Companies I Love: Sseko Sandals

Companies I love

Heylen Thienes wearing Sseko Sandals
At the beginning of the year I spoke about “putting my money where my mouth is” in regards to fashion and clothing; I got a great response from a lot of people, but the biggest question was “what next”, i.e. where do we buy clothing and shoes from transparent companies.
So, I’ve started doing some research and looking at companies whose supply line is as transparent as possible and will be sharing the ones that I like the most.

This week I’m sharing a tried and tested company: Sseko Designs. I first heard about Sseko sandals in 2013 at a Creative Morning talk in Portland. Their mission is incredible. The company was started by Liz Bohannon after a trip to Uganda. During her time over there she realised that while many young women were graduating from high school they weren’t making it to university, the reason being that there’s a nine month gap between graduation and the start of University. The gap year is intended to allow these women the time to work and save up to be able to pay for their education, but what really happens is that they go back to their villages, find jobs and never make it back for their degree. And this is how Sseko was born.
They employs passionate high school graduates, allowing them to save up and work with a clear purpose: to go to university. You can the nitty gritty details and see how it’s working here.


What I love the most about Sseko sandals is that while I (selfishly) know I can feel good about buying them because of their mission, they’re also really cute, comfortable and affordable. The leather sole (which comes in black, brown and tan) molds to your feet and you can mix and match your straps, they come in array of colors and patterns, I currently have the silver and the red ones – and you can also buy cute accessories for them like in the picture above. Perfect for summer vacation outfits. You can also tie them in tons of different ways, though admittedly some are more comfortable than others, but that’s more of a personal thing.
I’ve worn them on the beach, riding my bike, walking around Miami, and can honestly vouch for their comfort (they’re not paying me to say that).

I’ll be honest, while I’ve been trying to make conscious purchasing decisions this year, it’s not always easy. I have small feet and can rarely find cute shoes at thrift stores, nor can I get my head around paying ridiculous prices for over worn H&M tops when I know I can buy brand new ones for only a few extra dollars. But I am trying to buy items that I know I’ll wear for a long time by checking their quality and trying not to buy overly trendy styles that I won’t wear next year.
This is what works for me… what works for you?


PS: keep in touch on instagram!
First picture by Heylen Thienes, Second picture by Sseko Designs via Style Wise


To Put My Money Where My Mouth Is…


When making my tea towels last year, I really wanted to make sure they were of good quality. And it made me realize that I don’t always shop quality.

Over the past few months I’ve been meeting new and interesting people that are really challenging me and the way I think, especially when it comes what I stand for. Something that has really stood out to me is that I don’t always “put my money where my mouth is”.

It all came about like this: I needed a new pair of jeans, and after doing some research (and being heavily influenced by their recent ad campaign), I decided that I needed Madewell jeans. After buying them, my brother-in-law and I started talking about how paying the extra $50-$80 was totally worth it because Madewell probably made better quality clothing, treated its workers better, and possibly didn’t make their clothes in a sweatshop.

And then it dawned on me.

I am so misinformed. I have no idea what I’m talking about. Price difference does not equal quality or ethics in production. It simply means that I’m paying for exclusivity.  Just look at Anthropologie.  Their clothes are a just grown up, more expensive version of Urban Outfitters’.

It brought to my attention how little I know about a subject I supposedly really care about. For example, did you know that we only spend 3% of our annual income on clothes compared to 15% post WW2?* We’re spending less yet buying and throwing away more (because it either goes out of fashion or only lasts three washes).

My shopping habits may have changed due to the limited shopping options in Bend, but I’m still shopping quantity and not quality.  I don’t do enough research about how things are made or where they were made. We all know about the the collapse of the factory in Bangladesh where over a thousand people died, but we (or rather I) choose to ignore it, brushing it under the carpet so that I can continue shopping guiltless at H&M, Primark and GAP.


So what to do? My answer? Research. That’s my goal for this year, if there’s something I care about, I need to do my research, and take action. Follow through with what I say I stand for.


I’m going to begin by choosing quality over quantity, even if it means spending a little more.  Buy more clothes that will stand the test of fashion trends rather than buying the $7 pleather skirt on sale, that quite honestly I’m not sure I’ll wear again. Look for companies that are truly making a difference in this area, or at least making an effort to.

I’m not sure how that’ll make a difference, and perhaps I’m being naive by thinking that it could make a difference.  But maybe if I choose to support companies that support a healthy and sustainable production process, maybe those companies will grow enough to act as an example for others? Just maybe.

We’re all making New Year’s resolutions right now, and I’m making these mine:  To put my money where my mouth is, to research and know what I stand for. To make things and change happen and build for the future, not just for now.

What are your new year’s resolutions? And what are your favourite ethical companies to shop at?


Further reading: