Inside a drawstring hand-loomed cinchsak, snug lying face to face like sleeping twins, I wondered whose hand was last to touch this pair of shoes, suddenly here at my front door in rainy Vancouver from a hot and dry country in North-East Africa.
soleRebels are based out of Ethiopia—where NGOs and charities abound but entrepreneurship that takes root on the land and grows there to its very tips are few and far between. This is a reality that founder Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu set out to change with soleRebels, aiming to empower the people and economy of Ethiopia while maintaining the highest sustainable standards on the planet.
“Ethiopia [and Africa] RICHLY deserve the profits – both physical + cultural + otherwise – that come from the direct deployment of our indigenous resources into world class finished products and brands,” Alemu says in a founder’s statement.
The pair of forest green tooTOOs xxYYY elite slip-ons I received could not have come at a better time—just as I prepared to head out on a long walk around the city (what better way to test a shoe than immediately pound it against the pavement?) Happy to find an alternative to Toms, I slipped like Cinderella into these beautiful booties created from pure hand loomed Abyssinian jute, a strong and durable material made from plant fibers, and a sole of recycled rubber car tire. The style nor the substance of my soleRebels disappointed in protecting me against Pacific NorthWest elements!
soleRebels employs locals to join in the creative process of designing and fabricating new versions of Ethiopia’s traditional “selate” and “barabasso” shoes into a variety of modern styles for men and women. All of their materials are local, natural, recycled and/or sustainable, and soleRebels is the world’s very first WFTO/IFAT Fair Trade certified footwear company.
“Today, Africa accounts for a mere two percent of global trade. If Sub-Saharan Africa were to increase that share by only one percent, it would generate additional export revenues each year greater than the total amount of annual assistance that Africa currently receives. And with your support we are doing just that! Now THAT is great reason for hope!”
A reason for hope and to shop all in one—can’t go wrong with that!