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The beginning of Earth Sole.

It was the end of a crazy year. Corona times. Many people around the world have been forced to stay in their house, and limit their moves as much as possible. Here in South Africa, we had a hard lockdown for about 2 months. Shopping once per week, no outside time unless you had a permit. Or if your name is Anouk 😉


Anouk Anansi with her first Earth Soles
Anouk Anansi with her first Earth Soles

I had been lucky. Just before lockdown (read, 2 days), I had packed my stuff, and my partner and I left with his home bus out of the city. Cape Town can be quite a wild city as it is, but when a virus stops people from working a.k.a. earning money a.k.a having money to buy food, then you don’t want to be in a bus, without fences, just around the corner of one of Cape Towns largest townships.


My partner and I had the chance to stay on the land of our friends' holiday cottages, about 4 hours drive from Cape Town. It was a 2-minute walk from the river. River Magic was a truly magical place. On itself, but especially when everyone you know living back in the city, is stuck between four walls.


Half a year later, with still many restrictions, a small festival still held place in Riviersonderend. Organized by our friends and visited by friends, this was a gathering we would not miss. A couple of sunny days, but also rainy days passed and I found myself with my friend Sarah in front of the fireplace, with her offcuts brought from Cape Town. What shall we do with it?


I had been volunteering at U-Turn*, an amazing NGO in Cape Town that is supporting the homeless towards housing and work, but not over the time of Corona. We still lived pretty comfortably in our bus near the river. A couple of months after the festival, I would have to go back to U-Turn and so… To the city.


Amazed by the power of grounding, I made a bigger effort to continue the non-wearing-shoes period I had found myself in already

 

A couple of weeks before joining this small festival, I had watched the documentary Kiss The Ground. I was blown away. Amazed by the power of grounding (being connecting to the earth), I made a bigger effort to continue the non-wearing-shoes period I had found myself in already. All nice and well, but working at a Christian NGO (maybe barefoot would be a bit too hippy?), plus walking around in the not-always-so-clean streets of Cape Town, it would not be so great for my barefoot period. So, why not build a shoe myself with those offcuts, that have just leather soles?


It was kinda as easy as that. I thought of the simplest design I could think of. Put my foot on the leather, drew around it, made a top, and back part. My partner advised me to use a Dremel to make the holes. Good call, otherwise the project would have probably never finished. And I started to wear the shoes. Not just at Cape Town, but also at other festivals – they are just so comfy! What I started to notice, is that other people started noticing them. More than with anything I had made before (dreamcatchers, necklaces, broken mirror artwork, meditations), people wanted to know more about them.


First Earth Soles ever made
First Earth Soles ever made. Riversdale, December '20

Not having any leather, nor a shoemaker background, I was far from keen walking that road. I knew (although in hindsight I had absolutely no idea) how much work it would be, as all feet are different, and I had just made my one shoe around my own feet.


But, the interest was real, and I do like a bit of a challenge. Also, people really liked them and I knew how healthy and comfortable they were. And I love working with repurposed material. So, I made a second pair. For my partner this time. And the first festival he was wearing them, I was astounded. Every couple of minutes, someone would ask where he got the shoes from. If that wasn’t an invitation to make more?


I knew this wasn’t a one-man project

I was still living far from Cape Town, and knew this wasn’t a one-man project. The shoe takes about 2 hours to make, I would need people to help me, and more offcuts. And a clue of how to make them for other feet then my own.


About two months after the rage about my partner's shoes, I started our Instagram page, then still with the name Anansi Footwear (Anansi is my nickname). Although this name wasn't linked much to a grounding barefoot shoe, it was a start. More about the birth of our name and logo, can be read in this blog.


The first crafts for our Earth Sole- leather Barefoot Shoe
There is always a start!

And then I made a big move in my life. Choosing for the shoes, and that meant, choosing to move back to the city, which I did in May ’22. This is when the rollercoaster truly began. So many measuring of peoples feet. So many wrong-sized shoes. So many markets. So many shoes made with the wrong leather for the sole. So so so many patterns. But slowly, our little baby Earth Sole started to grow and making its first steps. Our first studio (we are still there), the first 100 sales (I didn’t even have time to have a little celebration, to be honest), someone to do our customer support (bless her, I left 4 days after to the Afrika Burn with no reception). Now, hopefully soon our first salesperson, and our first-second design (is that even English?) in the future will surely come too.


Although there is still a lot to do, and people keep telling me ‘there always will’ (say no more), I can be proud of where the brand is up to this day. Still, we only use repurposed leather for all our tops and back parts, and we always will. We take care of our staff, making sure to pay them fair wages and create a supportive work environment. We keep developing the quality of our shoes and… The experience of our customers. A bad fit is a bad smile, and that’s the last thing we want!


Thank you for being part of our journey, and we hope you like to continue walking the part with us.

••• Anouk Anansi, Founder of Earth Sole ••• 


*We donate R45 of each pair sold to 3 local NGO's, like U-Turn. If you like to know more about this, head to the bottom of our About page

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