CREATION OF THE BRAND

Umòja shoes thus contribute to reviving these cultural heritages by giving craftsmen access to a new market, that of fashion, and enabling them to achieve economic self-sufficiency.

The name Umòja “Unity” in Swahili is inspired by the name of a village in northern Kenya composed entirely of women. It is a refuge for women who have experienced traumatic and violent experiences seeking to free themselves from the toxic and unjust society from which they all came. In Umoja, women live by sharing and solidarity. All the houses and buildings, even one school, were built from natural resources by all the women in the village. Men are prohibited from living there to protect women.

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OUR COMMITMENTS

Umòja is an adventure guided by human and responsible convictions. We believe in a world where sharing, solidarity and altruism guide all human relationships. Behind our shoes are men and women from Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Uganda and Portugal. Craftsmen often overshadowed by the spotlights of this big industry that is fashion.

Our aim is therefore to introduce the world to these ancestral textile skills through the making of a sneaker. These textiles tell stories, convey emotions and are inspired by the traditions of these countries. Some fabrics can take 1 to 3 months to manufacture using techniques that have been preserved for generations.

Our project is part of a logic of valorization of these unfortunately unknown textile and pictorial heritage, but also the support of these craftsmen (men/women) who have difficulty living from their art.

Our trendy, comfortable and artistic shoes are designed with the aim of:

  • Enhance traditional skills to make them attractive and maintain employment in craftsmen's cooperatives.
  • Identify innovative, biodegradable vegetable materials as alternatives in the fashion industry.
  • To drive change by developing a collective model that is inclusive, equitable, supportive and cultural.
  • Promote transparency towards our community by ensuring full traceability of the materials used.
  • Encourage transparency towards our community by ensuring full traceability of the materials used.
  • To perpetuate solidarity by donating a percentage of sales to partner associations.

OUR ENVIRONMENTAL LIMITS

Umòja has many imperfections despite a willingness to do things in harmony with people and nature. We always favour the use of natural and innovative non-polluting materials in the manufacture of our shoes.
Despite all these efforts, we now face barriers in sourcing certain components of our shoes:

  • Not all our soles are made of rubber. The sole of the Etoiles de Cap-Vert model is made of jute and plastic. The soles of the Lépi, Biton and Singou models are partly made of natural rubber. We do not know today the precise percentage of natural rubber in the manufacture of these soles.
  • The Yenenga and Caravela models are made of plastic. We are now aware of the impact of the plastics industry on the planet and are working to improve this issue. To have quality insoles that can last over time, it is impossible to have 100% natural insoles on the shoe market today. To our knowledge, no brand currently offers any. A process of reflection has already begun on the thorny issue of footings. By 2024, we aim to use our own soles made exclusively of natural and recycled materials.
  • We were not able to source all the eyelets used in the manufacture of our models. The industrial process is extremely opaque. We only know who the suppliers are without knowing the producers.
  • The laces are made of conventional cotton and dyed synthetically.
  • Unfortunately, not all our linings are made of natural material. Due to the lack of organic cotton in sufficient quantities, we had to reduce our initial ambitions (to produce only with natural materials). Only the Singou and Etoiles de Cap-Vert models are made of raw organic cotton. The linings of the Lépi, Biton, Yenenga and Caravela models are unfortunately made of synthetic materials. However, we have made arrangements to ensure that all linings are made of organic cotton on all models by September 2020 at the latest. The linings of the Lépi and Biton models will be made of organic cotton from April 2019.
  • The issue of transport is very unfortunate. We will avoid taking the figures for transport and the fashion industry out of the picture while making comparisons on which is the most polluting.... You can easily find them on the web. We can be blamed for "non-local" production and a mode of transport for non- "ecological" fabrics. Today, the fabrics come from Africa by plane and not by boat. Why? Why? It's simple. For the sake of speed. Our fabrics take on average 4 to 5 weeks to be produced where other industrial fabrics require a day in larger quantities. We have chosen craftsmanship and rational production. If we have to add 2-3 weeks of sea transport, not to mention the production delays of the manufacturing workshops, we will not be able to make a living from this activity unless you wish to pre-order by advancing the costs and wait several months before receiving your products... Unfortunately, we have neither the financial means (small business obliges us) nor the human means to allow us to do so. However, the reflection is ongoing and sailing may be THE solution in the coming years. We just need to grow to reach this perfection. The ideal would also have been to have a production of our shoes on the African continent in order to have a reduced carbon impact in terms of transport. We know that! Unfortunately, the footwear industry is extremely complex. It is impossible for us at the moment to consider production on the African continent. With Portugal, we have a certain traceability on most materials such as soles, laces... We have at least the guarantee to control the entire value chain on the African continent by giving you a guarantee on the origin, the toxicity of certain materials and the respect of the working conditions of the people with whom we are partners. We will come back in a future article on the complex circle mode-transport-pollution-Africa and the unspoken. You can contribute to the articles and share your thoughts with us in the blog section.
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