New Olow x Sawa Sneakers

8 MN

Olow x Sawa

MEETING WITH MEDHI SLIMANI, FOUNDER OF THE MADE IN AFRICA BRAND.

The Sawa adventure is a human and economically militant story that takes the gamble of sailing against the North/South flow: raw materials are bought in Africa and are transformed... in Africa. This choice comes from the desire to create qualified, productive and creative jobs on the spot, but also to promote the image of what Africa is, well beyond the Western prism.

We met Medhi Slimani, the founder of the brand, through Thomas Traoré of Isakin. We share the same values, and each in our own way, we have the same desire to offer products, shoes or clothes, that make sense. It was important for us, beyond presenting the fruit of our collaboration, to shed light on a project that is close to our hearts.

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

I am Medhi Slimani, founder of the brand of trainers made in Africa, Sawa. I am originally from the Ardennes, from Charleville Mézière, the town of Arthur Rimbaud, who had a real history with Ethiopia, where he was a merchant. Another Ardennes native who got lost there!

I arrived in Paris in 1998, after which I lived in China and Brazil, compared to the job I had before. I didn't have a very fashionable background, I was working in corporate finance, related to the car industry. Then I went to Cameroon and Ethiopia, and I came back to Paris.

Before we get to the heart of the matter, what does SAWA mean?

It is the name of an indigenous tribe on the Douala coast. It's a town in Cameroon, where we started.
It's a way of paying tribute to them. We later learned that it means "together" in Arabic.

Could you explain the concept of your brand?

Sawa was created in 2009. The concept is to manufacture shoes in Sub-Saharan Africa. That is to say, to buy the material and transform it on the spot. Because today, the problem is that this continent has not yet made its industrial revolution. Nothing is really produced there. If you take the past year and take out food production, you will not have consumed anything manufactured in Africa. At the time, we said to ourselves that we didn't want to go to the Maghreb or South Africa, but to the heart of the continent, to prove that we could make shoes there. In the end, it's not so much a fashion project as an economic one. I never say that I make fashion, but shoes that have a meaning.

Was this the starting point for you to found SAWA? Or was there another intention behind it?

It's mostly that, and the desire to make shoes. I've always liked that. We wanted to do something about it, but with a real point of view, a storytelling that held up, and once again, that made sense. You don't come in and say you're going to save Africa, you don't save anything. 

"What we want is to show the image of a strong Africa. Sawa is all about that, it's a militant project, proving that something can be produced there. "

You said earlier that you were not at all from the fashion world, but do you have a point of view on African fashion, and more widely on Made in Africa?

I am not a specialist enough in African fashion. Made in Africa exists, there are attempts, but there is no brand that really counts today. Moreover, I remember that a few years ago, Galeries Lafayette organised the African fortnight, but without any brands made in Africa... How can you organise an event focused on Africa, without brands made there? At the end of the day, these are African-inspired brands, but nothing is made there, or in Morocco, with shootings in Sub-Saharan Africa. We are indeed on the same continent, but it is not the same.

You said earlier that you started in Cameroon, why this choice?

When we started in 2009, it was the fashion for canvas shoes. There were a lot of brands that produced them. And in Cameroon, there was a big supplier of canvas shoes, with real know-how. In retrospect, it was a bit of a casting error. The industrial part was dilapidated, very old, we had to get people from here and there to train them... In parallel, there were real problems of corruption. And finally, there was the Arab Spring, which had a big impact on us, because we could no longer find raw materials. In short, we don't only have good memories of it, we needed a place where everything was available on the spot. 

Why did you choose Ethiopia?

We wanted to stay in that part of Africa. I had an Ethiopian friend, whose father was originally from the Ardennes, like me and Rimbaud, who had been living there for about fifty years, who advised me to meet her there. I went there and I could see that we could make great things, with 95% of the materials of the shoes available on the spot, that's how we started all over again in Ethiopia. It was a winning choice because we gained in organisation, in efficiency, in everything in fact...

"I had a friend from Ethiopia, whose father was from the Ardennes, like me... I went there and I could see that you could make great things, with 95% of the materials of the shoes available there. "

Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like there?

