Forests & Biodiversity Fashion

Shoe fashion made from natural, tree-based materials

Project Facts

Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, Uganda

Project Dates
Start: 2018
In operation since/from: 2018

The Story

Umòja, which means “unity” in the Swahili language, is a footwear brand that combines tradition, modernity and innovation while promoting African textile craftsmanship and respect for people and the environment.

In 2018, the French start-up was founded to offer credible alternatives to shoes made from synthetic materials – and initiate reflection on the social and environmental impact of the fashion industry. The founders aim to reintroduce the use of natural, innovative and bio-based fibers and thereby preserve and improve traditional African textile crafts.

The brand excludes the use of animal leather and artificial dyeing. Wherever possible, natural and particularly tree-based materials are used: This includes textiles made from tree bark, raffia, cork and banana tree fibers as well as organic cotton and rubber. For dyeing and painting, mineral and vegetable materials such as leaves, roots, bark, clay and stones are used – each time resulting in slightly varying, unique pigmentations.

All the natural materials are produced by local entrepreneurs and small cooperatives in the Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Uganda and are sourced directly from the artisans. Shoe production is situated in Portugal, ensuring transparent working conditions and traceability of the used materials.

Success Factor | Hero Moment

The success of the venture mainly results from the quality of the weaving of the fabrics, the beauty of the traditional patterns and the elegant contemporary design – and therefore from the passionate work of the involved part¬ners in seven different countries.

In order to make the shoes really unique, direct local collaboration does not end with the producers – through limited edition collaborations with African designers and artists various local cultures are celebrated, and each shoe model tells another story.

Umòja Shoes, France

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Start-up, Arts & Culture, Fashion