After searching far and wide for a versatile, relatively simple summer sandal, I decided on Sseko Designs. The sandals come in two parts: a leather and foam base and a ribbon strap. You can lace the strap up in more than a dozen ways to achieve different looks and you can purchase more straps in a variety of styles and fabrics to match any outfit. As long as they hold up, I could wear them forever without getting bored.
Sseko Designs was born when Liz Forkin Bohannon traveled to Uganda on a post college adventure. Once there, she realized that she could use her communications background for good, so she sought out Ugandan suppliers for her unique sandal design and trained young women to make them in exchange for fair wages and the funding necessary to receive a college education in Uganda.
I like Sseko Designs' structure because it takes the fair trade concept one step further. It provides a living wage and a good work environment, but it also encourages women to move forward and improve their communities in more substantial ways by going to college to pursue their passions and perfect their unique talents. The system is less likely to succumb to a white savior complex so often present in such models because it enables women to work for themselves and for their futures; they effect change in their own communities. Sure, I might buy the product, but I'm not put on a pedestal by doing so and I'm not led to objectify workers to appease my first world guilt (this is something that's quite hard to achieve in the fair trade model; I can think of a handful of companies who don't do a great job with this).
But here's the real question: do Sseko Sandals hold up? I really like them. The sole is sturdy and quite comfortable, comparable in comfort to Reefs. To test them, I wore them to my five hour shift at the coffee shop and my feet weren't killing me by the end of the day. The only downside is that I got my cotton straps wet in the rain and they ended up wrinkling, which makes it difficult to change the strap arrangement; I need to iron them out again. I should also mention that some styles feel less secure on my foot than others, so I don't have as many wearable options as the website suggests. This could be a personal issue based on the shape and width of my foot, though, so I wouldn't let that discourage you. Overall, for the price and quality, I would recommend Ssekos.
You can enter to win a pair of Sseko Designs' new t-strap sandals on instagram. Just click on the contest image to be redirected. It ends soon, so I'd enter today if I were you!