In Zenabwork, a small district on the south-western corner of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a woman works tirelessly – with a smile on her face – on a loom, weaving the finest quality Ethiopian fabric. She did the same for His Imperial Majesty Emperor Hailie Selassie I, the former emperor of Ethiopia, now she does it for herself. In a world of big business and crony capitalism, her small, local craft thrives. The same can be said for a hundred and more artisans and craftsmen that work to create beautiful and eco-sensitive footwear in the small district. These people, in their own little way, are changing the world, one step at a time, which is what Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, the founder of Sole Rebels had in mind when she came up with the idea to start a 100% Ethiopian footwear brand in 2004.
What is SoleRebels?
After her degree from Unity University in 2004, Alemu wanted to start up something that could cater for her financial needs and also serve as a source of employment for the teeming population, in her immediate environment. She came up with the idea of making different models of the traditional Barabaso and Selate shoes and sell to the world. That is where Sole Rebels’ story started from.
Sole Rebels produces light and eco-friendly shoes that are made from local materials and tyres. The shoe designs draw inspiration from old Ethiopian culture, using local materials, fabrics, leather and local methods, infused with subtle modern western designs. What you get from that union is a shoe that is African at its core, but still versatile enough to cater to the vast array of 21st century needs.
An average Sole Rebels footwear has a traditional fabric top and rubber tyre soles, modelled out of unused car tyres.
Comfort, durability and aesthetics, basically all you need in a shoe.
Sole rebels, asides their products – the shoes, also place a huge premium on their human resource. Since one of the main reasons why the company was set up in the first instance was to combat unemployment in the district, the brand has taken a step further in ensuring that their staff – of well over 100 people – is happy.
Sole Rebels pays 4 times the legal minimum wage and 3 times the industry average wage for similar work in Ethiopia. This has helped to get the top talent from all over the district. In addition to this, they also have a 100% medical coverage for workers and their families and also, free transportation to and from the worksite for their workers.
Imagine putting your feet in a pair of shoes and forgetting that you even wore shoes after a couple of minutes. Yep! That’s exactly what Sole Rebels wants for you. They want you to walk around in so much comfort, and their shoes are exactly that – Comfortable. They want you to walk naked. If you’re looking to buy a pair, it’s very easy. You can go to their website at solerebels.com and order a pair. You can also search for on their website for a list of physical stores near you. They are located in and ship products to over 150 countries around the world.
The more you look at Sole Rebels, you begin to see what they stand for: community, smiles, comfort, support, help, and love. Because at the end of the day, it’s all love. It is considered as a love letter to you.