As you may have figured out by now we love shoes at WYSK, and when one of our staffers walked into the office in a pair of gorgeous, beaded sandals we just had to share the story behind these soles with you. There’s more to it than meets the eye… the artisan craftsmanship and bright, ethnic designs convey the spirit with which they are made. A result of a sustainable, fair trade project between the Spain-based accessories company Pikolinos and the Kenyan Maasai Community, not only do these shoes look good, but they also improve lives.
In 2010, Pikolinos identified an opportunity to provide a steady income to the Maasai community, one of the most impoverished tribes in the world. Due to a lack of tourism and other cultural changes that have been affecting the tribe’s financial stability, the Maasai had to find new sources of income, beyond just selling handicrafts to visitors, to preserve their lives and way of life. As in many places around the world, women are responsible for the overall welfare of their families and the community, and it is no different in the Maasai society.
Pikolinos employs more than 1,000 community women who hand-embroider their traditional designs onto leather pieces that are cut by Pikolinos in Spain, sent to Kenya and then sent back to Spain where the Maasai Collection of shoes and accessories are finished and distributed. The women are paid fair wages for their work, which have been previously negotiated with the community. An additional bonus payment is made to the community when a full collection is completed, in recognition of the men and children’s collaboration and involvement in the project as well. And if that weren’t enough, the profits Pikolinos receives from the hand-crafted collection, go to the development of health and education centers in the Maasai community.
Today, as a result of this project, over 1,400 Maasai families have a stable source of income, providing a better and more independent life for themselves. With this business model, Pikolinos hopes to raise awareness and continue helping to protect the existence of the Kenyan Maasai Community.
The Maasai Collection, which made its U.S. debut this spring, is available in over 50 countries with over 8,000 points of sale, as well as online retailers.