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Backpacks, Footwear are NOT ‘Made in China’ (made in Ethiopia instead)

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“Made in China.” That’s common on outdoors gear. But what about “Made in Ethiopia”?

A new company, Oliberté, is a Canadian brand but its factory is in Ethiopia. Opened last year, the factory employs 51 workers and manufactures a line of shoes, backpacks, handbags and wallets.

Native African materials are a thrust, including rubber and goat leather sourced in Ethiopia. The company strives to create a fair working environment for people in the country by providing employees with a competitive salary and free lunches, among other perks.

Women, who comprise approximately half of the work force, are entitled to maternity leave benefits.

Oliberté general manager (at left) and the brand’s founder outside of the factory; photo by Kinfe Sahlu Gulte

The Neje boot from Oliberté uses suede and goat leather sourced from Ethiopia

We tested a couple boots from the brand this summer. I like the Neje model, a women’s casual boot made of suede and goat leather. They have a flat, nearly treadless rubber sole and a handcrafted look with exposed stitching. They are comfortable for everyday adventures around town.

The boots cost $150. I feel this price is fair, and it’s nice to think of my money streaming to a company with ethical labor practices.

Each Oliberté shoe is handmade in the Ethiopian factory; photo by Kinfe Sahlu Gulte

Another product I like from the company is the Krabu bag. This backpack features many of the same details in stitching and design as the brand’s shoes.

Not cheap, the pack costs $250. For that price you’re getting a solid leather pack with a wax coating. No bells and whistles, but its construction is solid and it will last for many years.

Krabu bag

Oliberté is not an outdoors performance brand. The products have a look that makes them at home in the outdoors, but don’t expect to hike too far in the footwear or shoulder a pack for an overnight trip.

But for great-looking products with a fashion edge, the company is worth a look. I like its handcrafted products, made in Ethiopia with quality and an old-school touch that’s nowadays rarely seen.

—Amy Oberbroeckling is an assistant editor.

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