With Benefits is a series featuring for-benefit companies — for-profit models that inherently benefit social causes — written by Janette Crawford, founder of the consistently excellent ethical fashion daily Fashion Loves People.
SAWA puts it best: “Vote with your feet!” Meet four footwear brands that are manufactured exclusively by small-scale outfits, employing men and women who benefit directly from their work. As if spring needed any more feel-good.
Osborn Design Studios
Aaron Osborn met an out-of-work cobbler in Guatemala in 2007, when he was visiting the country where his family runs an orphanage. He realized the positive impact he could make through starting a fashion company there, and today a team of 30 artisans handcraft each pair of Osborn shoes outside of Guatemala City. Every shoe is signed by its maker.
Veja x French Trotters
Paris sneaker brand Veja was an early member of the ethical fashion set, using exclusively vegetable-tanned leathers since starting in 2006. The soles are made of wild Amazonian rubber, harvested in a way that helps fight deforestation, and the shoes are ethically manufactured in South Brazil at fair trade premium wages. Veja’s latest designer collaboration comes from French Trotters and are available as a pre-order now.
The Working World
Long before TOMS popularized this simple slip-on style, the alpargata (Spanish for espadrille) was invented in Argentina in the late 19th century as a jute-soled canvas shoe preferred by laborers. The style has of course evolved, but brands like The Working World keep up the tradition of good craftsmanship with fair pay. And the cherry on top is that they go to lengths to educate their customers about it.
“With most products you buy, at least 80% of the price goes to marketing and branding — convincing you that you need the product, and telling slick stories about the company’s ‘identity’ and ‘values,'” The Working World says. Their model changes that equation, with more than half of the final cost of the shoes going to their manufacturing cooperative (as broken down dollar-by-dollar on each product page).
As I’ve written about here before, SAWA Shoes are the first 100% African-sourced and African-made sneakers on the market, with raw materials sourced from coast to coast. The brand’s three founders know their suppliers and manufacturers personally. The shoes are featured now in Edun’s F/W 2011 lookbook, and new for this spring, they come in four new colorways (though some are only available in stores).
About the author:
Janette Crawford is a blogger, journalist and copywriter, focusing on stories about good design with a good backstory. She writes about ethical fashion (that loves you back) at FashionLovesPeople.com and supports indie artists of all kinds through her day job at Storenvy.com. If you sign up for Janette’s RSS feed and follow her on Twitter, Flickr and Vimeo, she’ll love you forever.