IN THESE dark times, local shoe brand Annie & Lori finds hope and light in the nation and in nature.
Just last January, Annie & Lori reached a high when it was featured in that month’s issue of British Vogue, under the Designer Profile section. The world has drastically changed since then, and like most industries during this pandemic, the shoe industry has taken a beating.
“The past months have been a struggle for us but we want to keep marching on and to continue supporting Filipino artisans,” says Faith Mijares, head designer of Annie & Lori in a press release. In an e-mail to BusinessWorld, she says about these same artisans, “They were forced to stop working when we were in ECQ. When we shifted to GCQ, [and] some of them who live nearby got to go to work by walking or biking. For those who had to walk, their schedules have been adjusted accordingly.
“No one was spared by the pandemic. But we continue to adapt and make necessary adjustments to keep our business afloat,” she added.
The line is known for its sandals made using vegetable-tanned leather, introduced in 2019. The method reduces the brand’s carbon footprint and reliance on harmful chemicals used in the tanning process. The sandals have been seen on the feet of Miss Universe Catriona Gray, as well as Filipina Victoria’s Secret model Kelsey Merritt. In a previous interview with BusinessWorld, Ms. Mijares said, “The vegetable tanned leather collection is our most eco-friendly collection to-date, but we are committed to discovering and using more eco-friendly materials in the future.”
Its latest collection — released as much of the world is locked down because of the COVID-19 pandemic — is named Sako (sack), and it is certainly eco-friendly as it uses jute, a plant-derived fiber usually used to make, well, sacks.
“Our main goal was to truly differentiate, make a positive impact in the environment and at the same time highlight what’s unique and truly Filipino aligning with our minimalist aesthetics, hence we ended up with this Sako Collection. It was never easy to marry these initiatives, but we are glad we made it happen,” she said.
“It’s definitely hard when you’re working with something that you’re not used to especially during the early stage. But eventually we were able to adjust into it,” she said of working with jute instead of the leather they are used to. “We made sure that as much as possible, the jute material we used is natural, hence please expect imperfections in our Sako Collection.”
The design inspiration takes off from elements found in the Philippine flag. For example, the Sako pump, in white, is embroidered with little suns that look like the one in the nation’s flag. Meanwhile, a pair of loafers is accented with red leather, much the same crimson hue as that displayed in our flag. The sandals are still there, of course, joined by a taller, platform-soled sister.
“The very essence of nationalistic designs is to spread positivity and uplift the morale of every Filipino. We hope to spread the message that there is always something that we can be proud of as Filipinos despite what is happening in our country,” said Ms. Mijares.
She places the choice of material and its role as a plant-based fiber in the brand’s goals for sustainability. “If you’ll look into the global situation, there is a strong outcry for sustainable methods, for more environmentally friendly products. We are ‘local,’ but we have growing global recognition, hence we wanted to align ourselves and contribute,” she said.
“At the end of the day, we all live on the same planet and in our own small way, we can help protect it.”