The Ethiopian artisan footwear, soleRebels have recently opened its first store in Spain in Barcelona. Founded by Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu in 2004, soleRebel has become Africa’s largest footwear brand selling in 55 countries and is the first Ethiopian IFAT Fair Trade footwear firm.The brand is now stocked by many leading retailers including Urban Outfitters, Whole Foods, Amazon and Endless, among many other web retailers. soleRebels b*knd label is for vegans and veggies and can be found at UK veg-friendly shoe retailer Veganline.
Alemu’s idea was to create jobs in her community, Zenabwork, a small village near Addis Ababa. She has become one of Africa’s celebrated businesswomen, featured on the front of Forbes Magazine in January 202 and was selected as “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum 2011. In June 2012 Alemu also won the award for “Most Outstanding Businesswoman” at the annual African Business Awards, organised by African Business Magazine.
The shoes are made by hand from recycled materials and are designed to create a fusion between the heritage of the eco-sensitive indigenous peoples and the artisan talents typical of Ethiopia and share these with the rest of the world, according to the company. Taking old tradition and adding the twist of new contemporary design, Alemu has taken age-old recycling and elevated it to new heights by marrying it with Ethiopian artisan crafts and modern design sensibilities. soleRebels has achieved all this by re-imagining the traditional barabasso shoe, a traditional recycled tire sole shoe found in Ethiopia for generations. soleRebel footwear range includes sandals, flip flops and shoes with soles all made from recycled car tires.
Alemu’s success with soleRebels derived from the from being assured that Ethiopia is ready to transit from being reliant on foreign aid from being able to direct its economic future by using utilizing home grown skills, resources and business opportunities.
“We decided to create the ‘better life’ we were all waiting for by harnessing our community’s incredible artisan skills and channeling them into a sustainable, global, fair trade, footwear business”, Alemu.
soleRebel have always been proud of their production process using many traditional inputs like heritage organic Ethiopian cottons which they source from small scale cotton farmers and then spin and loom by hand. soleRebels are pioneers and big proponents of producer direct Fair Trade where there is no middleman to absorb profits. They do this with many global customers including Amazon.com, Endless.com, Urban Outfitters and Whole Foods to whom they ship directly, handling all the account functions- from order intake, to production, media, marketing and invoicing- in-house right at their headquarters in Ethiopia, by themselves.
SoleRebels first store on Spain opened its doors on July 3rd and is located in the Gracia area of Barcelona, Calle Asturias 47.
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