SOLE SERIES RECAP - The Designers Studio TDS Voices - online fashion magazine connecting you to the world of fashion and design in Kenya and Africa

How can one truly start to recap three months of the most amazing shoe designers and footwear innovations? Not sure, but we will give it a shot. When we started this series, we decided to do 3 months because we found so much on shoe designers on the continent that we couldn’t possibly squeeze it into 2 months. Essentially, we got greedy. Can you blame us? What has truly come out from this is that my shoe collection is extremely boring and I that I have a large selection to choose from on the continent and inspiration from other parts of the world. Granted they are spread out over the continent but at least I now know where to get them and if I happen to be in Senegal, for example, then I know which brand to look for.

SOLE SERIES RECAP - The Designers Studio TDS Voices - online fashion magazine connecting you to the world of fashion and design in Kenya and Africa

It all started here. Let’s take a journey through the different countries we have covered and travel the continent in awesome shoes. Here are a few of our favourite stories these past three months. I must begin, however, with the fundamentals presenting the 8 steps to becoming a shoe designer where we are reminded that the footwear industry is no joke. The global market for footwear brings in $52.1 billion in annual revenue and is projected to hit $371.8 billion in 2020. For those of you inspiring to be or are already shoe designers, this article shares with you tips to becoming a shoe designer such as doing your research, utilising technology to get your ideas into reality like 3D design and knowing the key players. In case you missed it, find out more here.

“Keeping the passion to design, solve and materialise your ideas is what will get you through the ebbs and flows of your career.”

We love featuring innovations and innovations in high heels, we are all ears. We covered YaCHAIKA brand, where the Associate Professor at Tokyo’s Chuo University Research and Development Organization, Yasuyuki Yamada, who took on the task of answering the question all women want answered: how can I wear high heels without killing myself to look good? The answer? A shock absorber inspired high heel to give you the comfort you would experience in wearing a pair of tennis shoes. Would you rock these high heels? See more on these shoes in motion here.

Anrealage [Image: YaCHAIKA]

There are more innovative solutions and one that we found most appealing was the adjustable height solution. We featured two companies. Mime et Moi from Germany who have created a range of shoes that come with seven different detachable heels. This solves the problem of having to carry two pairs of shoes, the flat ones for walking around, commuting, driving and the second for the official look. Now you can just switch the heel. Isn’t that great? Watch it here and see how this works. That is not all, the company Gena has created heels that at the touch of a button adjusts in height. This took former accountant, Cherre Hermogena Eng five years to develop this line and boy aren’t we thankful. Technology is truly a marvel. I think this could solve everyone’s heel problems by providing comfort and convenience. Check it out here.

[Image: Courtesy of GENA]

Now, let us head out to Uganda where 3 bold women decided to launch in the footwear business by launching Sseko Designs. This for-profit with a conscious company has become one of Uganda’s largest footwear manufacturers; currently employing 50 women in Uganda. In addition, Sseko Designs (Sseko means “laughter” in Luganda) has enabled 100 women to pursue their university education. What has really made them stand out is in creating the ribbon and t-strap sandals. These leather sandals come with interchangeable fabric straps and accents that can be styled and tied in numerous ways making this shoe experience highly personalised. Check out the video about the brand here.

[Image: Amin Bendriss Photography]

On the other side of the continent, we fell in love with the Senegalese brand Nio Far, which means “We are together” in Wolof. El Hadji Malick Badii, the founder of Nio Far, works with mud based fabric called ‘Bògòlanfini’ (often referred to as Bògòlan) to create contemporary footwear. Culture meets modernity with his collection of sneaks called “Nnéma” which means comfort. This brand works exclusively with local craftsmen in Dakar to create these handmade sneakers to not only encourage the development of Senegalese craftsmen but to also encourage fair trade. There is more to these slow fashion made sneakers including hand-woven messaging into the mud cloth (read up on how these sneaks are made here).

[Image: Courtesy of MONAA]

Still sticking to West Africa, let us travel south to Ghana where Monaa sandals changed our lives. Created by two sisters, Nana and Afua Dabanka, MONAA is a footwear label that was started in 2013 by German-born Ghanaian sisters, inspired by the Ghanaian culture that all started because of their father’s handmade leather Ohenema slippers. Their sandals are the perfect fusion of Ghanaian culture, incorporating colour and print, and modernity in construction making you feel both with it and at home. How did they create these sandals? Read up on these sisters here.

Oliberté is the first Fair Trade Certified footwear brand manufactured in Ethiopia and created by Tal Dehtiar. This company not only sources other materials from around the continent but also maintains transparency in the shoe making process, where the materials come from and who made the shoe, they also ensure that they work with the best suppliers encapsulating their best practices and values of social responsibility. They also want their consumer to be socially conscious. Thus, they highlight the entire 32 step process from the design state to the lace-tying stage on their website. On top of all this, their shoes are pretty dope.

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Ladies, foldable flats. That’s it. Thando’s launched in 2014 in Nigeria. Thando is the Xhosa word for love and they’ve found different ways to emulate this meaning throughout their brand including how we luuurrrv them. Convenience and comfort all in one. There are so many great things about this shoe; it’s small, light-weight, foldable, the insole is made form a unique memory foam, it’s machine washable. I mean really? What is not to “thando” about this shoe? (haha…am sorry for the rather cheesy pun but it was right there…I had to). Which one would you pick? Check them out here.

[Image: Thandos]

We can’t leave out the cutest shoes ever; heading all the way down South, footwear brand from South Africa ‘Myang’ (pronounced “me-yang’) based in Port Elizabeth (PE) gives our little ones fashion statements. Sarah Massey-Hicks, a talented designer, officially founded Myang in 2012 inspired by the birth of her first daughter, Olivia. These shoes are handmade and are just too cute for life. Read up on her story here and perhaps when you are in South Africa, pick a pair of these for your little ones – promote this proudly South Africa brand.

[Image: Courtesy of Myang]

More on the coast of South Africa, we head West to designer Caryn Wilensky who founded the luxurious South African brand, Coast and Koi, in 2005 after noticing a gap in the market for locally, hand-made shoes. Coast and Koi can be found in Cape Town situated in a ground-floor garage in an apartment block facing Cape Town’s Sea Point neighbourhood. To us, her shoes are works of art. They are each unique with the colour and textile combinations that work so well to create bespoke pieces that leave you staring at them. These are not mass-market pieces and Wilensky has successfully managed to define her target market – the unique, independent and free thinking woman. See her work here.

[Image: Courtesy of Coast and Koi]

There is so much more that we can cover in terms of the different footwear brands from and inspired by the continent. We truly hope that you have enjoyed this Series as much as we have and can now be inspired to support these brands when you find yourselves in either Ghana or South Africa or Uganda…heck…you have options. We would love to hear which brand touched your heart and what your favourite pair is. Leave us a comment below and let’s get chatting.

New series coming up! The last 2 months of 2017, can you believe it. Time has truly flown this year so let us all kick ass in the last 2 months and jumpstart 2018. I would also like us to give a shout out of thanks and appreciation to our Fashion Correspondent, Natalie Kimani, for doing such a stellar job. 🙂 Give her a shout out below as well!

Have an awesome week and let’s chat.

Editor's Signature

Author: Wanjiku N. M | Editor and Founder of TDS | Twitter: @WanjikuNM

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