Those who know me know that I both love boots and companies that are pro-natural, pro-environment, pro-responsible, and/or pro-poverty alleviation. That’s why my product features feature stuff that have a social and/or environmental cause, an all-natural catalog, or those that simply organize or maintain your things better.
Last week, I wrote about Timberland, which although it is still corporate and commercial, works very hard to integrate the environment in their model and reduce their carbon footprint (not to mention the fact that I absolutely love their signature work boots). Now, it’s beach season here, and I chanced upon a photo of a guy wearing his Timberland boots at a beach, sockless and in shorts. I’m inspired to do that myself (laced up loosely), but the shoes from the company I’m presenting today pose a serious challenge for the Yellow Boot. Although the company isn’t as big as Timberland (but I’m sure they’ll get there), it has just as big if not bigger a socio-environmental heart. Meet Habi Footwear.
It’s kind of depressing to think that its founders are only as old as I am and finished school just a year before I did, yet they’re already the rising stars of the local fashion industry. Well, there’s a reason for that, and a reason I think that can and should apply to every business major entering the walls of our alma mater: Habi Footwear was actually conceived just short of four years ago as the founders’ business thesis (our thesis program involves planning, starting and running, and evaluating our own business) that they continued after graduation. Circumstances led one of them to run the business full-time on her own, and until today Janine Chiong still serves as President, as well as the “Vice-President” of Sales and Marketing. Her partners, Bernadee Uy and Paola Savillo, though not full-time in Habi Footwear, manage finance and community development, and product development and production, respectively.
But what’s even more inspiring about them is their business model and advocacy. Habi Footwear’s shoes – currently just espadrilles and women’s sandals and loafers – are all partially made of upcycled, woven scrap cloth (hence the Filipino word habi, or “weave”) by women of urban poor communities in Quezon City. The company purchases the woven cloth from them without going through any middle men, thereby increasing the women’s profits. Beyond that, Habi also maintains savings programs for the communities, for important and empowering matters such as education and healthcare.
Only about 20% of a pair of shoes from the Classic line – the espadrilles that constitute Habi Footwear’s flagship line – is not recycled – the inner canvas lining, which is ordered new. Even the soles are recycled – while they used to use regular rubber, Habi Footwear now uses rubber from recycled aircraft tires. Because of the sheer speed of aircraft when shooting down the runway for takeoff or landing, their tires are specially reinforced and thicker, as well as filled with nitrogen instead of oxygen, so that they don’t combust with the immense heat generated by friction.
The virtual indestructibility of aircraft tire soles is known across Marikina, the country’s shoemaking mecca, and in using this kind of sole, Habi Footwear has just made the value of its shoes much more worth the money. Men’s style guides always tell them to invest in rather pricey but quality shoes that will last a lifetime, rather than continuously buying cheaper ones that break down after several years, and I take this to heart. With Habi Footwear’s espadrilles, however, Php850.00 – about US$20.00 – may also potentially last a lifetime, as the shoe is durable (thanks to the tough sole), easily cared for (by laundry), and easily fixed (by sewing).
The Classic line is unisex in design though separate in sizing. It comes in five color combinations for men – gray/black (gray habi cloth and black canvas), black/black (the bestselling one), black/white, gray/yellow, and blue/beige. The same colors are available for women too (except the gray/black), as well as violet/violet, fuchsia/black, gray/light gray, dark blue/black, tan/beige, pink/beige, and lime green/black. Habi Footwear doesn’t carry half sizes, but they recommend sizing down (e.g. a size 7 if you’re a 7.5) as the shoe loosens up a little upon breaking in.
With this kind of product and business model, Habi Footwear hits four birds with one (or two) stones, and it’s reflected in their core advocacy. First, they promote environmental awareness by reducing solid waste and innovating it into something useful and desirable. Second, they practice social concern by providing sustainable livelihood programs and skills training for urban poor individuals who would otherwise have nothing to do, thereby empowering them and tapping into their unlimited potential. Third, because all those aforementioned individuals, as well as the other suppliers and subcontractors, are local, they promote Filipino pride and talent. And to sum up these advocacies into a core one, Habi Footwear promotes a responsible lifestyle through equally responsible fashion.
Though they don’t make boots, and I exclusively wear boots now, I love what Habi Footwear stands for and acts on, and I have a pair sitting along with my other sandals that I would use at the beach and for short errands I don’t necessarily dress up for. I’d also use them as my in-house slippers in colder places, such as Tagaytay. If you’re a serious or even just a desiring follower of making CSR a lifestyle, come and get your Habi Footwear espadrilles now and join the movement of walking to a happy future for all.
The Classic line is available in US sizes 5-9 for women and 7-11 for men, for Php750.00 and Php850.00 respectively.
Habi Footwear products are available for online purchase on their official Web site at www.habifootwear.com, as well as on Sustannable and Qamay. You can also visit the Habi Footwear showroom at Unit 206, FBR Arcade, Katipunan Ave., Loyola Heights, Quezon City, Philippines; or find their products in ABS-CBN, and Manila Collectible.