Monday, March 17, 2014

Interview with African Handmade Shoes

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Totally inspiring statement, right?

As you already know, I have become quite a passionate sustainable brands' hunter. As I discovered that the team behind African Handmade Shoes, this super young brand which works with skilled African shoemakers comes from my hometown Lugano (Switzerland), I simply had to ask for an interview. Discovering that one of the founders was Mary, a girl that I met years ago at school was, needless to say, a terrific surprise. 

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Here's the interview she dedicated to GvN Style Blog:  

Thank you so much Mary for giving this interview. I am super curious. How did your Swiss-African adventure start and what is the story behind your shoes?

Our adventure started with Paul, my boyfriend and first founder of African Handmade Shoes, totally by chance. During one of his trips to Capetown, in 2007, he met Arnold, our main shoemaker and designer, and became good friends. Arnold is a Zimbabwean shoemaker, but what Paul found particularly interesting and fascinating is that he and Arnold both shared a huge desire to learn new things, to grow professionally and from a human point of view and, last but not least, to make a change where there are difficult circumstances by doing something concrete!

What kind of shoes do you do? What’s so special about them?

At the beginning, we started by doing handmade leather shoes. Nowadays, consumers are accustomed to buy mass production shoes. Therefore, the first thing that made us thinking about opening a business in Africa was the handmade quality that Arnold’s shoes had. Let’s be honest: wearing a handmade shoe gives you a special feeling that a normal shoe just can't. These shoes have a personality of their own and they become even more beautiful as you wear them day after day.
The new collection is going to be an explosion: fresh and young, perfect for summer! I invite you and your readers to stay tuned and follow us through our social media channels until the 1st of May.

We certainly will! 
How did you decide to create a socially conscious brand and what is the policy of African Handmade Shoes?

African Handmade Shoes was born from the idea of “doing” and “creating”. We are collaborating with our artisans creating a bond between Africa and Switzerland. By working on these shoes, both the designers and the craftsmen can actually grow up, learn a lot and build their future.

Tell me more about the craftsmen and all the people who work on the project
. Who are these artists?

On the one side there are Arnold, Collin and Aleck, three brothers who carry on the knowledge inherited by their family back in their homeland: Zimbabwe. However, they are also developing their own skills by researching and by working really hard. They are becoming very successful in South Africa! On the other side, there are the assistants who are willing to become shoemakers. What is important to our team is to pass the tricks of the trade to the next assistant so that the craftsmanship can be preserved. Therefore, the environment in the workshop is very exciting: every day is a new challenge for everyone.

What do you think about the current status of sustainable fashion in the fashion business and in the eyes of the consumer? What is your perspective on its development and what do you see in the future of this branch?
 
Nowadays, it is actually becoming counter-productive to work in the fashion business without at least trying to be sustainable. Not really because it is “cool” to be socially and environmentally conscious, but because people are understanding more and more that planet earth is one and one only and therefore it’s worth not to mess everything up for materiality. There is one important thing that we have learned by building up this business: only by cooperating and by working and walking together there is the chance to change the world.

Amen girl! 
Tell me, what are your next goals and dreams for the brand?

We want to rock this summer! And in the future we want to open a shop in Capetown!


What would you suggest to other enterprising people who would like to start a business in sustainable fashion?

We suggest to start today! Every detail is a step in the learning process; every day is a challenge and be sure to have a good team.

Where can we buy your precious shoes?

They will available from the 1st of May on our website. Visit it now for the countdown!
 
Is there anything else you would like to convey to the people reading this interview?

We are waiting for you! Are you wild enough?

Sounds like a plan to me!

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Pictures - Courtesy of African Handmade Shoes

1 comment:

  1. Love the african textile patterns, it reminds me of BRABBU and their inspiration and world cultures. Many of their inspirations come from places in Africa. Do you already know the brand? www.brabbu.com

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