Western & English Today

Summer 2018

W&E Today provides retailers and manufacturers with education and ideas that provoke innovation in the Western and English markets.

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SUMMER 2018 Western & English Today 9 U wezo is a Swahili word meaning capability. And Uwezo shoes are capable of meeting many needs and many styles. e label's roots are planted in East Afri- ca, stemming from founder Alexis Hefley's 23-year-long career in the nonprofit sector working with children in Uganda. It was while in Africa that Hefley was inspired to design a cowhide shoe that was not just fashionable but also charitable — as a new way to give back to the communities and people she'd grown close with. Deciding that a portion of the proceeds from each pair sold would be donated to Empower African Children, the nonprofit she cofounded in 2006 to provide quali- ty education and leadership programs for Ugandan youth, Hefley transitioned to a role on the board and officially launched her shoe label out of Dallas in 2014. e in- herent individuality of her hair-on-cowhide sneakers paid off quickly, and it wasn't long before she was expanding Uwezo's collec- tion to include new styles and hides. "It's a fun shoe," Hefley says. "I've never sold a shoe that the person leaving [wasn't] really happy and excited to wear it. No two [pairs] are alike. Each one is unique, and people are excited about that." ey're also comfortable, featuring mem ory foam insoles, and better still, their cowhide shells are easily washable and resil- ient. "e unique thing about these shoes is [the cowhide] doesn't rub off," Hefley says. "If you jump in a mud puddle with them you can spray them off with a hose. I think it's a fun alternative to a cowboy boot. People in the farm and ranch and livestock business appreciate it, because they understand the fabric of the cowhide and seeing it being uti- lized in that way is fun." Beyond the Western lifestyle, Uwezo's shoes, loafers, and mules have proven to have universal appeal. Hefley even cites bridal parties as buying her shoes to complete their looks for the big day. "It's a happy shoe," she enthuses. We agree. uwezobrands.com UWEZO By Lindsay Whelchel

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