Brand Story: Nisolo – A “Game-Changing” and “Life-Changing” Shoe Company

My husband is a self-proclaimed shoe addict. Whether it be sneakers or dress shoes, he loves finding new shoe companies and shopping for them all. So it was a personal victory of mine to be the one to actually introduce him to a new shoe company — Nisolo. And since then, we both have been frequent shoppers.

If you have yet to try a pair of Nisolo shoes, trust me you want to. They are stylish, comfortable AND ethical. That’s the best combo in my opinion 🙂 

Read on to learn more about this amazing company. 

Nisolo info is an emerging brand with twin aims – to provide consumers with the highest quality tailor-made products and to revolutionize the fashion industry with its model of ethical production.

The Nashville-based company was formed in 2011 when development economist Patrick Woodyard was working in Trujillo, Peru. He noticed a problem. The city was full of extremely talented shoemakers who were unable to maximize their skills as they had no access to the global market.

Being an economist with a background in micro-finance, Woodyard had a solution for this problem – set up an American shoe company and pay these artisans for their well-crafted products. These ethically sourced shoes could then be sold at home to consumers wanting to spend their money with a social impact brand.

So Nisolo was born. The name means ‘not alone’ in Spanish. Quite apt given the essential ingredients of teamwork and partnership that make the company a success. The local shoemakers wouldn’t have access to the consumers if it weren’t for Nisolo, and Woodyard wouldn’t have a business if it weren’t for his skilled suppliers.

Nisolo is a brand with the concept of fair trade embedded into it. Producers are paid a fair wage for their goods, and earn on average around 300 per cent more than they did when selling independently. They work in safe conditions and they also receive training in financial management and business development. It’s about sustainability rather than just making a charitable donation or one-for-one offer.

But from the very beginning, Woodyard has sought to make sure that product quality is just as important as the social impact message. There is a stereotype, perhaps an unfair one, that ethically sourced goods will not be of quite the same standard as top range fashion products. Nisolo has fashion industry expert Zoe Cleary as Co-Founder and Head of Design to ensure that products meet industry standards. With the talent pool in Trujillo, this hasn’t proved too much of an issue!

Nisolo is widely regarded as one of the world’s first social impact fashion labels. This is an industry that has come under much criticism for production line staff earning low wages and working in poor conditions. Woodyard has stated that Nisolo’s goal is to ‘push industry toward fair wages and sustainable working conditions’.

Thus he sees the brand as ‘game changing’ (transforming the industry) as well as ‘life changing’ (transforming the lives of producers).

Woodyard’s vision of Nisolo goes beyond being simply a shoe brand. With experience in development finance, he has seen similar barriers to economic growth in other parts of the world and sees his model as something that can help transform other places across the globe. The company is already working with makers of brass jewelry in Kenya, having bought Red Earth – a social impact jewelry company formed in 2010.

Branching out is helping to push Nisolo further into the consciousness of fashion consumers, which is one of Woodyard’s aims. ‘The ethical fashion space needs a success story from a brand that was founded in response to the woes of the industry’, he said.

It might take some effort before the whole industry is facing the same way but this is definitely a move in the right direction.