Humanity of a shoe | Oliberté

I was tempted to merge FEIT and Oliberté in one single post, but althought there are similarities (handmade premium quality shoes) the business model  which these two companies are using is very different.

FEIT is a niche product, Oliberté is a mass market one. FEIT appeals to uniqueness, Oliberté to social responsibility.

Oliberté has been recently published by GOOD. Here’s an abstract of the article:

Tal Dehtiar started Oliberté in 2009, and sales increased from a mere 200 pairs initially to 10,000 in 2011. He projects sales of between 20,000 and 25,000 this year.

“At Oliberté, we believe Africa can compete on a global scale,” he says, “but it needs a chance. It doesn’t need handouts or a hand up. It needs people to start shaking hands and companies to start making deals to work in these countries.”

Oliberté shoes are stitched and assembled in Ethiopia with leather sourced from local free-range cows, sheep, and goats—the default in a country with many herders whose livelihoods depend upon ranging wherever grass may be. The livestock haven’t been injected with hormones to speed their growth, a common practice in other parts of the world. The result is a light, limber, yet sturdy upper.

The shoes feature crepe rubber soles made from natural rubber processed in Liberia and lined with soft, breathable goat leather. This spring, the company will expand its line to offer leather bags and accessories, some of which will be sourced in Kenya and made in Zambia. It produces woven labels and other branding materials in the African island nation Mauritius.

Oliberté—the name melds “liberty” with the “O” from the anthem of Dehtiar’s home country—employs workers at factories selected because they pay relatively high wages, provide employee benefits like subsidized lunches, and employ women as about half of their workforces. The company plans to open its own factory in Addis Ababa in March while maintaining production at its existing third-party plants. It distributes across North America and Europe and sells online.

Reading about Oliberté history and mission statement is really interesting. Many are the companies that chose to have a niche production in Africa, but few of them are doing it  ” to support that growing middle class by building a world class footwear brand that can create thousands of jobs and also encourages manufacturers from other industries to work in Africa”.

I really wish that Oliberté is a pioneer of what will be become mainstream in the next future.

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