When the Global North started outsourcing manufacturing to the Global South, they held onto the design part of the process. Products are made in China or Vietnam but designed in California or Italy. Footwear brand ekn just flipped that norm with its latest sneaker.

The ekn Kamthala was dreamt up in Bangladesh by local fashion designer Rokaiya Ahmed Purna, who took inspiration from her country’s national fruit — kamthala is Bengali for jackfruit. Her creation is gray, like the bark of a jackfruit tree, with green and yellow highlights referencing the fruit itself. Ahmed Purna’s shoe was made using vegan materials. Not in Bangladesh, but in Portugal.

From its start in 2012, Frankfurt-based ekn has focused on producing shoes in Europe using organic cotton, vegetable-tanned leather and other sustainable materials and ensuring the workers who make its footwear are treated fairly. All revenue from the sneaker designed by Ahmed Purna will go directly to projects in Bangladesh that she supports, including a workspace for young creatives in Dhaka.

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