WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Wilmington-based designer Caroline Fisher's sandals will be sold by Anthropologie, the national clothing retailer, starting this holiday season.
According to Fisher, the sandals are hand-made, beaded, and made of leather, based off of traditional East African design with a modern twist.
"When we were living in Tanzania and tossing around ideas for products that we could market in the US to employ folks in Tanzania, we'd come across beautiful beaded leather sandals," said Fisher, who began the operation in 2013. "I've always done a lot of bead work ever since I was a kid, and I saw those and thought, I could do that."
Since beginning the sandal design through Seeded Hand Sown and Swahili Coast, Fisher has formed a worker-owned cooperative in the city of Dar es Salaam for the people who work there. About 30 people work in the cooperative, and 80 percent of them are women, according to Fisher.
The raw materials and labor are all sourced from Tanzania, then the completed sandals are shipped to the United States. Fisher said the workers are paid fairly for their labor, and are excited to sell their craftwork abroad.
Fisher said she is cognizant to avoid cultural appropriation, and said the sandal designs are developed in a cross-cultural partnership.
The new business relationship with Anthropologie means the sandals will be available in select stores, a holiday catalog, and online.
"We're really excited for what it means for our team in Tanzania," Fisher said. "We're hoping that it gives us the opportunity to expand our workshop and employ more people, and it just opens a lot more doors for us in the coming seasons."