Enzi: Sneakers Shoes For Men
Shoes made in Ethiopia, a rare sentence you don’t often hear in the global fashion industry. When I first came across footwear brand Enzi on CNN African Start-Up, I was filled with emotions. It made me realise that my mission to change the status quo is my true calling. Made in Ethiopia is not associated with the fashion industry, let alone luxury.
Enzi, a footwear brand made in Ethiopia was founded by Jawad Braye and Azariah Mengistu in 2011 in Ethiopia. With a vision to “change the perception of Africa”, and develop a sneaker shoe brand that uses high quality Ethiopian leather, Jawad and Azariah embarked on their journey to make the best athletic shoes in Africa. While maintaining a commitment to social and environmental responsibility, Jawad and Azariah founded Enzi footwear with $30,000 in funding.
How it all started
Jawad and Azariah grew up together in Kenya. After graduation Jawad moved to England and Azariah to the US to continue their education. They were overpowered and felt deeply frustrated with the ignorance and assumption of Africa, which are mostly formed from a 30 second news clip. A few years later Jawad and Azariah met back in Kenya with other classmates during their summer holiday. They noticed that most of them had experienced the same frustration. They all had to balance between being African, but not acting African if they wanted to be accepted socially. It never felt right to them. After back and forth discussions, they discussed how wonderful it would be if they would start a brand that represented them; the Africa they are proud of. Something to challenge the stereotypes. They had no idea how they would kick-start it, but they were passionate.
The vision for Enzi footwear, and its made in Ethiopia concept began to take shape when Azariah moved to London to share accommodation with Jawad. Over the next two years, Jawad and Azariah worked hard on formalising the brand and mission. A few years later Azariah moved to Ethiopia. During a visit from Jawad, they discovered the high quality benefits of Ethiopian leather. Within a year the pair spent a tremendous amount of time sourcing local partners. Once this process was completed, they reached out to their business partners, Sam Imende and Christian Ward, both long-time friends, to officially found Enzi footwear, made in Ethiopia.
The group of friends came to a decision to pull inspiration from Ethiopia’s deep and rich history for the look and feel of the logo. The Enzi logo was inspired by a full stop in Amharic, one of the oldest languages in the world, and national language of Ethiopia. The same way a period is applied to complete a sentence, the Enzi logo marks the completion of the creative process, the mark of quality and completion of made in Ethiopia sneakers.
Made in Africa vs Made in Ethiopia
Western countries often describe and refer to Africa as one large country. For a majority of Africans, this is a frustrating concept. Not only does it feed into stereotypes, but it also foster racism. Africa is the second largest continent on planet earth, and has 54 official countries with their own nationalities and languages. You never see products labelled as “Made in Asia” or “Made in Europe”. Although people on the continent feel Africans, they are foremost from their country of origin, before complying to a secondary label. Due to this reason, the founders of Enzi want to put emphasise on “Made in Ethiopia” rather than “Made in Africa”. The heart of their vision is to change people’s misconceptions of Africa. Each country has its own unique offering.
Today, Enzi’s “Made in Ethiopia” sneakers shoes for men are shipped to markets in Europe, Asia and the US. Retailing around $200 a pair, and been featured on CNN African Start-UP, Enzi footwear is bound to conquer the fashion world. What differentiates the brand is how well the shoes are made. Since the establishment of Enzi footwear, the company has succeeded to provide employment for local people, enabling them to provide for themselves and their families.
In the current climate where more and more people are fleeing from their homes on a dangerous journey to reach the Western world due to war and extreme poverty, it’s important to focus on the good that is on the continent of Africa. Africa is not a continent of only poverty and war. Africa, and the nations within is home to talented, intelligent and happy individuals who despite their economic circumstances, make the most out of their situation with resourceful ingenuity. Here at JANET + GEORGE, we are making it our mission to discover these talents and tell their story.
Companies such as Enzi footwear are changing the scene on the African diaspora. In their own unique way, Enzi has made the impossible possible. Made in Ethiopia might have been a phrase you have never heard of, but with companies such as Enzi emerging from the depths of Africa, this will soon change across the globe.
If you are ever in Addis Ababa make sure to visit Enzi, and pick up a pair of Enzi footwear. A product made in Ethiopia that you will proudly wear.