It was a bit more organised than in Cameroon. There are real shoe factories. Even if we were a bit far from the mark, we had to do a lot of training, for example, I had to spend a year in the factory to design what we sell today. It was a lot of personal investment. Afterwards, in terms of integration, I worked with the workers, I lived with them, we built a team.  

Today Sawa is a family. I don't live there all year round any more, I used to go there very often, but now I go there less, precisely because we have this team. It's the only investment we've really made, and to make sure that people feel good, that they come to work happily, without thinking that it will be difficult. We've been in Ethiopia since 2011, and no one has quit, we still work with the same people and everyone is happy to work.

The context of the last two years was a bit particular, can you tell us about it?

First of all, there was Covid, so we were unable to go there. But that didn't have much impact in the end, because, as I said, we have a solid team that we can rely on, which has known the product very well since 2011. So the shoes continued to be produced, the quality was assured. 

But in addition to Covid, there was the Tigray war in the north of the country. Where this impacted us was that at one point the factory was requisitioned to produce rangers. Apart from that, from where we are based, Addis Abeda, we have not been so affected. The brand also lives according to African geopolitics and sourcing issues. For example, when you are told for two months that there is no production "because we produce rangers for the army". When you are told that "there is no more leather" because the tannery cannot import the materials or the dyes to make this or that leather. In the end, you are never at cruising speed.

"For example, when you are told for two months that there is no production "because we produce rangers for the army". When you are told 'there is no more leather' because the tannery cannot import the materials or the dyes to make this or that leather.

SAWA shoes have a rather vintage design, where does this aesthetic come from?

In Africa there is a concept called "Design for Industry". This means that if you go to a factory there with a product that is too complicated, it will also be complicated to industrialise it. That's why we started with a very simple product. Basically, it's designing according to what you can produce. For example, the Konjo model in the collab has very little yoke. There is an African inspiration in the sole with a texture inspired by local basketry. In addition to that, on all our models, there is a map of Africa under the sole.

Are your shoes sold on site?

Yes, we have a small part of the production that is sold locally. I would love to develop that, to produce and market in Africa, but I think it's Africa itself that is not ready. If you put our shoes, which are of great quality, next to a counterfeit Nike, whether in Algeria, the Ivory Coast or Cameroon, everyone will buy the counterfeit shoe. It's a question of notoriety. When we are known outside Africa, the African markets will surely ask for us.

"Everyone will buy the counterfeit shoe. It's a question of notoriety. When we are known outside Africa, African markets will surely ask for us. "

By the way, is the economic model you created between Cameroon at the beginning and Ethiopia today something you would like to develop?

For the production we will really stay in one country, because it is very complicated. To do again what we did in Ethiopia, it would take another life. There are stages that you don't want to start over. And I don't want to start all over again. Now that we are stabilised in Ethiopia, I can't even imagine going to another African country, and I wouldn't know which one. For me, Ethiopia is the best choice.

About the collaboration with OLOW, can you remind us how it happened?

I met Mathieu through Thomas Traoré, from Isakin. We exchanged saps and pumps. In the end, we do the same thing, on both sides of the Mediterranean. We're small-scale craftsmen, doing things on a small scale, but which make sense. We have a somewhat common background in fact. At one point, two or three years ago, we said we were going to do a collab, but it took a while because we're a bit "two of a kind". Mathieu had made a proposal, we had made a sample. It stayed on hold for a while, and then a few weeks ago, I told him that the shoe was ready, but I think he wasn't. Afterwards, we are organised like that, we may not have the precision of a Swiss watch, but we really do the things we like, otherwise we don't do them. 

"We're small-scale craftsmen, doing small-scale things that make sense. We have a somewhat common background in fact. "

Finally, what would be the prospects for the future?

I don't make plans for the future, we live from day to day, according to the opportunities. Because every time we've done it, it's been a damp squib. It may not be very professional to say that, but that's our reality. We navigate from day to day, because we are not in a stable environment, everything can change overnight. I don't say to myself "in five years I'll be here and there", we'll see. We'll have to do the interview again at that point. 

"We are navigating from day to day, because we are not in a stable environment, everything can change overnight. "

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How to order?

