collaboration with Adidas in which Parley collected plastic that had been dumped in the ocean and repurposed or ‘reused’ this plastic by weaving it into the shoes knitted upper. The plastic that was collected mainly consisted of fishing line, and fishnet traps that were either floating around in the ocean or had washed up on shores around the world. The knit for the shoe was made using Adidas existing manufacturing process, except the synthetic fibres that were used originally were replaced by yarn made from recycled Parley Ocean Plastic. The aesthetic of the shoe also mimics ocean waves, keeping with the theme of the project and staying true to the idea behind the movement.

Adidas also only released 50 pairs of this shoe worldwide, released on the 8th of June (World Oceans Day) 2016 . The idea was for those who wanted the shoe had to earn it, not just purchase from a store. Those who wanted these pair of limited shoes had to enter a competition on Instagram, and had to submit a video which demonstrated their commitment to stop using plastic single-use items. This competition gave the concept behind the shoe merit, as it promoted the idea of reusing and being eco-friendly.

After releasing the first collaboration with Parley in 2016, Adidas released a new set of trainers with Parley. Reinventing the way they construct a shoe. Rather than simply overlay the plastic onto the knit, adidas weaved the plastic into the primeknit making it 95% Parley ocean plastic. Adidas used the UltraBOOST 3.0, UltraBOOST X, and UltraBOOST Uncaged silhouettes as part of the second collaboration with Parley. This Initiative by Adidas allows for Parley’s movement to reach a wider audience, and spread their ideals to demographics that they would not have reached normally. The collaborative effort shows Parley’s versatility and ability to make change in a variety of mediums, and Adidas’ willingness to promote a more eco friendly option for their consumer base.

The branch of Parley that worked with Adidas was the Parley A.I.R. strategy. Avoid plastic where possible, Intercept plastic waste, and Redesign the plastic economy.

“The Parley A.I.R. Strategy addresses the fast-growing and global threat of ocean plastic pollution based on the belief that plastic is a design failure, one that can only be solved if we reinvent the material itself. We all have a role to play in the solution.”

This summary on Parley’s website summarizes their movement quite well, explaining how the idea behind the movement is to rethink the way we design, taking reusability into account and recycling materials that have been dumped into the environment and cause harm to the eco-system. There is a collection of smaller initiatives that coincide with the Parley A.I.R. Strategy that helps remove the toxic plastic from the environment:

Global Cleanup Network – With an international network of partnerships, plastic is removed from coastlines across the world.

Ghostnet Retrieval – Fishnet traps that were dumped are retrieved from the ocean and coastlines and repurposed into signature products (i.e the Adidas Ultraboost collaborations)

Ocean Plastic Materials – The plastic waste that is collected is given to labs and material experts to turn it into fabric and yarn for the fashion and luxury industry, polymers for the beauty industry, or raw materials for use in packaging or construction.

Reinvent Plastic – Chemistry labs partnered with Parley are trying to create more eco friendly material alternatives to boost eco innovation.

Ocean Sentinels – Gathering a network of sailors and fleet owners to run water tests, trawl for ocean plastic and collect ocean data.

Microplastic Research – Consolidate existing knowledge and develop new tools and methods of stopping pollution on a microscopic level. Collecting plastic that has been broken down into small fibres and particles spread throughout the ocean.

Clean Waves – Collaborate with the surfing community to generate valuable data on ocean health, mobilize local communities and create solutions.

Parley Ocean School – Educational events that connect the next generation, today’s opinion leaders and executives with the sea so that they can become insiders and ambassadors for the Parley cause.

A.I.R. Implementation – Work closely with corporate partners, governments and nonprofit organizations to make the A.I.R. Strategy the new industry standard.

In conclusion, Parley and their collaboration with Adidas is a real life example of a movement that is taking initiative in the industry and acting as a catalyst to change the way products are made. Not only reusing materials and promoting reusability and a circular economy, but collecting pollution in our oceans and turning it into a luxury item. This proves that it is possible to create high end products out of recycled and repurposed materials without compromising quality. Not only is the shoe collaboration reusing materials and acting as an eco-friendly alternative, but the shoe itself promotes the notion of reusability and a circular economy.


Link Project: Pharrell Williams • G-Star Raw

A very similar case would be the Pharrell Williams collaboration with clothing brand G-Star Raw. In which the recycled plastic is turned to yarn and clothing items are then made. The plastic is used to create denim for the environmental clothing line. The fabrics used were developed by textile company Bionic yarn, as well as Parley. This case is very similar to the Adidas collaboration as they both consist of reusing plastic for yarn, which is turned into a fashion/clothing item.

Bionic Yarn, one of the collaborators from the previous case, is very similar to Parley for the Oceans. They collect plastic and turn that reclaimed waste into yarn that is then used to create various materials and polymers. Their slogan is “Stronger Thread. Greater Good.” Promoting the yarn itself, and and how the yarn that is developed from reclaimed plastic is stronger and of higher quality of regular thread. This proves that quality of material is not compromised by using recycled materials.