See the boots I'm wearing? They weren't made in a factory, somewhere in an industrialized city district. They weren't made by machines in a warehouse. They certainly weren't made in a sweatshop, by underpaid workers with cheap materials destined to fall apart and end up in landfill only after a few wears.
No, Selvin made my shoes.
This is the first time I've ever known the name of the person who made an item specifically for me, taking days of his time to create a piece I wear almost daily.
We talk about "artisan made" products all the time in the ethical fashion world, but what does that really mean? Is it just a fancier word for someone who works in a factory making products? Is it an old word that we just use to mean a more "ethically made product"? Yes, in a way. But in a much more impactful way, the word "artisan" is all about skill.
a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.
More than just handmade, defining something as "artisan made" implies the learned, refined skill of the creator. It's more than just a job, it's a trade. It's more than just a product, it's a piece of art.
Through my partnership with Adelante, my appreciation for "artisan made" has doubled.
Adelante is a shoe company that employs craftsman in Guatemala. And Selvin, of course, is one of the craftsman working with them.
True to their "cobbler to customer" promise, in each shoe box, Adelante includes a photo of the craftsman, with a bit about them. A simple step, but one that drives home the fact that there are hands, and faces, and stories behind each product.
In an effort to make this more than a "product review" and to better understand the stark difference between what Adelante does and what most shoe companies do, I was able to speak to Selvin directly, via Skype, to hear his story and learn about what goes into making a pair of boots like the ones he made for me.
Here's what I learned:
Selvin has been making shoes since he was in the sixth grade. Shoe-making was once a large industry in Pastores, a main stream of income for many families there, and a trade that Selvin learned from his father. However, as other trades and demands have pushed their way in, many cobblers have been out of work. Adelante is the first business of its kind in Pastores, and Selvin told me that through the brand, he's able to provide for his family.
(Adelante ensures that their artisans are paid above the "Living Well Line", which, means that the wages are determined by balancing a "regression analysis of World Bank data with in-person craftsmen interviews" and determining a wage that doesn't stop at country level and considers the individual community, economy, and livelihood of the people they employ.)
Speaking of his family, he has three children who hope to grow up to be accountants.
He also told me that his favorite part of the shoe making process is putting the finishing touches on the product - the polish and shine. At this stage, he said, you can truly appreciate the quality of the shoe and get excited about the final result. I showed him my Granadas through the computer screen, with his signature on the inside, and he smiled as he asked how I liked them and what I thought of the fit.
Our chat was short, about 15 minutes, but seeing his face and hearing his story was a conversation I won't soon forget. The importance of choosing to support brands like these - brands who care about the people they employ, brands who value the culture and craft behind their product, and brands who pay their employees a wage they deserve to be paid - these are the brands I'll never stop falling in love with.
** This post is sponsored by Adelante Shoe Co. as part of an ongoing partnership. All opinions and photographs are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep this blog running!**