Please follow the following instructions in order to submit an Order:

  1. Visit the Website;

  2. Follow the instructions on the Website to place your orders and especially the instructions given to create a Customer account;

  3. Fulfil the Ordering form. After extended inactivity you may encounter an automatic cancellation of the Goods you submitted. You shall start a new Order of any Good and Service you wished to order;

  4. You shall check the Goods and Services you Order, and if necessary, please identify and correct the error;

  5. Confirm the Order, the Total Price as well as the All-Inclusive Price (the “Order Confirmation”);

  6. Follow the payment Website instructions in order to pay the All-Inclusive Price.

After you have submitted an order, the Customer receives by email and without delay a confirmation of his approval of the Order.

The Customer also receives by email and without delay, a receipt of the order sent electronically, regarding as a confirmation of the order (“Order Confirmation”).

The Customer receives electronically, the confirmation that the Goods have been dispatched.

The delivery shall take place at the location indicated by the Customer at the time of the Order.

Additionally, by undertaking these different steps to Order, the Customer accepts to strictly comply with this Agreement, in accordance with section 1316-1 of the French Civil Code.

The Vendor undertakes to deliver the Goods and Services subject of the Order Confirmation. In the event that a Good ordered is unavailable, the Vendor will promptly inform the Customer about this.

However, under section L.122-1 of the French Consumer Code, the Vendor reserves the right to cancel your Order if the Order is abnormal, involves bad faith or for any other reason that is under the sole discretion of the Vendor. The Vendor also reserves the right to reject orders from any customer with whom the Vendor have an ongoing legal dispute regarding a prior order.

Place of Delivery

The place of Delivery shall be determined by the Customer within the Territory, under sanction to refuse the Order.

The Customer is exclusively responsible for any error in the Delivery due to a lack of indication contained in the Order.

Amount of Delivery Charges

The amount of Delivery Charges depends upon the amount of the Order and upon the Method of Delivery the Customer chooses. In any case, the amount of Delivery Charges shall be indicated to you before the Order Confirmation.

The Delivery Charges are free if the amount exceeds EUR 200,00.

Delivery Term

Delivery Terms are available for review on the Website. They may change depending on the availability of the Goods subject of the Order.

Delivery Terms are expressed in working days and correspond to an average time for preparing and shipping the Order to the Customer.

Delivery Terms shall begin to run at the Order Confirmation date.

Delays

In the event of delays in the Delivery, the Order is not cancelled. The Vendor shall inform the Customer by electronic mail that the delivery will take place later than what was contemplated by the Parties. You will be then entitled to decide whether to confirm or cancel your order and shall send to the Vendor a cancellation notice of the Order at service-client@olow.fr.

If the Order has not been shipped yet at the time the Vendor receives the cancellation notice, the Delivery is effectively cancelled and the Customer is reimbursed of the payment he/she made, within fifteen (15) days from the receipt of the cancellation notice.

If the Order has been shipped at the time the Vendor receives cancellation notice, the Customer is still entitled to cancel the order by refusing the Delivery. The Vendor shall then reimburse the Customer of the payment he/she made, within fifteen (15) days from receipt of the returned products in the same condition as they were sent and must have their original label. The return expenses remain at the cost of the Customer.

Tracking

The Customer can follow the track progress of his/her Order on his/her account on the Website. Regarding the delivery progress, the Customer shall contact the Company to obtain a tracker number, to follow the progress.

Prix et délais de livraison précis

Shipping cost

> 1 kg1 > 2 kg2 > 4kg
5.56.57

Delivery time

3-5 working days

Allemagne, Autriche, Belgique, Bulgarie, Chypre, Danemark, Espagne, Finlande, Grèce, Hongrie, Italie, Malte, Pays-Bas, Pologne, Portugal, République Tchèque, Suède, Ukraine

Shipping cost

> 2 kg2 > 4kg
9.511.5

Delivery time

4-7 working days

Andorre, Biélorussie, Croatie, Islande, Monaco, Norvège, Royaume-Uni, Russie, Suisse, Turquie

Shipping cost

> 2 kg2 > 4kg
9.511.5

Delivery time

5-8 working days

Bahamas, Canada, États-Unis, Mexique

Shipping cost

> 1.5 kg1.5 > 4kg
1519.5

Delivery time

5-9 working days

Argentine, Brésil, Chili

Shipping cost

€27

Delivery time

6-9 working days

Arabie Saoudite, Bahreïn, Chine, Corée du Sud, Émirats Arabes Unis, Hong-Kong, Indonésie, Israël, Japon, Malaisie, Qatar, Singapour, Taiwan

Shipping cost

€24

Delivery time

4-7 working days

Australie, Nouvelle-Zélande

Shipping cost

€27

Delivery time

6-10 working days

Returns

You have received your order but the product does not suit you?

