For most people, a trip to the Dominican Republic entails soaking up the sun while sipping on delicious cocktails. Not for the shoemakers at Keen, however. An excursion to Santiago de los Caballeros, the second largest city in the country, spawned a line of boldly colored kicks for Spring/Summer 2011. But the Santiago collection is more than the sum of its parts (natural cotton canvas, locally produced rubber, and adhesive-free, hand-cranked construction). Keen is also using the classic-looking lace-ups and slip-ons as vehicles for raising $1 million in microloans for impoverished communities around the world, starting at home with the Gulf region.
HERE COMES THE SUN
Keen went to Santiago de los Caballeros, which has a long history of making footwear, to learn how to make a shoe more sustainably, but to do that, it needed to find the right tool: a hand-operated vulcanization machine that was made in Germany more than 60 years ago. After scouring the globe—including Poland, Russia, Turkey, and Spain—Keen gathered a few dozen dusty, vintage models. Once refurbished, the machines were pressed back into service, applying heat and pressure to vulcanize rubber soles to cotton canvas uppers—no glues or stitches required.
Keen will donate a portion of the proceeds to its HybridLife Hope Fund, which works with Kiva to fund projects that revitalize communities.
No doubt inspired by their birthplace, the shoes come in vibrant, saturated colors with evocative names like Living Coral, Mimosa, and Lilac Sachet. The collection, which includes grownup and kid versions, as well as an infant-only Mary Jane, is expected to retail from $25 to $50. Keen will donate a portion of the proceeds to its HybridLife Hope Fund, which works in conjunction with microlending expert Kiva to fund projects that revitalize communities. At majorly affordable prices, Keen is making it easy to look and do good effortlessly.