So I just stumbled, via a friend, on a very interesting and rather rad new find and just had to share.

The lowdown?

Brand: Oliberté

Product: Kick ass kicks

Leather: African.

Rubber: African.

Mad handcrafting skills: Ethiopian.

Ethos: World class footwear brand that can create thousands of jobs and encourages manufacturers from other industries to work in Africa.

The stitchdown: Invented in Africa.

The last component probably needs a bit of explaining. The stitchdown is how the upper leather is stitched to the midsole and sole of the shoe. Apparently, it makes for a rugged vibe and water resistant function. It also defines a shoe that is made to last. (Above, a Oliberté team member shows how it’s done.)

But Oliberté won’t claim fame for the African stitchdown.  Apparently, so the story goes, the Khoisan, who were the first inhabitants of the sub-Saharan African bush, and who still live amid the arid land today, totally rocked their traditional   footwear.

The European settlers in the area observed the construction and incorporated it into their own simple shoe style that could hold up to their settler lifestyle and tough terrain – prickly acacia trees, arid plains, high grasses.

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So was born a shoe known in Africaans as “the Veldtschoen,” which translates roughly to “bush” (veldt in Afrikaans) “shoe” (schoen in old Dutch) and is simplified to “vellie”.

The vellie is now a staple shoe style in both South Africa and Namibia. Outside of Africa, it became widely known with its desert boot debut for WWII – this time on British soldiers.

In parts of East Africa, it’s known as the safari boot. In the 1960s, it found a new home with beatnik generation in the US. Chukka boots, vellies, desert boots, safari boots – all these styles celebrate the stitchdown to this day.

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Now Oliberté are making it their own and adding street flair to the style which is seen as totally gnarly by most self respecting dandies and dandettes.

What’s more interesting to us however at Afritorial is the ‘feel good’ factor in Oliberté. Theirs is apparently the world’s first Fair Trade Certified footwear manufacturing factory. Since its launch in 2009, Oliberté has shared  the dream of the creating cool materials and harnessing great talent while supporting sustainable jobs.  They say it hasn’t been easy but so far, they’ve been lucky enough to find great people, great sources of rubber/leather and factories already at work in Ethiopia that treat their workers well and make outstanding product.

The round-up: Gnarly! http://www.oliberte.com

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About The Author

Afritorial

Neva is a storyteller and media strategist with a background in PR, film, advertising and digital marketing who is passionate about technology, new media and the endless possibilities of the social and mobile sphere. Read more about her on our 'About Us' page.

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