You can return your products within 15 days of receiving your package, for any order.

For the festive season, the deadlines are extended to 30 days.

The items must not have been worn, washed or damaged and must be returned in their original packaging, in perfect condition for resale.

The return costs are at the customer's expense (cost of shipping by the transporter chosen by the customer and any other related costs: customs duties, taxes, etc.).

How do I return my package from France?

To return your parcel, it is very simple :

  1. Go to “My account”, in the “My purchases” section,

  2. In the list of your orders, select your order,

  3. If your order is eligible for return, please tick each product you wish to return. If a product has been ordered in several copies, you can indicate the quantity to be returned.

  4. Indicate the reason for the return at the bottom of the order details and click on “Request a return”. You can track your return request in the “Returns” section of the “My purchases” section.

  5. Once your return request has been validated by our team, simply download the return form and place it in your package.

  6. Send your package to the address indicated on the return form.

Want to make a return request with a guest account?

It's very easy : contact us by email at service-client@olow.fr indicating your order number, the items you wish to return and whether you wish to request a refund, a credit note or an exchange.

The return costs are at the customer's expense (cost of shipping by the transporter chosen by the customer and any other related costs: customs duties, taxes, etc.).

How long does it take to get my money back once my package has been sent?

Refunds will be made within 10 days of receipt of your items and automatically to the account associated with the credit card used for payment or to the Paypal account used for payment.

Is it possible to return my item in the shop?

No, for all internet orders, returns can only be made to the address mentioned above.

What can I do if my item has a defect?

We take great care in the manufacture and finishing of our products. However, if you wish to report a manufacturing defect on a product, we invite you to contact our customer service by e-mail: service-client@olow.fr.

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Forgot your password ?
Need help?

How to order?

Please follow the following instructions in order to submit an Order:

  1. Visit the Website;

  2. Follow the instructions on the Website to place your orders and especially the instructions given to create a Customer account;

  3. Fulfil the Ordering form. After extended inactivity you may encounter an automatic cancellation of the Goods you submitted. You shall start a new Order of any Good and Service you wished to order;

  4. You shall check the Goods and Services you Order, and if necessary, please identify and correct the error;

  5. Confirm the Order, the Total Price as well as the All-Inclusive Price (the “Order Confirmation”);

  6. Follow the payment Website instructions in order to pay the All-Inclusive Price.

After you have submitted an order, the Customer receives by email and without delay a confirmation of his approval of the Order.

The Customer also receives by email and without delay, a receipt of the order sent electronically, regarding as a confirmation of the order (“Order Confirmation”).

The Customer receives electronically, the confirmation that the Goods have been dispatched.

The delivery shall take place at the location indicated by the Customer at the time of the Order.

Additionally, by undertaking these different steps to Order, the Customer accepts to strictly comply with this Agreement, in accordance with section 1316-1 of the French Civil Code.

The Vendor undertakes to deliver the Goods and Services subject of the Order Confirmation. In the event that a Good ordered is unavailable, the Vendor will promptly inform the Customer about this.

However, under section L.122-1 of the French Consumer Code, the Vendor reserves the right to cancel your Order if the Order is abnormal, involves bad faith or for any other reason that is under the sole discretion of the Vendor. The Vendor also reserves the right to reject orders from any customer with whom the Vendor have an ongoing legal dispute regarding a prior order.

Place of Delivery

The place of Delivery shall be determined by the Customer within the Territory, under sanction to refuse the Order.

The Customer is exclusively responsible for any error in the Delivery due to a lack of indication contained in the Order.

Amount of Delivery Charges

The amount of Delivery Charges depends upon the amount of the Order and upon the Method of Delivery the Customer chooses. In any case, the amount of Delivery Charges shall be indicated to you before the Order Confirmation.

The Delivery Charges are free if the amount exceeds EUR 200,00.

Delivery Term

Delivery Terms are available for review on the Website. They may change depending on the availability of the Goods subject of the Order.

