Sole Power

Alexis Hefley spotted these hair-on-hide shoes (above) in a Ugandan market during a visit with her Dallas-based charity, Empower African Children. They were a hit back home, too, so she helped rebrand the shoe line, now called Uwezo (ooh-WAY-zo), and came up with a business plan to bring them to the States and send a portion of sales back to Ugandan children. 


There’s nothing we love more than a designer collection that benefits charity. But we got particularly excited when the tables turned and a charity teamed up with a designer to create a product that supports two causes: our feet and their schools.

Enter Uwezo. This new shoe collection, which boasts fall’s favorite accessories for girls and guys, the desert boot and the oxford, emerged from Empower African Children, which ding! ding! ding! helps the kids. The non-profit has been funding education programs in Uganda for high-risk and orphaned children since 2005, and in an effort to keep their programs afloat, they brainstormed a new way to serve the community that reached beyond just the classroom. They teamed up with legendary shoemaker Bata, and out came Uwezo.

But the do-gooding doesn’t stop there. All aspects of production are community-supported and sustainable: Bata’s environmentally friendly factories in Kenya and Uganda employ local workers with fair wages and humane conditions, and use the cowhides of local cows.

-Refinery 29


Uwezo means talent, capacity, or ability in Swahili, and those are undoubtedly the attributes that the eponymous shoe brand is trying to foster in African youth. The label, a leather shoe line comprised of repurposed and found cowhide, donates proceeds to the non-profit Empower African Children, which benefits education programs and scholarships for East African orphans

Founder Alexis Hefley notes, “Uwezo and Empower African Children are devoted to educating Uganda’s vulnerable children so that they can thrive, not just survive.” In other words, buying a pair of these cozy moccasins will help to build a brighter future for East Africa. I’d say that’s a step in the right direction!
-Marie Claire


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