If anything, the start of our journey taught us a great deal about different natural materials, the positive effects they have on our skin, the different combinations in which they can be used, and the fact that slippers aren’t the straightforward product that we imagined them to be. We not only experienced all the complications that seemingly come out of nowhere, but also how determination and goal setting pay off. It was a completely new process for both of us through which we got to know each other in a completely new – business and sometimes competitive – light. It sometimes sparked arguments between us, but ultimately brought us closer together.
I haven’t heard about the use of hemp for crafting slippers, but I did know it has a wide range of uses. Besides its ecological, nature-friendly, and sustainable production, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact, that hemp production has a much lower impact on the environment than the production of cotton(more about this in our later blogs). Yes, hemp is the perfect material!
I was excited that it was something new, something in line with our principles, easy to work with, and something that will finally help us bring our idea to life. With the hopes of localizing the procurement of materials we first researched the Slovene market. We did not find much success, as hemp processing is in its early stages in our home country – perhaps an idea for the adventurous entrepreneur. We decided to widen our search. Many people are not aware of the fact that Romania is the leading producer of hemp in Europe. This is what made us shift our focus. Finding a good and reliable supplier is not easy. We learned that the hard way. We did manage to find one, and in good faith ordered our first samples.
The first thing we noticed about hemp fabric was its inability to hold a proper shape by itself. Nonetheless, we began work on our first samples. Cutting, stitching, with the goal of finding the perfect shape. At first, we modeled on our own, but later we enlisted the help of Zoran, who was a known shoe designer at Peko shoe factory whos expertise are sought after to this day. In spite of all the pondering and long nights working towards our goal, the results just weren’t there. Together we came to the conclusion that hemp fabric alone will not work.
The motivation with which we started was being eroded by failed attempts and our heads began to fill with discouraging thoughts. Does all this have any sense? Perhaps this wasn’t such a bright idea after all. The reason that such slippers don’t exist must be that they don’t make sense… Ah well, we needed a good night’s sleep to collect our thoughts, reignite our passion, and start over. We needed to augment our original idea that only used hemp fibers. A new material was needed, one that would provide warmth and rigidity to our slippers.
I don’t remember if wool felt was our first choice, but it was the right choice. A warm, durable natural material that is comfortable to wear, will serve as a baseline for our product. Great! We can move forward. We began a new phase of sampling and testing. We searched for ways of combining the two materials in a most pleasing and elegant way. Before all this, we needed to find a supplier. Again, we failed in our search within Slovenia’s borders. Natural felt is available, but the durability and rigidity of domestic offerings weren’t up to the standards we envisioned for our product. We finally got in touch with a reputable supplier based in Italy.
…And voila! We have our design and the right materials. Let’s make our first steps. Oops, the slippers lack sufficient grip. Both on wood and ceramic tiles! A new problem that demanded an innovative solution. We managed even though we are both economists 😃. The vast majority of manufacturers use leather, rubber, or some other synthetic material for the soles of their slippers, but we stuck to our principles: respect nature, use sustainable resources, avoid leather and fur. We thought of cork, a material with a wide range of uses, which is also renewable. At this point, we weren’t sure it was the right solution, but we pushed on. More sampling followed, more testing of different densities and rigidities. Well, thanks to Dragica for her patience with trying new methods, sampling and discussions about all the things we haven’t tried yet on our way to success. And we did succeed! The design was finished. The shape was right, as was the combination of natural materials and colors.
Perhaps we strayed from our original idea, but the change of course was in the right direction. The first orders for materials were placed, which was followed by the crafting our first pairs. And here we are – entering a highly competitive market, but full of elan!
The making of first samples at home in the living room