Innovation That Matters

Modular footwear

Self-assemble footwear eliminates sweatshop labour


A South Korean firm is currently fundraising for a whole new kind of shoe that’s completely modular so customers build it themselves to their own design.


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Mass producing the footwear we take for granted is not a particularly nice job, with many sweatshops across Asia crammed full of people working in chemically potent environments that have almost none of the health and safety measures we see in the Western hemisphere. It’s something footwear designing veteran GyuDeog Kim has witnessed himself in his 25 years in the industry, which has led him to create KI ecobe – a completely modular kind of footwear that lets customers design their own shoes using a variety of components and put the end product together themselves. It’s the flat pack of footwear, basically, and has no toxic adhesives which have caused many factory workers so much ill health.

The customer starts by designing their shoe using the company’s website, and with the big number of components (15 in boots, 15 KI straps, 15 shoelaces and 3 outsoles) there’s a total of 10,125 permutations, so it seems unlikely a next door neighbour would have the same end product.

It’s currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter where it’s already passed its USD 30,000 target (and with less than a month left it’ll almost certainly go way beyond that). The smallest pledge is USD 79 which will get customers one pair of KI ecobe (that they can either design themselves or have randomly selected colors), plus there are options to add extra components (an extra KI strap is another USD 20, for example). The product aims to ship by December this year.

We’re seeing lots of inventive footwear lately, the Digitsole Smartshoe is truly a shoe of the future and Mime et Moi’s new range of women’s shoes has interchangeable heels. What other clothing could be produced in such a DIY fashion?




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