Fairly Traded Mens Footwear from Fortress Of Inca
American footwear brand Fortress of Inca, already established in the world of women’s footwear, is in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign to launch its first men’s collection. Their shoes are all hand-made in Peru by skilled crafts people using high-quality materials. The styles echo the traditional footwear of the country and utilise local craft techniques, whilst having a contemporary, even urban twist.
With a solid ethos of trading fairly, Fortress of Inca makes efforts to ensure their production processes are ethical, and respectful of the people who make their shoes. We asked Dory Benami, the co-owner of Fortress of Inca (also former Vice President of cult footwear brand United Nude - he really knows his shoes!), to tell us a little more about how they support their Peruvian makers:
‘We work with the factory to ensure that safety and labour regulations are all adhered to. In Peru these regulations are very strict and although there are some that may be able to skirt the law, we work with people who place the lives and well being of workers as a top priority.
I can name several instances where workers had experienced hardships medically, or that were related to their families and the owner of our factory literally shut down production and placed the worker’s life first before the shoes. We stood by this and we will continue to do so. Furthermore, we are working with an organization that works in Peru that was set up by Goldman Sachs called 10,000 Mujeres to help encourage entrepreneurship for women in the country.’
They are also mindful of their environmental impact as Benami goes on to explain:
‘We work with mostly veg-tanned leathers, however if a design is unable to work with a veg-tanned leather or if a softer leather is required, then we will source it and ask these important questions [about environmental impact]. We are as deliberate as possible in the materials we use.
The rubber and other materials come from Peru (Amazon region) and we only use reputable vendors for materials. But to be completely transparent, we aren’t buying each component on our own - we work with a factory that places all of these values atop their priority list and we work alongside them and ask a lot of questions and make informed choices when it comes to materials.'
Fair wages and responsible business are of the upmost importance to Benami and his colleagues, but this is also a brand that takes aesthetics very seriously:
‘Ultimately we believe that not squeezing manufacturer’s down in price is how we can best benefit communities where shoes are being made. It’s not about price, it’s also about process...We always emphasise quality, comfort and style and never sacrifice one of these for price. We find that when you do that you end up using more glue, more plastic and you end up with an inferior product.’
So confident are they that customers will love their products, that Fortress of Inca have offered a buy-back scheme with their Kickstarter campaign. If, within a year of purchase you are not happy with your shoes, you can send them back and in exchange you will receive 50% of the purchase price in store credit. So, what would Benami and his colleagues do with the second-hand shoes if someone did take them up on the offer:
‘I don’t foresee many people wanting to return their shoes - that’s pretty much why we came up with the scheme - because we can stand behind our product. However, we thought it through and if shoes are returned, they will be inspected for wear-and-tear and if they are wearable we will donate them to the families of our workers in Peru and if not, we will recycle the materials.’
Anyone who does purchase a pair of boots can make use of the handy care resource on the Fortress of Inca website, which includes tips on how to help maintain the shape of your boots and how to restore the nap of the suede.
Rewards for the crowdfund, which ends on Tuesday 20th May, include:
Pledge USD $144 or more and receive a pair of Clemente Hi-Top shoes - your choice of style, colour and size.
Pledge USD $174 or more and receive a pair of Pinto Chukka Boots - your choice of style, colour and size.
Pledge USD $450 or more for an early bird special and receive three pairs of shoes: Clemente Hi-Top, Pinto Chukka Boots and Grif's Boot - your choice of style, colour and size.
The women's collection, which incorporates traditional Peruvian woven fabric, is already available online – we highly recommend a look: www.fortressofinca.com/shop