Beatrace Angut Lorika Oola holds the prototype of a new shoe model in her hands. Together with a member of the Wildling product team, she keeps her eyes on the shoe. In the background a shelf

The first steps towards a new shoe

"I really enjoyed listening to your words and would like to stay in touch." It all started with this virtual short message - three years later, it has become a shoe you can touch, slip into and run away in. The ONU model tells of the power of a partnership and of changes in perspective.

What can an equal cooperation with partners in the global South look like? Beatrace Angut Lorika Oola, founder of the platform "Fashion Africa Now," spoke about this question at the first "Fashion Changers Conference Fashion & Responsibility" in 2020. In the audience was Christina Eckert, CMO at Wildling.

Fashion Africa Now

Impressed by Beatrace's strong contributions to the discussion, Christina sent the quoted short message after the conference – still without a concrete idea for a joint project, but with a certain feeling that with common goals and values an exciting collaboration could emerge.

The Fashion Africa Now platform, founded by Beatrace, is dedicated to representing the diversity of African fashion design and bringing stories of contemporary creative Africa to the world. Thanks to this work, Beatrace knows some of the most creative minds in the African fashion industry and immediately had a perfect match in mind for Wildling: the sustainable Nigerian label NKWO.

Back and profile of a person in clothes of the label NKWO. The person is standing on a rocky ground running towards a wide, slightly cloudy sky.

Image: NKWO


NKWO focuses on promoting artisan craftwork and reducing textile waste. Die Gründerin und Designerin Nkwo Onwuka hat ein Material namens Dakala™ Cloth entwickelt, um Textilabfälle zu reduzieren. Dabei werden Stoffreste zu neuen Kleidungsstücken zusammengenäht. This technique was transformed into a print design especially for the collaboration NKWO x Wildling and now adorns the model ONU. And it happened like this:

From the very first video meeting between the Wildling product team and Nkwo Onwuka, it was apparent: this is where like-minded people meet. "We want to create something together," that was clear to everyone after the first meeting. 

Close-up of a Wildling Minimal shoe on a table being worked on by two hands with scissors and ribbons. On the table next to it are sketches of a new shoe model.

Image: Christian Hedel

This "we" feeling, the joint work not only on a shoe but also on shared values - regenerative work and business on equal terms - was such a strong drive that the model we will soon be able to hold in our hands also bears this name: ONU. "Onu" is a word from the Igbo language spoken in southeastern Nigeria and means "together".

Close-up of a Wildling shoe prototype on a desk. The hands of different people are holding the shoe or pointing to it.

Image: Christian Hedel

Together. Zusammen. ONU.

Of course, many ideas had to be bounced around, design and material decisions had to be made, and the odd bead of sweat had to be shed before it all came together. The virtual meeting was followed by an initial brainstorming session on site at the Wildling workshop. What exactly should the shoe look like? Is it possible to produce it completely or at least partially in Nigeria? Which raw materials meet both our social-ecological and our ideal criteria - and at the same time are robust enough to go over hill and dale with us as Wildling shoes?

Close-up of a notebook monitor with the graphic design of a new Wildling shoe model. Blurred in the foreground two people looking at the screen.

Image: Christian Hedel

We have not yet found the perfect answer to all these questions. For example, ONU cannot yet be manufactured in Nigeria, but is made in Portugal, like most Wildling models. But the fringes of the upper are made of Nigerian sisal fiber, processed as part of the "NKWO Transform Women" initiative. The goal of the initiative is to change lives and have a positive impact on the environment. A goal we all share and so we want to take advantage of all the challenges, big and small, and celebrate this collaboration as the start of a new form of cooperation.

Cover Image: Sarina Gachanja | Wildling Shoes