Delivery Terms are expressed in working days and correspond to an average time for preparing and shipping the Order to the Customer.

Delivery Terms shall begin to run at the Order Confirmation date.

Delays

In the event of delays in the Delivery, the Order is not cancelled. The Vendor shall inform the Customer by electronic mail that the delivery will take place later than what was contemplated by the Parties. You will be then entitled to decide whether to confirm or cancel your order and shall send to the Vendor a cancellation notice of the Order at service-client@olow.fr.

If the Order has not been shipped yet at the time the Vendor receives the cancellation notice, the Delivery is effectively cancelled and the Customer is reimbursed of the payment he/she made, within fifteen (15) days from the receipt of the cancellation notice.

If the Order has been shipped at the time the Vendor receives cancellation notice, the Customer is still entitled to cancel the order by refusing the Delivery. The Vendor shall then reimburse the Customer of the payment he/she made, within fifteen (15) days from receipt of the returned products in the same condition as they were sent and must have their original label. The return expenses remain at the cost of the Customer.

Tracking

The Customer can follow the track progress of his/her Order on his/her account on the Website. Regarding the delivery progress, the Customer shall contact the Company to obtain a tracker number, to follow the progress.

Prix et délais de livraison précis

Shipping cost

> 1 kg1 > 2 kg2 > 4kg
5.56.57

Delivery time

3-5 working days

Allemagne, Autriche, Belgique, Bulgarie, Chypre, Danemark, Espagne, Finlande, Grèce, Hongrie, Italie, Malte, Pays-Bas, Pologne, Portugal, République Tchèque, Suède, Ukraine

Shipping cost

> 2 kg2 > 4kg
9.511.5

Delivery time

4-7 working days

Andorre, Biélorussie, Croatie, Islande, Monaco, Norvège, Royaume-Uni, Russie, Suisse, Turquie

Shipping cost

> 2 kg2 > 4kg
9.511.5

Delivery time

5-8 working days

Bahamas, Canada, États-Unis, Mexique

Shipping cost

> 1.5 kg1.5 > 4kg
1519.5

Delivery time

5-9 working days

Argentine, Brésil, Chili

Shipping cost

€27

Delivery time

6-9 working days

Arabie Saoudite, Bahreïn, Chine, Corée du Sud, Émirats Arabes Unis, Hong-Kong, Indonésie, Israël, Japon, Malaisie, Qatar, Singapour, Taiwan

Shipping cost

€24

Delivery time

4-7 working days

Australie, Nouvelle-Zélande

Shipping cost

€27

Delivery time

6-10 working days

Returns

You have received your order but the product does not suit you?

You can return your products within 15 days of receiving your package, for any order.

For the festive season, the deadlines are extended to 30 days.

The items must not have been worn, washed or damaged and must be returned in their original packaging, in perfect condition for resale.

The return costs are at the customer's expense (cost of shipping by the transporter chosen by the customer and any other related costs: customs duties, taxes, etc.).

How do I return my package from France?

To return your parcel, it is very simple :

  1. Go to “My account”, in the “My purchases” section,

  2. In the list of your orders, select your order,

  3. If your order is eligible for return, please tick each product you wish to return. If a product has been ordered in several copies, you can indicate the quantity to be returned.

  4. Indicate the reason for the return at the bottom of the order details and click on “Request a return”. You can track your return request in the “Returns” section of the “My purchases” section.

  5. Once your return request has been validated by our team, simply download the return form and place it in your package.

  6. Send your package to the address indicated on the return form.

Want to make a return request with a guest account?

It's very easy : contact us by email at service-client@olow.fr indicating your order number, the items you wish to return and whether you wish to request a refund, a credit note or an exchange.

The return costs are at the customer's expense (cost of shipping by the transporter chosen by the customer and any other related costs: customs duties, taxes, etc.).

How long does it take to get my money back once my package has been sent?

Refunds will be made within 10 days of receipt of your items and automatically to the account associated with the credit card used for payment or to the Paypal account used for payment.

Is it possible to return my item in the shop?

No, for all internet orders, returns can only be made to the address mentioned above.

What can I do if my item has a defect?

We take great care in the manufacture and finishing of our products. However, if you wish to report a manufacturing defect on a product, we invite you to contact our customer service by e-mail: service-client@olow.fr.

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