This Italian Footwear Brand Is Making High-End Sneakers Out of Pythons, Carp, and Other Invasive Species

The company claims that "with every three pairs of Bali Pythons, we're able to protect more than 160 native animals in the Everglades"
Katie Hill Avatar
invasive species shoes
Behold the Bali Python, an Italian sneaker made with Burmese pythons removed from the Florida Everglades. Photograph by P448 / via Instagram

When Florida’s Burmese python hunters remove the giant snakes from the Everglades, they’re helping protect the fragile ecosystem of America’s largest tropical wilderness. They can make money in the process, too, as the state has been paying licensed contractors to catch and kill pythons since 2017. But there’s also a growing market for these snakes (along with other invasive species) in the luxury fashion industry.

In February, Italian footwear brand P448 launched the latest iteration of their sustainable shoe line, a sneaker made with Burmese python skin. The brand also uses leather from other invasive species that are currently wreaking havoc on North America’s native fish and wildlife. In 2022, they launched their first line of invasive species sneakers featuring lionfish leather. The next shoe in the lineup boasted grass carp leather. 

P448 proudly refers to the lineup as “the first-to-market line of sneakers” crafted from repurposed invasive species. The brand uses the exotic leathers as accents, and the rest of the uppers are made of mostly recycled suede. P448 did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on how it sources the invasive species, but its website alludes to the pythons coming straight from the Everglades.

A Florida python hunter with a Burmese python skin.
P448 works with licensed python removal contractors like Donna Kalil (pictured) to source the snakes that are used to make the sneakers.

Photo by P448 / via Instagram

“By removing Burmese pythons from the Everglades, we’re helping to preserve native species, their resources and their environment,” P448 writes on its Project Sustainabily page. “With every three pairs of Bali Pythons, we’re able to protect more than 160 native animals from the Everglades.”

The leather for the John Lionfish sneakers is also made with lionfish removed from Florida waters, according to P448, which says that every pair of the shoes helps protect “up to 70,000 native reef fish” in the Florida Keys.

In a recent Instagram post, P448 mentions working with Donna Kalil, a licensed python removal contractor based in the Everglades, to source its Burmese pythons. The post explains that “nearly one-quarter of the 538 Burmese pythons removed from the Everglades over the course of a year” are repurposed into Bali Python sneakers. A follow-up post features a video with Kalil, where she explains why it’s important that the shoes are made from Florida pythons and not snakes sourced from overseas.

The luxury fashion industry has always been mildly obsessed with python leather. One could drop $2,895 on this pair of Burmese python boots, or $980 on this black top-handle python bag. And although the Bali Pythons, with a price tag of $595, are still cost prohibitive for some, the brand’s focus on repurposing invasive species is something that many consumers are willing to support. It’s also part of a larger industry-wide effort to advance the meaning of “sustainable” fashion. 

“A big part of sustainability is creating value from new materials, thus rethinking what we know as luxury,” StreetTrend LLC founder and executive chairman Wayne Kulkin said in a PR Newswire press release, referring to the new line of python sneakers. StreetTrend LLC purchased P448 outright in 2020, with help from minority shareholder Mark Wahlberg, who invested in the brand in 2022.   

Read Next: Florida Python Trackers Remove Two Giant Mating Balls in Record Day of Snake Hunting

Burmese pythons are an ideal target for P448’s sustainability campaign because of the notoriety they’ve gained in Southern Florida. The large snakes have put a huge dent in regional populations of raccoons, opossums, and bobcats in the Everglades, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report. They also eat deer, alligators, and birds.  

A breeding population of Burmese pythons first appeared in the Everglades in 2000, according to a report from the University of California Berkeley. Their populations exploded from there, and by 2016, a population estimate put the number of Burmese pythons in Florida somewhere between 30,000 and 150,000. 

That’s a lot of sneakers.