When was the last time you bought a new fashion item designed in Bangladesh, but produced in Europe? Today, in a step that subverts the status quo of fashion design, sustainable footwear brand ekn is launching a limited-edition vegan sneaker. Designed in Bangladesh and manufactured in Portugal, the ekn kathal Kamthala is a collaboration between Frankfurt-based eco sneaker brand ekn and rising female Bangladeshi designer, Rokaiya Ahmed Purna.
Named after Bangladesh’s national fruit — the jackfruit — the kathal Kamthala makes a bold statement to the industry to rethink how it works with the Global South, turning the usual ‘designed in the Global North, manufactured in the Global South’ paradigm on its head.
The idea behind the shoe is to create a ‘sneaker as a symbol of respect’ — aiming to reverse some of the unethical supply chain practices, pollution and exploitation that have been synonymous with the industry for decades — tapping into younger generations’ appetite for meaningful change, not just greenwashing.
Designer Purna is committed to gender equality, responsible consumption and production, promoting indigenous textiles and innovation, and empowering women and girls in her home country. “In Bangladesh we have a very rich cultural tradition and heritage, which I try to implement into all of my work. My own roots and childhood memories also influence my designs; the inspiration for the ekn Kamthala comes from the jackfruit, the national fruit of Bangladesh,
which I have a deep relationship with: as a child there was a tree right in front of my house where I would play, and draw, and nap under,” she said.
“We’ve become used to the term ‘Made in Bangladesh’, not ‘Designed in Bangladesh’, but the new generation of Bangladeshis are starting to think differently and act differently. And as part of this generation, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to create change. I’m living the dream of so many people, so it’s an opportunity which comes with a lot of responsibility.”