Stiven Kerestegian & artisan women in the Patagonia
Chilote House Shoe
Chilote House Shoe
This simple, noble, extremely comfortable and highly sustainable indoor shoe redefines the concepts of inclusive design and conscious consumption through the synergy created by three valuable assets; design guided craftsmanship, noble renewable materials from the Patagonia, and a disruptive collaboration and manufacturing process.
Stiven Kerestegian and Francisca Apparcel in collaboration with dozens of independent artisan women in the gateway of the Chilean Patagonia.
The project began as a material and social design-craft exercise that soon sprouted into a social innovation start-up creating demand for dozens of independent micro-producers, each adding their unique subtle craftsmanship to the product.
The craftsmanship of artisans is one of the most important and yet most neglected resources of many societies, particularly in the so-called Third World. The entry is symbolic of the value of the craft sector as a force for economic, cultural and social stability and of handcraft as a value system in its own right.
Chilote House Shoe
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
The problem was proposed as; how do we think globally and act locally? The challenge was straight forward, to create a highly sustainable opportunity that redefines the meaning of social inclusiveness, eco-materials and processes as well as what is desirability and commercial viability.
The opportunity was identified through the manifestation of local social and material resources in the Chilean Patagonia.
We needed to go beyond the traditional limitations imposed on sustainability measures of current manufacturing practices where incremental steps allow only small iterative improvements. Instead, we began focusing on the most eco-friendly materials and production methods available that were compatible with the local craftsmanship and social realities. Those limitations turned out to be the enablers of the Chilote House Shoe's universal appeal not only for it's aesthetic and functional qualities but also by providing a highly innovative story-line that embraces sustainability's requirements as an advantage instead of as a limitation.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
I felt that in order to create something really meaningful and compelling we needed to deliver more than just a great product design, we needed to create a whole model or ecosystem around the products complete life cycle.
The best example of this would be it's groundbreaking inclusive manufacturing method that synchronizes a network of independent artisans, each contributing their respective craftsmanship in a sort of virtual assembly line.
Our role as the manufacturer within this methodology is completely untraditional being that most of the production is outsourced to small, self organized groups of individuals.
The company's Production responsibilities are focused on raw material sourcing, local training workshops, shipping and receiving synchronization and iterative quality control procedures.
This innovative methodology creates measurable commercial and social value for everyone involved in the products complete life cycle. Everyone from the artisan to the final consumer plays a key role as an enabler of the highly ethical model.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
From the very beginning we understood that we needed to deliver more than just a highly desirable and commercially viable product, we needed to create value for everyone involved in the products complete life cycle.
We set out to design a model that truly contributed by creating measurable positive social impact in the lives of the artisans that provide the craftsmanship, it being the soul of the product.
From this point of view, a great design would not be enough, we needed a highly innovative ecosystem around it that was not only highly inclusive socially but also completely environmentally benign. We wanted to focus on the less addressed and more challenging aspects of sustainability.
The product addresses the interest of all the individuals involved in synergy; the intended market and it’s consumers, the local and global environment and all the individuals who are involved in it’s manufacturing model.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
The rigor that informed our design was focused on the local opportunities in the Chilean Patagonia both from a social and a material resource perspective. We could not have designed this product in a studio in any major city as the discoveries and opportunities identified were a direct result of our interaction and relationship with the individuals involved in the local culture and industry.
Furthermore, the design was inspired by a rigorous research methodology that filtered and identified noble local renewable materials with amazing physical and aesthetic qualities. These qualities turned out to be a determining factor that enabled the simplicity, desirability and usability of the product design.
Free range patagonian sheep wool is one of the best insulating materials available, it absorbs moisture and repels water, it filters air allowing the skin to breathe and has self cleaning capabilities that do not require any industrial process.
Repurposed and up-cycled salmon leather is extremely durable and resilient but can feel as soft as suede and is naturally very flexible and elastic. It is considered an exotic leather because of it's unique natural scaly pattern but unlike other exotics, it is completely renewable being a by-product of the commercial salmon industry.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
This design delivers direct measurable social benefits to self-organized groups of women in several locations in South America enabling a fair, appropriate and dignified source of income for them and their families.
This is possible through a partnership with (Un Techo para mi País), a large international organization that builds social housing communities across South America. Each community also includes a central structure to form a social club for the community leaders (mostly women) to gather and address local issues and opportunities.
It is through these social clubs that Chilote House Shoe offers these women the opportunity to be trained in the production of the product.
Each social club then becomes a sort of micro-production plant that consolidates from the individual artisans in that community and we upwardly consolidate the production from several of these communities.
The project creates a structure and model that promotes independence, self organization, leadership and accountability with a source of income that is both dignified and economically rewarding, all just a few steps away from their homes.
This model is very attractive for women as it allows them to tend to their family obligations and save time and money in travel and transportation.
It is also worthy of mention that there is a very positive self rewarding element to this model as most participants have mentioned that they feel a sense of pride and belonging that is not achievable by any other readily available source of income for them.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
If we could do it all over again, we would have definitely approached this project from a more aggressive commercial perspective, as we now understand that an ethical, and social inclusive project still needs to abide by the rules of the economic models it lives in.
The more commercial viability a product has, the more social opportunities it can address no matter how innovative the model behind it is.
In the beginning, we set out to change existing commercial models by focusing on the social impact of the production methodology and this was very beneficial in guiding us to a very disruptive design process but everything we do is eventually limited by commercial demand and if we would have had more resources to focus on this aspect from the very beginning, we would have been able to have an even greater positive impact.