Sole Food: Fair Trade Espadrilles by Alice & Whittles Support Sustainability

Alice and Whittles

Alice & Whittles’ simple but stylish espadrilles step lightly on the planet and benefit all who have a hand in making them.

Espadrilles are, once again, on the trend forecast for spring/summer 2013, so why not invest in a pair that are reducing poverty, supporting long-term sustainable growth and creating infrastructure for rural communities? Alice & Whittles, the venture of two humanitarians, offers a selection of bright, colorful and all natural flat espadrilles that are perfect for upcoming weather…and your karma. Their lightweight and breathable qualities also make these kicks the perfect pair to take traveling,  and you can stock your wardrobe sustainably by supporting the project on Kickstarter .

Alice and Whittles espadrille

The philosophy behind Alice & Whittles lies in re-thinking how simple products are made and consumed. Through their work with North African refugees, founders Sofi Khwaja and Nicholas Horekens became profoundly inspired by the creativity and resourcefulness of these most vulnerable people. Experiencing the after effects of resource and labor exploitation, corruption and absurdly unbalanced distribution of power in several countries was a call to action, and so the duo decided to make a positive change by harnessing, supporting and sharing this raw creativity.

alice and whittles indian weavers

This led to a project involving the creation of espadrilles, which are simple, casual, travel well and are made from completely natural materials. Collaboration with small-scale organic farmers and rural weavers in India ensued for sourcing hand-woven “Social Cloth” at Fair Trade prices. Espadrilles can be manufactured outside of a factory setting, and were historically hand-made by artisans, which is why the label works with shoemakers in France–the birthplace of the espadrille– to assemble the shoes.

Alice and Whittles espadrille

These handcrafted shoes truly benefit everyone who has a hand in making them, and are made out of completely natural, vegan materials. The canvas uppers are hand woven, organic cotton and the breathable soles are braided jute; the stitching is done with organic cotton thread, and the natural rubber bottoms make these kicks more durable than your average, lightweight, summer shoe. Sourcing organic, Indian cotton makes a significant difference, as the production of the materials consumes 95 percent fewer chemicals than conventional cotton, uses less energy, dramatically reduces the likelihood of farmer suicide and allows for a bio-diverse environment that supports its community.

alice and whittles kickstarter

Alice & Whittles’ spring/summer 2013 collection includes espadrilles in bright, solid colors, charming floral and nautical prints, as well as a delicate white pair in embroidered fabric. A $69 show of support will buy you a pair of these Fair Trade kicks and a shoe bag, so check out the Kickstarter page to learn more and make your donation!

If the project reaches its funding goal in the next 2 weeks, the founders aim to first solidify their supply chain and then move on to expanding the product line. Working in other regions of the world is part of the plan, as “respect for workers is a principle that can be transferred to a supply chain in any part of the world.” The Alice & Whittles philosophy is deeply rooted in creating a positive change in the communities the label is working with and creating transparent supply chains that put the power back into the hands of the consumers.

Alice and Whittles espadrilles

Sofi and Nicholas have sought to work with a local NGO in the rural area of Kutch  called Khamir to help build infrastructure and solid livelihoods for the farmers and artisans involved in producing their canvas. Collaboration with Khamir creates training opportunities and fosters promotion of local skills and traditions, alongside providing  health insurance, low-cost infrastructure and no-interest advance payments. Rural weaving communities such as Kutch have not benefited from the economic growth India has seen in recent years, and their skills are becoming a lost art. Most importantly, Sofi and Nicolas are making sure to work directly with the individuals involved in creating their products, ensuring clear communication and transparency across the entire supply chain.

Alice and Whittles embroidered espadrille

Images: Alice & Whittles