Ubuntu Life || Colorful Shoes, Enabling a More Colorful Life


“Colorful” isn’t a word I usually use to describe any aspect of my closet. Although of course, it doesn’t have to be this way, I’m lulled into the neutral aesthetic that’s so typical of the slow fashion movement. Despite my love of neutrals, I’ve surprised myself by buying a few “color pop” items that have stayed in my closet for years. (Case in point, my MATTER Prints wide leg pants).

My most recent color pop addition is a coral pair of “Afridrilles” from Ubuntu Life.

Even better than the color though, is the beautiful story behind these shoes.

They were made by a mother. A mother who, because of her work with Ubuntu Life and their color pop shoes, is able to send her child (maybe children) to school, buy better food for them, and create a better future for herself.

Ubuntu Life employs women in Kenya, giving 100% of the proceeds back to the programs that keep their more than 80 women happy, healthy, and whole. In an area where access to fair paying jobs is limited, this non-profit has committed to paying their employees above the local living wage, including health insurance. Jobs like these, that enable women to own their own homes in a country where less than 10% of the population has the opportunity to do so, have the potential to help break the cycle of poverty.

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Founded by a pair of pastors from Kenya and Texas, Ubuntu Life began with the mission of helping children with disabilities and other life-threatening illnesses. These children’s mothers, freed from the weight of caring for their children alone, were now able to search for jobs and cultivate other skills and passions. The idea grew into a non-profit that cared for these families holistically - allowing them to meet physical needs, learn valuable job skills, and plan for their futures.

Nearly 20 years since then, Ubuntu Life now operates a cafe, Water Bottle Enterprise (a facility producing clean water to wholesale around the country), a production studio, and soon will operate a pediatric center on their 11 acres of property near Nairobi.

Colorful, is most certainly a word that applies not only to the product these women make, but to the brightness of their future with Ubuntu Life helping them lay the foundation.

The Shoes

The soles of the shoes are made from traditional jute and rubber for durability. The body of the shoe is made from Kenyan cotton canvas (sourced from a woman-owned cotton factory!) and feels sturdy but soft. They’re wonderfully supportive and comfortable, perfect for walking the beach, around the house, or to and from work.

I chose coral for my Afridrilles (a clever play on the Espadrille style) but they have a wide range of colors to choose from and even the option to design your own custom shoes via Zazzle.

They’re most notably a casual shoe, but I wanted to style them up a bit (heavy on the neutrals of course…wouldn’t want to go overboard with color, now would we?). I love how they look with whites and tans, but they' also look amazing paired with jeans and a tee, leggings, or even a summer dress.

In addition to their Afridrilles, the brand also sells gorgeous tote bags and bracelets.

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I love the impact this non-profit is having on their Maker Mums and, in turn, the community at large. There is so much truth in the notion that to empower a nation, one must first empower the women, and Ubuntu Life, through their colorful, beautifully made shoes, is doing just that.

To contribute to the mission of Ubuntu Life, head to their shop and use the code OLIVIA15% for 15% off your purchase.

*Thank you to Ubuntu for sponsoring this post! As always, all opinions, photos, and creative direction is my own*

When "World Changing" Is Just Another Buzz Word (And How to Combat It)


I’ve been sharing about incredible brands here for a while. Brands who literally change lives. Brands who, through quiet and beautiful production, make the world a safer, healthier place. Brands who aren’t afraid to do big things to help those in need. Brands who shouldn’t be taken lightly.

And after several years of sharing brand after brand, I can tend to have a “dumbed down” perspective of just how important the work these brands are doing is. Another brand that combats trafficking. Another brand that uses upcycled material. Another brand that employs at-risk women.

Is my privilege showing yet?

I know about the issues, but I’m not directly affected by most of them. I’ve never employed a woman fleeing for her life. I’ve never known the struggle of choosing to take a stand and use eco-friendly materials, or not use plastic in production. I’ve never traveled to far off villages to learn the art forms passed down from generation to generation in hopes to capture something similar for consumes in the West. And I don’t think most of us have.

When I feel myself loosing my “awe”, I slow down. I reevaluate why I write here and why I’ve decided to make a living out of showcasing brands who make the world a little better.

I don’t think I’m alone here. The echo of amazing, humanitarian, eco-friendly, ethical brand reverberating over and over again can warrant a quick applause and appreciation for beauty without much thought or action afterwards.

But I never want this space to become a numbed review of products. I never want to stop feeling the weight of what the brands I partner with accomplish (paired with my own inability to fully comprehend it). And I want the same for you, the people who choose to come here because you know fashion can/should be better.

So, when I brag about a brand, let’s feel the weight of what they’re doing in an industry that pushes against it. And let’s support that.

Which leads me to today’s brand. An offshoot of a non-profit organization doing truly astounding things in the lives of women whose options are sorely limited.

Meet Darzah

“Darzah” is the Arabic word for “stitch”. It symbolizes the literal process of embroidering product and also the journey each woman takes to arrive within Darzah’s safe walls. A part of A Child’s Cup Full, Darzah employs refugee women in northern West Bank, in an area where unemployment rates for women can be as high as 63%.

Employing women seems like a non-issue to those of us who live where we have easy access to jobs, don’t face blatant discrimination daily, and who haven’t had to literally flee for our lives. But for these women who A Child’s Cup Full employs, the opposite is their reality. These women have had to fight for themselves and their families and when a woman doesn’t have access to a job, the alternatives aren’t pretty.

