Tuesday, April 28, 2015

crochet everything

Ok, how adorable are these? Generally, flats and flip-flops turn me off because of the materials the majority are made from, and every fifth pair on the street tends to look extremely similar. The intricate design and additional ankle material on these crochet babies gives me that exciting feeling, like: finally, a cute summer shoe that is not a flip-flop or flat, and is ethically made. Alana, the founder of Luludu, is an awesome gal, and we got to chat about how she found the women in Cambodia to help her make these shoes, and where her inspiration comes from.

1. I love that you moved to Byron Bay to figure things out before you started making shoes. Where are you from originally?
Originally I'm from Auckland, New Zealand. But I now live in the Gold Coast in Australia.
2. I'm curious about the story- how did you find the three women who make the beautiful Luludu shoes in Cambodia?
Great question, but with a very long answer! I will try to keep it as short as I can without losing any important details :)
Once I made the decision that I wanted to expand my business, support women overseas and teach them the skill of making these shoes, I started searching everywhere I could for an ethical crochet business. As I was just starting this journey with only a small amount of experience (but a lot of hope), I knew I needed to work with a company that was already doing ethical crochet as I needed to have someone who could help with quality control and who I could communicate with for future orders.
After months searching, I finally found an NGO in Cambodia who said they could help. I arrived in Phnom Penh in May 2014 ready to dive in, but then I found out our funding hadn't been approved and there was no guarantee on how long it would take to come through. The reason we had applied for funding was because we were going to work with a community who had been displaced by the government. They had been moved 1 hour away from the city and they desperately needed skills so they could start supporting their families as they could no longer afford to travel back to the city for work.
After two months (I was only supposed to be in Cambodia for 6 weeks but was determined to stay as long as it would take) funding was finally approved, but when we finally got to the village we found out the majority of the women wanting to train with me were underage, and the rest were already employed as knitters. That same afternoon I also had a very disturbing experience seeing a kitten who had already been paralyzed being mistreated by the children there, so needless to say it was a very hard first day (I did take the kitten home with me and found someone to care for it). The next day the women who were helping me with training quit, so after two months of waiting it all fell apart very quickly.
Still, I was determined not to give up. Earlier in my trip I had seen a store called tonlé, and I had read about how Rachel (the founder) was already doing something very similar to what I hoped to achieve - she had set up a very successful business based on transparency and kindness. But what is also really cool about tonlé is most of their clothing is made from the highest quality remnant fabric that would have otherwise ended up in landfills. I reached out to her, just wanting to talk to someone who may be able to shed some light on what I was experiencing, and thats when she offered to help me. Tonlé also has a crochet team, their staff are all paid fairly and treated very well - it all started to fall into place. I then sat with three beautiful women for 6 weeks, training them on the in's and out's of how to make these shoes!
3. So many of us are accustomed to picturing awful sweat-shop production facilities when we think of products being made in Cambodia. Can you paint a picture for us of what your system looks like (an office space, do the women work at home)?
Tonlés workshop is great. Its open, bright, located in the city, and everyone is laughing and chatting all day. At lunch time they share food, have naps, or go home to see their families. There are many different teams - sewing, handwork (crochet or knitting), screenprinting, design etc,
and each person works in the position that suits them best.
There are no armed guards, no barbed wire or large walls, and no cattle trucks (common images from garment factory's around the world). It really is an amazing place for these men and women to work.
4. So in essence, when people purchase these shoes, can we say they are investing in helping three women in Cambodia to support themselves and their families?
Definitely. I have heard stories from many staff who work for tonlé, and especially from the women who make my shoes and dreamcatchers. Their stories are full of hope, determination, and happiness, despite what they have experienced in their lives. Working for a company who treats them well and cares about them as individuals has changed their lives. They deserve to be treated with respect; as does every human on this earth, and I know that supporting labels such as Luludu and tonlé is the only way the industry can move from a very unsustainable business model to one who represents a story of change, fairness, and equality.
5. I love that the inspiration for this brand came from your moms old crochet shoes! I get so much inspiration from my moms clothing back in the 90s. Was there anything else that inspired the design/ colors of the line?
I find kindness and change inspiring. I'm always inspired by nature and its effortless beauty. I love the bohemian lifestyle - freedom, rawness, open hearts and minds. I also love things that are a little bit quirky or different, anything too perfect doesn't really appeal to me. And I love things that are intricate and detailed - so these shoes are really all of those things in one!

Check out the array of their beautiful sunny slippers here. I cant wait to buy a pair.


Around the same time I discovered Luludu, I was walking around in Bali and noticed the plethora or beautifully-made crochet things. I got this top (that doubles as a bathing suit) at a tiny shop, from the sweetest woman that made these in all sorts of colors and designs. If you're ever in Bali, you cant miss the lovely women hand-making them right in the street.
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