How It’s Made: Shekudo’s Handcrafted Shoes
Beginning as a womenswear clothing line in Sydney, Australia, Shekudo is now a footwear and accessories brand helmed by founder Akudo Iheankanwa in Nigeria. With all production and manufacturing based solely in Lagos, Shekudo aims to shed more light on the local artisan and craftsmanship scene that allows it to integrate age-old techniques and overlooked local resources into its contemporary aesthetic. For its bags, shoes and metallic jewelry, the brand uses raw materials that can be sourced locally, ensuring that each item is responsibly made with traceable origins.
The brand prides itself on being socially responsible and embracing slow-fashion principles, with an emphasis on women’s empowerment. In the space of just a year, Shekudo quickly grew from a team of four to 14 artisans and craftspeople who contribute to Nigeria’s footwear manufacturing sector by producing high-quality, handcrafted pieces.
Shekudo incorporates traditional West African textiles such as Aso Oke, which is made by the Yoruba people of Nigeria, into its shoes and handbags, and uses raw, sustainable materials wherever possible, from recycled in-soles to hand-carved wooden heels and leather fabric sourced from local community markets.
With the growth of the brand in recent years as well as wholesale partnerships with retailers such as Nordstrom and Shopbop, Shekudo now solely produces its prototypes in Lagos, and sources most of its raw materials, including woven fabrics and recycled glass beads, across the African continent. Shekudo also partners with atelier factories in Portugal to grow production capacity and assemble its eye-catching pieces.
Aso oke fabric is woven by hand from cotton threads spun on a wooden spindle to make textiles of different weights, colors and patterns. The weaving process interlaces threads of different colors to create the intricate designs and patterns associated with aso oke. The final product is then used as the base fabric for the shoe uppers, which is the part that covers the foot.
As part of being a socially responsible brand, Shekudo works hard to make sure that the majority of its raw materials can be found or produced close to the source, including shoe heels, recycled insoles, remnant leather and linen fabrics.
Leather work and wood carving are just some of the skills that go into creating a Shekudo product. The soles of the shoes are cut out from a piece of leather that have been soaked in water to make them soft and pliable, while local carpenters carve out heel shapes from pieces of wood. The sole is then sewn to the aso oke shoe uppers, which are then attached to the heels with nails or glue to stay in place.
Shekudo’s artisans use strategic cutting in all of its production processes to avoid wasting resources. If any waste is generated, it is recycled into new products or gifts for customers. To ensure that operations are environmentally conscious and sustainable, the artisans do not produce in large quantities, instead producing in small batches based on the number of orders received.
On her return to Nigeria, Iheakanwa spent a lot of time visiting and meeting with local artisans and craftspeople to get to know what they did and how they did it. “I was really impressed with the skills and talent that I saw and knew that there was definitely something to build upon and help shine a light on this overlooked sector,” she says.
Iheakanwa really wanted to help contribute to job creation on the manufacturing sector and to show a different side to Nigeria’s creativity. Part of Shekudo’s ethos is to intends to promote a sense of caring, empowerment and celebration among women across the globe, and the brand seeks to employ at least 80% women in its team. Today, Shekudo works directly with weavers, carpenters and seamstresses in order to ensure that each person in the manufacturing process is fairly paid.
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