Darzah teaches these women artisans how to embroider stunning and traditional Palestinian designs on locally sourced leather from a family-owned supplier. These designs, called “Tatreez” embroidery, are traditionally passed down from mother to daughter, a beautiful (and literal) symbol of the new lives these women are walking into.


These words, “employing women”, “local supplier”, “refugee”, “traditional techniques”…let them hit you. Let them sink a little bit deeper than they have before.

These are the brands that are changing the world, one life, one embroidered pair of shoes, at a time. And I hope we never forget the weight of that.


*Thank you Darzah for sharing your story with me and sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions, creative direction, and photos are my own.*

The Bendy Shoe


As is the case for most industries, ethics isn’t typically at the forefront of many brands’ and consumers’ minds when they create or shop for new shoes. Creating shoes is admittedly more labor intensive than most garment production and, for most conventional shoe brands, convenience and cost trump eco or human-friendliness.

With the peak of fast fashion, shoes followed the trajectory of most other kinds of production. Exploitation, cheap corner cutting, and blind eye turning.

Luckily, there are always the trailblazers and the innovators who choose to look at footwear from a more all-encompassing perspective. They choose to create quality product without putting anyone else (planet or person) at risk. These are the companies I love to support and shed light on.

For decades, Mary Sue and her co-founder have worked in the fashion and footwear space. Their brand Ashbury Skies has always been a little unconventional, supporting small, independent shoe brands on their online retail space, but they haven’t created a product specifically their own, until the release of their newest endeavor: the BENDY Shoe.

They designed a shoe that reduces environmental impact without sacrificing comfort or style. entirely handcrafted in California. The BENDY is made with only four materials - a rubber sole, a front suede leather piece, a back sturdy leather piece, and thread. The shoes are designed to last, and are made with the utmost humanitarian standards.

Not surprisingly, BENDY surpassed its fundraising goal within a few days of launching, but that doesn’t mean that the campaign can’t use more support.

Today, Mary Sue and her co-founder have launched a scholarship program for emerging designers and students in the footwear industry who want to create an ethical brand or product from concept, to sourcing, to creation, to completion. The Ethical Shoe Design Course is a 12-week intensive course, and the first of its kind in the footwear space. The duo hopes that this course will create radical change for the future of sustainable footwear. And for each pair of BENDY Shoes purchased, a portion of the proceeds will support the scholarship fund.

BENDY, they hope, is a catalyst that will spark change and push consumers to continue to consider the impact of their purchases.

To learn more about BENDY or to support their campaign, click here.

5 Things To Look for when Shopping Ethically for A New Pair of Shoes

This post is a guest post from the folks behind the newly released Bendy Shoe - they’re sharing their expertise to help make navigating ethical shoe shopping a bit simpler. Check out their Kickstarter Campaign here!

Every purchase you make will leave a footprint on the planet. We all understand the importance of responsible consumption, yet there are few guidelines or road maps. Ethical shoe shopping can be tricky but there are many things you can start to do right now to make a difference. Thankfully, many shoe brands are using ethical and responsible principles when building their products. This list will help you know what to look for to lower emissions, reduce landfill or to ensure workers were treated fairly and paid and honest wage when making your pair.

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1. Leather shoes

The first shoes on record were from the Stone Age, and guess what? They were leather. Leather was breathable, durable, pliable and readily available as it was a by-product, so it was a great choice for covering the foot. The same thing holds true now. Savvy vintage shoppers know that the oldies and goodies are not the synthetic or fabric pairs. The coveted finds are typically high-quality leather ones that have lasted for decades. Leather can be cleaned and polished to look great year after year. Buy the best quality that fits into your budget. You will probably tire of the styling before they wear out. If this mindset leads to less purchases, then congratulations, you are doing your part in reducing emissions and landfill.

2. Can your repair your shoes?

Before you discard a broken pair of shoes, try a cobbler. A good shoe repair professional can work miracles. As long as the upper is in good shape there is a good chance they can be restored. Don’t let the prices deter you either, $20-$40 can give your shoes new life. It’s better to spend the money and keep the shoes in your rotation than have them end up in landfill.

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3. Fair trade brands

These brands help craftsman and sometimes, women in particular, in developing countries achieve higher economic and social standards. They tend to be high quality and handmade. Central and South America and Southeast Asia are both known for their communities of shoemakers. Buying from fair trade brands ensure workers have been paid fair wages and work in safe conditions.

4. Ethically sourced

More and more shoe companies are starting to use recycled, natural, or responsibly produced raw materials when making their products. All of this matters and ultimately results in less carbon emissions. If something that would be otherwise discarded is being reused in your shoes, that equates to less landfill. If an upper material is natural or responsibly sourced, that typically means that less energy is used in the making of it as compared to a typical shoe. All of this means that the process of making your shoe is kinder and gentler on the planet.

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5. Handcrafted in the US label

Since shoes made in the US don’t have to be transported over vast distances, they offer a lower carbon footprint. There are some cool brands starting to make shoes in Los Angeles now. Made in US also means higher standards for workers and for the environment. The US has national, state and local laws in place that regulate how workers are treated: minimum wages, overtime, and safety. Also, laws regulate waste processing, use of chemicals, water usage and recycling. Many of these things don’t exist overseas.