“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.
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.
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.
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.