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Sustainable Footwear Rocks in Ethiopia

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu founded the soleRebels brand in 2004 with her husband and brother to help create jobs in Zenabwork, Ethiopia. At the time there were hardly any jobs in the community. But when the family decided to redesign traditional Ethiopian shoes made from recycled tires, expansion mode kicked in and employees were hired.

They turned global with online retailers from Whole Foods, Endless, Amazon, Urban Outfitters, and more. The brand grew to more than 10 countries around the world , including the USA, UK and Italy.

The company is titled bostex plc, which stands for “By Ourselves Textiles” and intentionally implies that the business makes most of its inputs by itself, ‒ and by hand. There’s a label vegans appreciate that’s cruelty-free. Then a favored material is heritage-organic Ethiopian cotton that is sourced from small-scale local farmers for traditional hand spin and loom by community artisans. Another collection is entirely made from pure organic Abyssinian cotton, utilized since ancient times for an incredible soft touch.

Production is authentic and “green” by Ethiopian heritage, not because of conscious trends. Bethlehem, now Co-founder and Managing Director, points out that zero carbon output is the norm since Ethiopians recycle as a way of life. They don’t even refer to the process as recycling. Their fair trade, no middlemen strategy and standards benefit the company while giving maximum value to the retailer, and best price to the consumer.

Bethlehem smiles with glee over sustainably developing a global brand from a country like Ethiopia. She believes fair trade business is more important than charity.

I personally hope designers from bostex plc are nominated in the Best Sustainable Footwear Designer contest poll. Submissions are honored through May 31st, 2009. Read instructions and about previous winners of Chíc Eco designer competitions here.

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Written by Delia Montgomery

I am Delia, d/b/a Chic Eco on, and established myself as an eco fashion guru by learning "who makes what in the world of environmental fashion and design."

Enjoy reading some of my freelance writing about environmental design, fashion and art -- from both consumer and supplier perspectives. You may notice I focus most on individual eco designers, movers and shakers.

From sustainable fashion apparel to paint and flooring, discoveries are a rush. I get my kicks this way. I also offer sales representation of earth-friendly designed products for wholesale buyers. Retailers may take advantage of my services with factory-direct pricing. Spend less time sourcing and prevent green-washed purchases!

My other forte is connecting suppliers with business-to-business tools. Aspects of my business vary with consulting services while I'm proud to be the aide that embraces unique and innovative gigs.

I'm originally a Kentucky Blue Grass gal who relocated to Maui early 2006 and the tropical Puna District of Big Island, Hawaii late 2007. Walk the talk is my motto here.

Early 2009 I constructed a yurt home office in a semi-urban setting on a tiny lot. My water comes from the sky, contained in a catchment that's not likely to dry in this rain forest. The electric is designed for solar conversion. I grow about 30% of my food organically, compost, and recycle to the hilt. Permaculture with a full eco system is my gardening style.

In fact, gardening is my ultimate joy. I seek gigs like design, weeding and planting between other jobs. My love is Hawai'i which has more climate zones than any state. There are frequent earthquakes here, typically under a 3.0 magnitude, and I happen to dig the vibrations. It's a wonderful simple life in paradise. As I grow older and wiser, I become more and more grateful.


Happy Mother’s Day to Mother Earth from Clary Sage Organics

Give Skin a Drink of Suzanne aux bains Nourishing Body Milk