In a six-month collaboration with a team in Switzerland we started by stripping away all the unnecessary elements from the traditional rubber rain boot that had accumulated over years of mass production and little attention to detail.
We were left with a simple silhouette for us to build upon. We adjusted and fine-tuned the subtlety of the boot’s curves and lines until we found a shape we believed transcended time and geography, striking a balance of flexibility and rigidity, masculinity and femininity, function and form.
Comes From Trees
We may be partial, but we like to think that the Rubber Boot goes strongly against the grain of the fashion industry. We aren’t selling a product cranked out in mass quantities through molds, flying off the production line according to how fast machines can work or laborers can stitch.
We hope to be able to bring back the texture of authenticity: an option of buying a fashion item that speaks of more than just colours and cuts. An option to find value, originality and exclusivity through the very process involved in making each pair of boots.
It shows, too — not just in the quality of the boots, but in the fair treatment of the team making them by hand. We’ve been able to provide our workers benefits like subsidized meals for breakfast and lunch, transport to and from work, a welfare shop from which workers can buy everyday household goods, food and drink at discount prices, insurance options, and access to loans for things such as housing, education, critical illness and distress.
Fair Rubber Association Certified
On a larger scale, the fair-trade premiums we pay in sourcing the natural rubber will go towards building a community center with internet access for the rubber workers – a decision made through the Fair Rubber Association in consultation with the rubber workers. This internet connection will provide a direct line of communication from rubber workers to the FRA and its members, allowing them to provide continual updates regarding needs, challenges and potentially exploitative circumstances as well as a potential source of income and education.
We work with the Fair Rubber Association, a multi-stakeholder initiative that specializes in sourcing and development within rubber communities. The Association is a platform of cooperation between a small number of companies that trade in products made with Fairly Traded natural rubber, as well as representatives of civil society that support the expansion of Fair Trade as a concept.
We pay a Fair Trade premium for each kilogram of rubber that we source. This premium goes into a bank account managed by a committee of elected members from the rubber workforce. This Fair Trade premium is only to be used for the improvement of the working and living conditions of the rubber communities.
These kinds of projects are tried and tested. To give an example, fair-trade premiums helped finance the building of a new bridge across a nearby river from where the rubber communities work. Generations of rubber workers had been asking for a bridge to be built, with the plan suggested more than 60 years ago.
Now that it’s built, the new bridge provides access to the local hospital that’s not only a lot quicker, but cheaper – less than a third of the price that had to be paid for the old, long route. And a nearby village benefits, too. Twice a year, their access to the main road gets flooded, isolating as many as 4,000 people. Now they can use the new bridge during the monsoon rains.
The rubber we source comes from an FSC-certified rubber forest. That’s a guarantee that our rubber from our boots comes from an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, economically viable, sustainably managed forest. Working with FSC certification means being part of a joint initiative that promotes taking responsibility for what goes into our rubber boots.
are Hand Made
in Sri Lanka
The process of handcrafting each pair of boots involves more than 20 different operations, from cutting each of the the rubber pieces by hand to carefully placing them in such a way that creates the boot’s final form.
It’s through this process that we looked to fulfill our desire for a beautifully handcrafted good – luxurious not only as a unique piece in its own right, but also in the passion and respect that has gone into its making, with regard to the craftspeople as well as the environment from which the material has been sourced.
We’ve been able to provide our workers benefits like subsidized meals for breakfast and lunch, transport to and from work, a welfare shop from which workers can buy everyday household goods, food and drink at discount prices, insurance options, and access to loans for things such as housing, education, critical illness and distress.