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.
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.
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.