ENZI Footwear hopes to change perceptions of Africa, one pair of shoes at a time.
Open an ENZI shoe box, and you’ll not only find a pair of stylish leather kicks, but also an inspiring note: “You have not just purchased a pair of shoes,” it reads. “You have contributed toward the development of sustainable leather production in Ethiopia. You have invested in improving the livelihoods of skilled Ethiopian factory workers. You have helped to raise the profile of East African design. You have added your voice to a growing chorus of people around the world who are ready to see Africa in a new light.
“The shoes also happen to be really nice,” it adds. “Enjoy them responsibly.”
And so is summed up the driving force behind ENZI, a high-end men’s footwear brand based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The company’s collection of shoes combines high-quality materials sourced in East Africa with a commitment to expert design, superior craftsmanship and responsible labor practices. In fact, a portion of ENZI’s profits is distributed directly to the Ethiopian artisans who produce the footwear entirely by hand.
“Our goal is to bridge the gap between the producers and the buyers,” says ENZI co-founder Azariah Mengistu. “We want our customers to connect with the individuals who’ve made their products — so much so that the members of our team sign the outside of every shoe box.”
Ultimately, ENZI hopes their products and ethics will help break established stereotypes about Africa, says managing partner Sam Imende, and reintroduce the continent as the home of the world’s highest quality leather, as well as entrepreneurial manufacturers looking to set a new global standard.
With retailers having sold ENZI shoes in such fashion capitals as London, Paris and Hong Kong, it seems the brand is well on its way to influencing global perception — and spotlighting the continent with the best of lights.
To order your own pair, visit enzifootwear.com. Both the “Lumumba” (low-top) and “Nkrumah” (mid-cut) styles come in white, brown, burgundy and black.