Nature has been a source of inspiration for centuries and has provided everything that a man would ever need. The need to cope with the cold climate in the northern countries has produced some interesting inventions. After trying several ways to keep their feet warm, Russian peasants came up with the idea of using sheep wool to produce felted boots: the "Valenkis".
Wool, a natural and renewable fiber, is far better than synthetic material. It is not only an extremely comfortable fabric but also an excellent component for shoes. Baabuk uses 100% natural wool from healthy happy sheep to produce its shoes. Preserving the old Valenki tradition of shoe making and simultaneously incorporating an innovative design is our commitment. We deliver traditionally handcrafted natural shoes while keeping it trendy.
To know more about the various and surprising properties of wool, visit “Why Wool?”
We exert conscious efforts to preserve the environment. Baabuk commits to using sustainable and renewable resources such as sheep wool or natural latex (soles of the slippers). The simplest and eco-friendliest felting process for the slippers is done by using mild soap, water and many hours of dedicated labor. This is the process that we apply in our workshop in Nepal to produce the slippers. This process is based on the old felting technique used to make Valenkis, Russian woolen boots used to fight the Siberian cold. This video will show you how Valenkis were handcrafted by Babushkas in the past: click here.
What makes a pair of Baabuk natural wool shoes different from any other shoes is the seamless and stitchless profile. This is due to the fact that the slipper is made of one piece only, thanks to the Valenki felting technique. As a matter of fact, anyone can use flat layers of wool and stitch them together to form a shoe. We chose a different path. The production process we have chosen is meticulous and delicate. It takes three days to create a pair of Baabuk but the outcome is exceptional. The Baabuk slippers are not only warm but also insanely comfortable and natural.
“No compromise!” says Dan! As quality is our main concern, we developed our own production site and designed innovative machines. We drew the plans for the machine prior to building them. The aim being to keep up with the high standard of quality that we are committed to delivering to our customers.
The shoe making process in four main steps:
Baabuk is more than just a shoe, it’s about people. The people working in the Baabuk factory in Nepal receive higher than average salaries, have good working conditions (breaks, legal number of days off, and are provided adapted working tools for example), and receive thorough training in the art of felting wool. We guarantee that no children work in the workshop and that there is an equal number of men and women in the staff. The village in which the factory is established benefits from the positive economic outcomes, as well as the job offers that it represents.
The Sneakers and Urban Woolers:
On the other hand, the sneakers and Urban Woolers are made in Portugal. The wool used to make the sneakers comes from well-treated sheep from the natural park Serra da Estrela, northern Portugal.
“On the tops of the mountains, in the shadow of the Penhas Douradas, we admire the complicity between shepherd and flock, both bearing the same skin – wool – except that the wool of the shepherd's coat has taken on the colours of the land, of the cliffs, in a strong, warm, and protecting backdrop…” (Our partner)
The wool is firstly woven and then washed at high temperature for it to felt. From this point on, we can tailor each BAABUK sneakers. The felting technique is different from the slippers because we need a thinner and more flexible material.
We chose to produce the sneakers and Urban Woolers in Portugal as it is an important European source of wool and well-known for its know-how and expertise in shoemaking. Moreover, we collaborate with pro-active partners located in regions that suffered from unemployment due to rural exodus. They are willing to bring the region back to life and develop the wool industry to create jobs.
The unisex boots:
To produce the boot, we combined the know-how of the people in Nepal and the one from our collaborators in Portugal. This means that the lower part of the boot is made in the same way than the BAABUK slippers. Thus, the video above perfectly explains the production process and the various steps in order to get the first half of the boot.
Once the lower part done, it is sent to our Portuguese collaborators who will stitch to it the final touches: the upper part, the sole, and the details that will make the boot even more durable and solid. For the upper part, the wool is firstly woven and then washed at high temperature for it to felt. We chose to assemble the boots in Portugal as it is an important European source of wool and well-known for its know-how and expertise in shoemaking.
This boot is very challenging for shoe makers to assemble, as the lower part is made of a single piece. This being so, it makes it more complex and requires skilled workers in order to assemble the three pieces of the boot: the felted sock made of a single piece, the upper part, and the sole.
In Europe, the know-how regarding wool and the way of working it has changed a lot over the past years. This fabric was extensively used before the industrial revolution. Synthetic materials have slowly taken more and more importance in the fashion and textile industries.
Today in most developed countries, wool is burnt due to three main reasons: the decreasing demand regarding this natural fiber, the number people capable of transforming it diminishes as well, and lastly, it is too expensive for farmers to process wool in its raw state.
In Switzerland, approximatively 850 tons of wool are produced per year. About 100 tons are burnt! A big majority of the remaining wool is exported, not being manufactured within the boundaries.
Currently, we are working on the acquisition of a fair-trade certification for our products and company in general. This label would strengthen the way we communicate our values and help us share with our customers our good faith.
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