Although the business launched in 2009 with only two silhouettes and a handful of employees, it’s now a global brand that’s projected to sell between 20,000 and 25,000 pairs this year. Guided by a “play fair” ethos, Oliberté partners with manufacturers that exceed local labor standards, pay comparably high wages, and ensure that women comprise half of their workforce. Many of them also offer their workers employee benefits like maternity leave and subsidized or free lunches. It also plans to open its own factory in Addis Ababa this summer while maintaining production at its third-party facilities.
Tal Dehtiar, the company’s founder wants people to think of Africa not as the next China but as the next Italy.
With approximately 1,000 stitches per shoe, Oliberté combines fine craftsmanship with casual-chic style. Tal Dehtiar, the company’s founder and president, has been vocal in his insistence on quality—he wants people to think of Africa not as the next China but as the next Italy. “If we wanted to make cheap shoes, we’d simple go to Asia, but this is not about cheap shoes or labour,” he said at the brand’s launch. “This is about premium quality and fashionable footwear that creates fair paying jobs in the poorest countries of the world.”
While all the attention on Africa has been focused on alleviating poverty, the only “real way” to do so is to build a middle class that includes fair paying jobs. “Oliberté is about quality and fair play,” Anna Harmon, Oliberté’s outreach and brand coordinator tells Ecouterre. “We believe you don’t need to look anywhere else to find the best materials and skilled craftsmen and women—Africa is it. And our goal is to treat our employees with utmost respect and make sure they have everything they need, too.”
Oliberté is setting its sights west, namely Cameroon, Congo, Uganda, and Zambia.
In addition to its men’s shoes, the most popular of which has been its version of the chukka, Oliberté will be making its first foray into women’s footwear and accessories. And when the shoes wear out? Oliberté will take them back for recycling.
Now that its current operations are thriving, Oliberté is setting its sights west, namely Cameroon, Congo, Uganda, and Zambia. “People don’t necessarily need handouts, wherever we are in the world,” Harmon says. “We want the chance to determine things for ourselves, to support our own. We’re looking to create that possibility through making incredible quality shoes with local materials and high-fashion aims.”