SoleRebels

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soleRebels
IndustryFootwear & Fashion
Founded2004; 16 years ago (2004)
FounderBethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Headquarters
Addis Ababa
,
Ethiopia
Websitewww.solerebels.com

Editor: Charissa Cassels

SoleRebels (stylised "soleRebels") is an Ethiopian eco-friendly[1] footwear company that was founded by Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu in 2004. Alemu is also the founder of Garden of Coffee, Republic of Leather, Premiere Consulting, GIZA Digital and NoodFoods. She is an Accounting graduate, an entrepreneur and a businesswoman.[2]

soleRebels is based in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and creates shoes for both men and women. It was created as a means to combine the creative artisanal talents from Alemu’s Ethiopian community, together with the traditional “Barabasso” and “Seleate”, which are Ethiopian recycled tyre shoes.[3] Recycled tyres are the main material used for soles and inner tubes are used for laces in the company’s footwear. The traditional Ethiopian tyre sole remains as a consistent design element in soleRebels’ production.[4]

The brand’s sustainability is achieved through recycling car and truck tyres and hand-spinning fabrics from local hemp and Koba, an indigenous Ethiopian plant.[5] The shoes are spun on traditional manual eucalyptus looms and their soles are hand-cut and stitched. All used materials are recycled or sourced locally.

soleRebels employs community members who are artisanally equipped to create footwear, while they are provided full medical benefits and educational funds for themselves and their families. Additionally, workers are offered wages three times the average of the industry as well as transport to and from work.[6]

History

Alemu started soleRebels shortly after completing her Accounting degree.[7]The company started with just Alemu, her husband, her teenage brother and two artisans and has grown rapidly since.[8] The company was started on a plot of land Alemu inherited from her grandmother, as she started making shoes in her grandmother’s house.[9] soleRebels was inspired by the Ethiopian thong sandal called the Barabasso which Alemu saw in her village.[10]

The company’s name was inspired by Ethiopian rebel soldiers who were famous for wearing handcrafted rubber tyre sandals. The name, soleRebels, honours the country’s history of independence and its culture. The company’s image is the Ethiopian Koba plant, while its slogan is, “roots; culture; tires”. The Koba plant represents natural efficiency as each part of the plant serves its own purpose in ensuring its endurance.[11]

soleRebels was created with the intention of ensuring that the manufacturing process would benefit the local community and economy, which is why local artisans are employed to work for the company. soleRebels’ supply chain is divided into teams of people who cut the leather, assemble the shoes and spin and cut the fabric, increasing productivity.[12] The footwear is also marked with traditional Ethiopian art.[13]

The company creates sandals, slip-on’s and lace-up shoes, winter boots and sneakers from recycled tyres and plant materials, assisting with environmental conservation through keeping their carbon footprint low. The shoes and sandals are lined with Abyssinian hand-spun cotton and the footwear is entirely handmade and Ethiopian.[14] The ethical shoe brand also caters to vegans as all the products created are without leather or animal-related products.

soleRebels can be found in Ethiopia’s two soleRebels stores, Silicon Valley, Athens, Barcelona, Germany, Spain, Austria, Greece, Switzerland, Singapore, nine locations in Taiwan, Canada, France, Japan, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the United States. They can also be found via outlets such as Amazon, Rakuten, Urban Outfitters, Whole Foods, Endless and Javari or at the soleRebels standalone retail stores. [15]

soleRebels ship directly to its retailers ensuring that its order-handling, account processing, and marketing all remain in-house which keeps the retail price in Ethiopia.[16]

soleRebels’ ‘Walk Naked kiosks’ allow customers to customise shoes at soleRebels in real-time with artistans from soleRebels.[17] These kiosks aim to combine technology and craftsmanship. [18]

Alemu registered a trademark for the company name in the European Union market at the Office of Harmonization in the Internal Market.[19]

Investments

The company was funded by a bank loan that Alemu took out and with the assistance of her husband, family friends and of local craftspeople.[20]

Recognition

soleRebels was the first privately owned company in Ethiopia to register a trademark in the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2010.[21]

soleRebels is certified by the World Fair Trade Organisation.[22]

soleRebels is the first African company to open standalone retail stores across the world. It is also the only WTFO fair trade certified footwear company.[23]

In 2015, soleRebels was recognised as the first African brand to become an international job creation powerhouse, with its international stores adding to this number. [24]

References

  1. An Ethiopian success story - Africa Middle East. Retrieved 2 February, 2020.
  2. shoe brand helps Ethiopia walk tall on global stage - Thomas Reuters Foundation News. Retrieved 1 February, 2020.
  3. - soleRebels. Retrieved 1 February, 2020.
  4. the soles of her feet - Design Indaba. Retrieved 11 February, 2020.
  5. Ethiopian shoe worn all over the world shows you how you do sustainable manufacturing in Africa - QUARTZ AFRICA. Retrieved 1 February, 2020.
  6. - soleRebels. Retrieved 1 February, 2020.
  7. – The African Footwear Brand that makes Shoes from Used Tires - Industry Leaders. Retrieved 3 February, 2020.
  8. An Ethiopian success story - Africa Middle East. Retrieved 2 February, 2020.
  9. Slice Of History & Used Tyres Inspired A Multimillion-Dollar Brand That Is Fast Becoming The “Nike Of Africa” - WeeTracker. Retrieved 3 February, 2020.
  10. Rebel and The Risk Taker – Part 1 - CGTN Africa. Retrieved 4 February, 2020.
  11. Tilahun Alemu: A Rebel with a Cause - Global Innovation Policy Center. Retrieved 1 February, 2020.
  12. Ethiopian shoe worn all over the world shows you how you do sustainable manufacturing in Africa - QUARTZ AFRICA. Retrieved 1 February, 2020.
  13. woman behind Africa's fastest-selling homegrown shoes - SBS News. Retrieved 3 February, 2020.
  14. 10 Women In Africa’s Manufacturing Industry - The Moguldom Nation. Retrieved 2 February, 2020.
  15. Ethiopian shoe worn all over the world shows you how you do sustainable manufacturing in Africa - QUARTZ AFRICA. Retrieved 1 February, 2020.
  16. SoleRebels built a supply chain in Ethiopia - CIPS. Retrieved 2 February, 2020.
  17. – The African Footwear Brand that makes Shoes from Used Tires - Industry Leaders. Retrieved 3 February, 2020.
  18. the soles of her feet - Design Indaba. Retrieved 11 February, 2020.
  19. Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu: A Rebel with a Cause - Global Innovation Policy Center. Retrieved 1 February, 2020.
  20. Tilahun Alemu: A Rebel with a Cause - Global Innovation Policy Center. Retrieved 1 February, 2020.
  21. Ingenuity & Innovation During Women's History Month - soleRebels. Retrieved 1 February, 2020.
  22. shoe brand helps Ethiopia walk tall on global stage - Thomas Reuters Foundation News. Retrieved 1 February, 2020.
  23. – The African Footwear Brand that makes Shoes from Used Tires - Industry Leaders. Retrieved 3 February, 2020.
  24. Slice Of History & Used Tyres Inspired A Multimillion-Dollar Brand That Is Fast Becoming The “Nike Of Africa” - WeeTracker. Retrieved 3 February, 2020.