Forget giving hipster shoes to people in Africa (cough, TOMS). How about giving them jobs? Oliberté is that shoe company — with the added perk of giving you a way to buy your chukka boots and flats with less guilt.
Oliberté bills itself as a fair-trade, sustainable clothing brand based in sub-Saharan Africa, paying its workers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, more than double the minimum wage. The factory is the world’s first to be certified by Fair Trade USA. So in addition to fair pay, workers get benefits like 90-day maternity leave, reasonable work hours, no exposure to certain toxic chemicals, and decisionmaking via employee committee.
The shoes and bags are made from locally sourced leather, purchased from farmers who raise free-range cattle that typically live six to eight years. The company works with a tannery that is careful not to pollute and recycles its chrome …
Although not all of the components are sourced from Ethiopia, the natural rubber used from the soles is also local. They work to make the factory zero-waste, recycling and reusing anything that’s left over from leather scraps to glue cans.
And although the shoes aren’t cradle-to-cradle, you can mail ’em back to Oliberté when they’re worn out, and the company will find ways to recycle them. Other than the carbon emissions from shipping shoes halfway around the world — and yeah, that’s a big caveat — they sound pretty spiffy.