How our partnership began
How about making your own shoes? And all this made of hemp and under fair conditions? With this vague idea and vision our search began…..
Due to our experience in Thailand we have been in contact with the OTOP project in Thailand several times. OTOP does not mean “other than original product”, as we initially assumed, but “one tambon one product”. A tambon is a local administrative unit or municipality. The aim of this program, which was launched in 2001, was to promote unique and local products such as handicrafts, clothing, cosmetics, food, etc. in Thai communities and internationally. The roots of this idea lie in Japan with the title “One Town, One Product”.
The President of the OTOP Association in Chiang Mai once said: “OTOP has helped to increase the income of many people in the villages. It gives the small local manufacturers the feeling of being part of the global economy.”
Phi Montri belongs to one of these OTOP groups and so our friendship began.
Phi Montri and his company
Phi Montri was enthusiastic about making hemp shoes from local resources right from the start. At present, however, it is only possible to obtain hemp from Thailand under special conditions (more about this below).
His company is a family business with 2 employees in administration. Born and raised in Chiang Mai as members of the ethnic minority Hmong. Hmong communities generally have a close relationship and so the community members are involved in the production of orders. The materials for the hemp shoes, espadrilles and ballerinas are cut by hand and sewn in a small workshop in the family house. To date, most of sales have been made in local markets in and around Chiang Mai. The designs and fabric combinations (mostly cotton and Hmong embroideries) were designed by them.
He was enthusiastic about our design idea and his skills were predestined for our type of shoe. Although hemp cultivation and processing is part of the cultural heritage of the Hmong tribe in Thailand, the processing of hemp was new for him. Due to the complex steps involved in the mechanical processing of hemp, hemp is one of the most expensive but sustainable materials that we have discovered on our material journey to date.
What we particularly like about Phi Montri
When we first met Phi Montri and discussed he proudly showed us his certificate of good working conditions. The certificate is renewed every 3 years by the Thai government. The workshop and equipment were simple but the family feeling that arises through the easy and relaxed interaction of the employees, common laughter and eating in the work sites makes the difference. This is exactly what connects us with our suppliers and friends.
For us at virblatt, the future is the unknown and an opportunity. Recently we concluded a cooperation with a research station of the local university and in cooperation with Hmong farmers in the mountains to establish a hemp field (of course industrial hemp). Yes, you read correctly. We will grow our own hemp in 2018 and are in direct contact with all people in the entire value chain. The hemp is ultimately to be used for your shoes. Think about it.