Pikolinos Maasai Project is a project I’ve recently fallen head over heels in love with. Please pardon the footwear related pun. Pikolinos Maasai Project creates beautiful hand-beaded sandals in collaboration with Maasai women in Kenya. The collection is ecological, sustainable and retains an Afrocentric flair. Rosa Escandell President of ADCAM (the company behind Pikolinos) provided me with an exclusive interview and some personal pictures of her time with the Maasai women she collaborates with.

One word to describe her and the project…INSPIRING!

Q. I’m particularly impressed by your values and philosophy, what inspired you to take such a stance?

My professional trajectory comes from the world of cooperation, where I have been working for more than 20 years. I worked with microcredits (small loans for entrepreneurs) in Asia but I realized that the microcredit does not make sense without a market to sell. With this project I look for the commercialization and the work of women, a fair salary and sustainability for the community.

Q. What key changes have you noticed in the communities where you have artisans?

We have a lot of respect for their values and culture. There have been no major changes in the Maasai tradition and way of life. This is why there is only one collection per year and they work from their homes to take care of their families.

They make as many pairs of shoes as they can or want to for five months each year. What has really changed is women’s position in relation to the community and particularly to the Maasai men. Maasai women are more valued and in some cases, it is the first time in their lives that they have money for themselves. Their self-esteem has risen considerably.

Q. Tell me more about your connection to the Maasai & Kenya?

In addition to the Pikolinos project, we have opened a primary school in the community; now we have five of the eight required school levels and we also have a camp where volunteers or tourists can visit that gives economic sustainability to the school. The idea is to make the Maasai Tribe sustainable so they do not depend on our help. To learn more about the project and the camp you can visit www.adcam.es

Q. Are luxury, design and ethics, concepts easy to reconcile?

I am convinced that these three concepts can be reconciled and the Pikolinos project confirms it. I know for sure that a company can be profitable and socially responsible.

Q. What inspires your creative approach to design and who is the woman you design for?

Our designs are for women that value the craftsman and manual work and especially quality. Also for women aware of respecting human values and the environment; It is for the woman of the 21st century.

Q. Olivia Palermo is an ambassador for Pikolinos Masaai, in what ways have her celebrity and fashion kudos helped you?

The help of a celebrity is very important because it gives to the world an awareness of the work these women do in a fast way and with a global reach. Otherwise it would be impossible for us. In addition, Olivia has travelled to Kenya to understand the work of these women for a first hand perspective. She was really interested in them and she gave them value and help. We couldn’t have a better Ambassador.

Q. How did the collaboration with Olivia come about?

We were looking for a woman who felt identified with the project, and was able to see and feel these values. Through my friend Bisila Bokoko, we had a first meeting with the management team of Pikolinos and we knew that Olivia was the right person.

Q. What does 2013 & beyond have in store for Pikolinos Maasai?

The store in Chelsea is actually more than a simple pop-up store.. Upstairs you’ll discover three different collections: the Maasai collection, the Colors collection and the fantastic Spring/Summer shoe and bag collection. Downstairs in the store cellar, there is the “Maasai Lab”: video installations highlighting Maasai culture and the company’s commitment to cutting-edge technology, innovation, continuous evolution and a forward-looking vision. It is an interactive store full where you will understand the Maasai tribe and be able to buy your sandals to collaborate with the project.

Q. Style is…

9. for me style is everything that you can wear comfortably and makes you feel good.

Q. Indulgence is…

9. 10. respect and don’t judge.

To view the collection and learn more please visit www.pikolinos.com