Our Shoe Project
Ethnic Spirit Clothing works personally with small businesses around the globe.
Our focus is originality and high quality products made to last.
When you choose to wear Ethnic Spirit shoes, you support sustainability and the preserving of traditional arts by Indigenous Guatemalan families.
Ethnic Spirit shoes use soles that are made from recycled car tyres and the fabrics are antique hand-embroidered blouses made and worn by Indigenous women in Guatemala.
We work personally with an Indigenous shoe-making family who in the past made traditional cowboy boots for three generations and yet are now very happy to experiment with our designs using antique and recycled embroidered fabrics and car tyres.
We choose the designs, fabrics and natural leathers when we are in Guatemala and leave our order to be made. By receiving work all year round this Indigenous shoe-making family are able to afford to send their children to university in Guatemala City and live a better life.
Thank you for supporting quality handmade and fair trade products.
Huipil blouses are worn in daily life by all Indigenous women in Guatemala...
Huipil blouses tell the story of where you are from and which dialect you speak...
The blouses are made up of thousands of individual stitches of bright cotton fully covering the hand-loomed base material......
This banner shows samples of the type of hand-embroidered blouses that we buy from women in Guatemala and then upcycle into unique shoes.
Reels of cotton used for embroidering mayan symbology onto the blouses...
Exquisite bird embroidery from the town of Santiago de Atitlan.......
This banner shows the process of how the blouses are made, first the fabric being woven by hand on a back strap loom exactly to the width of the woman making it, then how the motifs of the town where the woman is from are embroidered over a period of ten or so months, turning the blouse into a wild array of colours representing the exact people group, geographical and cultural identity of the woman creating it to wear.
After ten, twenty, thirty or even more years, this same blouse is then sold to a second hand market to get some money back to start making another one. These second hand blouses are what we buy and get transformed into shoes, using old car tyres brought to our shoe makers from Guatemala City.
The process of making the shoes is one of using age-old shoe-making techniques with modern materials. We have spent months working alongside our shoe makers trialling new designs for men, women and children for all seasons. We look forward each few years to going back, immersing ourselves in the simple, honest and colourful Guatemalan culture and experimenting with new styles that can keep our customers shoed up and satisfied for the next festival season!
The story behind the shoes
We have been traveling and working with textiles from around the world for over 10 years, bringing treasures back from Asia and Africa.
A few years ago we traveled to Central and South America for 12 months, delighting in the incredible and ancient textile and handicraft culture. On this trip we fell in love with the women's traditional blouses in Guatemala.
Women in every small town in the highlands use hand-woven fabric to embroider their unique designs with coloured wool and cotton. Each woman learns the design from her mother and the design explains the area from which the women comes, like a Scottish tartan. It is like a geographic marking of identity in these areas and in every big market or meeting place, women know where the other women are from their Huipil (blouse).
In 2013 we worked for a few months on designing a new style of shoes which incorporate beautiful second-hand embroidered huipiles (blouses) with recycled car tyres soles to create light-weight and unique shoes! We also designed unique a cowboy boot which incorporates the traditional leather mexican style cowboy boot with the top part made from the antique Mayan blouses. These same cowboy boots can roll down to a New Yorker Style short boots with leather tassles.
As each pair of shoes are unique, our customers feel special knowing they will never find anyone else with the same boots- a pretty unique thing in these mass-produced times!! The shoes are designed by us but the hard work is done by a beautiful Indigenous shoe-making family whom we met in Guatemala and started working with. This family has been making cowboy boots for three generations and the boots have a lifespan of 30 years if they are resoled each decade. Wearable art at its best!!!
Thanks to the success of the project, which began in 2013, we have supported this indigenous Guatemalan shoe-making family, by providing year round work, enabling them to rebuild their workshop where ten family members work together, creating shoes with our unique Ethnic Spirit designs.
We love seeing people fall in love with and wear these beautiful pieces of walking art which represent such a strong Indigenous women's culture in Guatemala and which have been made in 100% ethical ways.
Our involvement in the design process
We work personally in Guatemala, going to textile markets, selecting favourite embroidered blouses, trialling various shoe styles each season while we are there for a few months, testing the samples by wearing them and perfecting them with our amazing shoe maker family.
We have the ideas and they have the generations of skills and we all communicate in Spanish. It's a match made in heaven and everyone is happy with the results- for us; a very unique, sustainable and ethnic product and for the family; sustainable work all year round!