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By Ellen Ormesher | Senior Reporter

January 27, 2023 | 3 min read

A campaign for vegan sneaker brand Ekn celebrates Bangladeshi design.

The project, created in collaboration with Hamburg’s Accenture Song claims to be the first vegan sneaker designed in Bangladesh and made in Portugal, reversing the traditional paradigm of products designed in the west and global north and manufactured in the global south.

By drawing attention to design and manufacturing processes, Ekn hopes to reverse some of the unethical supply chain practices, pollution and exploitation that have been synonymous with the big players of the fashion industry for decades.

As Bangladesh as a nation houses the production for so many fast-fashion brands, Ekn’s founder Noel Klein-Reesink says the team was keen to find a Bangladeshi designer for the project, selecting rising female designer Rokaiya Ahmed Purna.

In creating the design itself, named কাঁঠাল Kamthala (Bangladeshi for jackfruit,) Ahmed Purna says she drew on Bangladesh’s rich culture and heritage as well as her own childhood memories, such as sitting under her grandparent’s jackfruit tree to create the shoe.

Ekn shoe

“We’ve become used to the term ‘Made in Bangladesh’, not ‘Designed in Bangladesh’, but the new generation of Bangladeshis are starting to think differently and act differently,” she says.

Alexander Grapp, group creative director at Accenture Song and initiator of the concept, adds: “‘Made In’ labels not only brush over the unjust conditions that people in the global south often work under – they also reinforce harmful stereotypes about creativity and production in the so-called ‘First’ and ‘Third World’.

“They presume that American and European design is superior to that of the countries where brands outsource their production, which is simply not the case. All of this is what we wanted to challenge with this statement. And along the way we learned and were continually inspired by the creativity and resilience of designers from Bangladesh like Rokaiya.

“We hope this makes people think. We’d like to invite more companies and brands to work in a different way with countries like Bangladesh and beyond – and to harness the talent and creativity that is clearly waiting to be more widely recognized.”

The company says that all profits from sales of the shoes will be donated back to Bangladesh, “One idea is to set up an NGO or creative hub that could offer the creative people of Dhaka a new place to work,” comments Klein-Reesink. “And we are looking for talented designers in other countries to create an ongoing series of shoes.”

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