Chances are that if you look at the label of the garment you are wearing, you will likely see the sentence “Made in Bangladesh.” To many people’s surprise, garment manufacturing accounts for 85% of Bangladesh’s export income, with more than 12 million Bangladeshis reliant on the sector. Yet, when thinking of fashion hotspots, London, Paris and Milan are the ones that take over our minds. Sadly, there’s an unfair and wrong reputation in the industry of locations either being “fashionable” or “cheap.”
A study by Aberdeen University found one in five factories in Bangladesh struggle to pay workers their daily minimum wage. It also uncovered that 90% of high-street brands buying from four or more factories engage in unfair purchasing practices. Footwear label ekn wants to put this to an end and believes that to change our mindset, we — consumers and producers — must start thinking differently and appreciating subcultures all over the globe.
“Walking clean in a dirty world” is the echo the brand wanted to emphasize with their new project, Kamthala. “We created the world’s first shoe designed in Bangladesh and made in Europe. Because we know, creativity does not stop at national borders, and we prove the script can be flipped.” ekn tapped Bangladeshi designer and inspiring personality Rokaiya Ahmed Purna to spotlight the potential of young generations. Together, they produced a limited-edition, modern sneaker that celebrates Bangladesh’s vibrancy and creativity.
“The Kamthala sneaker is a bold, creative statement towards the industry to rethink how it deals with the Global South: it’s a call to stop inhumane manufacturing practices in developing countries and to promote the creative output of talent outside industrialized countries. We want to turn the usual paradigm of ‘designed in the global north, made in the global south’ upside down. And we’re doing exactly this release,” expressed the label during the sneaker’s presentation.
Named after and inspired by the emblematic jackfruit tree in Bangladesh, the Kamthala sports exotic hues, spiky optics and traditional patterns — yellow and green accents, reminiscent of a ripe jackfruit, take over the color palette. Material-wise, the shoe features a vegetable, tanned upper, along with a lining and mesh made from recycled neoprene. A removable insole facilitates end-of-life recycling, and the EVA sole, made from recycled chloroprene rubber, provides cushioning and lightness when walking. All Kamthala sneakers are handmade in Portugal with PETA-approved vegan materials that ensure durability, comfort and style.
Furthermore, to prove ekn doesn’t just “talk the talk” but also “walks the walk,” all revenues from sales are destined for initiatives that support young creatives in Dhaka, a creative hub for Bangladeshi youth. ekn noted, “The Kamthala is a sneaker that makes unseen talent shine, a sneaker that draws attention to real passion. And a sneaker that supports creatives. We are happy that all the revenues go directly to Rokaiya’s initiatives and supporting young designers in Dhaka.”
Priced at €200 EUR (approximately $220 USD), you can purchase ekn’s Kamthala sneaker from eknfootwear.com.