The founders of SAWA shoes refuse to make any claims about the worthiness of their products. Their press release boasts: "We don't promise to donate part of our income to some charity association for each pair of shoes purchased, nor to build a pipeline towards Manhattan. Our shoes are made in Africa and will be made in Africa as far as you will enjoy wearing them. This is the only promise we make."
Fabio, Frederic and Mehdi (yeah, they're so cool they don't believe in using surnames) have links to Africa "either because of origins or personal passion", according to Fabio.
They do however believe in the importance of designing, producing and sourcing the materials of their trainers from just one continent. The shoes are made in Cameroon where they also pick up the canvas. The leather is from Nigeria and the lace is from Tunisia. EVA glue and rubber are brought from Egypt and the packaging comes up from South Africa. Local materials also influence the designs. Fabio explained: "We designed our shoes in Cameroon. The design is based on the local resources: for instance the blue and green stripes are actually coming from a stockpile of fabric that our local partner was keeping to manufacture overalls. SAWA sneakers find their vintage inspiration from the omnipresence of second hand cloths sent from developed countries and input into the African economy."
Although they try and shy away from any form of good deeds, clearly the company seeks to use the best business practice. When queried about what steps they are taking, they had more to say than was expected: "We are glad and honored people consider us an ethical brand. Being ethical is definitely one of our objectives. But it's also a long way to go, a label to build step by step. Being ethical doesn't necessarily mean being 'organic'. We don't market ourselves as a bio brand, even though the canvas on our shoes is made from bio cotton from Cameroon. We prefer to define ourselves as economically active. Our work creates work where it is strongly needed. Our partner suppliers found in our project new business opportunities, which allow them to enlarge their scope and create new jobs."
So perhaps their 'made in Africa' tag is more than just a marketing ploy. The shoes retail for around £60 and will be on sale in hipster store Dover Street Market from the end of March, the same time they launch in Europe, the US and Japan.