As you have probably seen already, for our new collection of goods we have partnered with Juta Shoes!
Juta Shoes is a fantastic social enterprise from Hackney who are completely aligned with our values at Be For Change of making great products out of waste materials and in an ethical fashion. To be honest, our visions are so close together that a collaboration felt natural from the moment we met #loveatfirstsight #cornyiknow
About Juta Shoes
Set up in 2016 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Juta Shoes is the labour of love of Sabeha, who has a BA in Social Enterprise and has run the Boundary Women’s Project at St Hilda’s for ten years, and Joanna, who was a Year Here fellow in social innovation and loves crafts. The two women came together over the vision of ‘Shoes you feel good in’, meaning that they are not only comfortable and good-looking but ethical and sustainable.
Juta Shoes stands for ‘stronger communities, neighbourhoodliness (yes, we're making up that word), and opportunities for everyone’. They act on it by working with socially isolated and underemployed women in East London, who get paid the London Living Wage or over. They are against fast fashion and waste, unethical supply chains, xenophobia and sexism.
Their profits go back to the women involved in Juta, providing project-based employability skills training and a supported path into employment.
The choice to work with them wasn’t however just based on the values we share. It is also based on how much value I see in their product.
Why choose espadrilles?
Espadrilles are traditional to France and Spain, an affordable shoe made of natural materials and suitable for everyday life. They have been used for thousands of years, and consist of a woven jute sole and a textile upper (usually cotton canvas). The popularity of espadrilles in these areas is due to their versatility and breathability. The woven jute soles are moisture wicking, dry easily and last much longer than you would expect (don’t machine wash). It is the upper of the shoe that usually falls apart - you know the drill if you’ve ever had a pair of espadrilles you wore all Summer long! You love them, wear them on repeat, they get dirty, you wash them, next thing you know the fabric is so thin you can see your toes coming through… Which is why using leather for the upper is brilliant!
There is so much that fits into the description of ‘products that do good’ and our priorities are to use end-of-life materials, to make goods that last, in a way that is ethical. In the past I had looked into producing in the U.K., but finding partners who produce at semi-affordable prices can be a real challenge - and I didn’t want to launch goods that I wouldn’t be able to afford myself. On the other hand, producing overseas at small workshops can be ethical and cheap, but also presents its own challenges and I am keen to avoid the extra emissions that come with it.
The espadrille soles used by Juta are made of jute, which is woven, pressed, and vulcanised at a family-run factory in southern Spain.
The Juta x BFC espadrille slippers: not just for the home
I have always believed that the way to make sustainability more mainstream is to make it desirable, and when it comes to products that means that they should sell because people want them. Like it or not, it is a small percentage of the population who make purchases aligned with their values. Most often, purchases are driven by desire, and so it is that making products that not only do good but look good will get people who might not be particularly concerned about the environment to unknowingly support a regenerative economy.
Given how we are upcycling leather waste, we get bits and pieces of all shapes and sizes sent to us. (You can read more about our leather in this post). A lot of them are off-cuts and come as thin stripes. Being keen on using up as much material as possible, I wanted to design a pair of shoes that could make use of these cuts as well as showcase the skill and craftsmanship of the ladies that work at Juta Shoes. A woven design not only allows us to do that, but uses more than double the amount of material (vs. a one-piece upper). I also added a heel patch for extra comfort, as this extra layer provides some cushioning as you walk or stand for extended periods of time.
How to wear and care for your espadrilles
The design of our slippers makes them very versatile, so it would (in my honest opinion) be a shame to restrict their use to the home. They look great with all Summer attire, and the V cut adds length to your legs ;)
Our current colours of choice (Black and Nude) match everything, from breezy linen in neutral colours, to the most colourful prints (because it is the season for paisley ladies and gents!). I have actually risked wearing them to the office with navy slacks and a white blouse, and got complimented on them. Goodbye boring black flats, hello wearing slippers to work!
If it’s really the holidays that are calling your name, these are definitely beach and lounge ready. While it is generally recommended not to wet espadrilles, getting them a bit wet won’t hurt - just make sure you allow the material to dry. What you should avoid doing is getting them submersed in water and completely wet.
As with most leather shoes, these will require some breaking in before they become truly comfortable. I recommend wearing them for short distances/ periods of time to begin with. The initial tightness will begin to disappear as the leather moulds to your feet.
I hope this answers most of your questions on the slippers and the Juta Shoes x BFC collaboration, but do let me know in the comments or by email if there is anything else you’d like to know!