You know when you buy products that make you feel good afterward? Buying a fair trade product that has a heartwarming story can make your day. Well, I can’t think about a better story than this one.

By KW

Waneek Horn-Miller

You might know about Manitobah Mukluks, but you might not realize how awesome this company is and how much good it does. It supports the indigenous community since it’s a certified indigenous-owned business with headquarters in Winnipeg. It offers a high-quality sustainable product, it protects indigenous art, and also celebrates indigenous history. We had a chat with Tara Barnes VP Marketing, and she shared some great insight on Canada’s fastest growing footwear company.

The man behind Manitobah Mukluks is Sean McCormick, a Métis born in one of Canada’s coldest towns, growing up in a family that had a long history of social work and a mother heavily involved in the community (she still runs the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development). McCormik was driven to be an entrepreneur and was certainly influenced by his community-oriented family; he wanted to own a business that would make his community prosper.

Today, the company has about 100 employees in Canada, which about 70% of are indigenous. They also have an additional 100 employees in Vietnam, where they are part owner of their factory, something that was important in order for them to control the quality of their production.

You can now buy their product across Canada at Browns, Town Shoes, Sporting Life, Sail, Gravity Pope, Heel Boy, and Cabelas, to name a few, and also online at manitobah.ca, but back in the day, McCormick displayed his moccasins in gas stations and gift shops. At that time, these original Canadian winter boots were perceived more like a souvenir or a gift than actual footwear. It was in 2010 that the company really had its tipping point when they launched their high-abrasion sole that changed Manitobah Mukluks’ relevance in the shoe industry. This, plus having Kate Moss rocking the Mukluks, really made the product start to fly off the shelves.

Today, the brand has two great ambassadors, Sarain Fox, and Waneek Horn-Miller, who helped authenticate the brand. Like Tara Barnes says, “If Kate Moss made them trendy, Sarain and Waneek bring the heart to it.”

If you worry about fur, you should know that people indigenous to Canada have always lived in harmony with mother nature, and the company believes in natural products that are biodegradable and only use animals that were killed for eating. As a respect to the animal, they believe that it should be used in its entirety. It makes a lot of sense, especially because their products are very durable and almost eternal if you take really good care of your pair.

When I ask Tara about a furless option, her answer was quite amusing. She said that the day we will stop eating animals, they will come up with an alternative, as they have always adapted and always work in accord with nature.

Tara tells us, “To understand what people have done here to survive for thousands of years, there is substance in that, there is a culture in that, and maybe there is a hint on how we will continue to survive on this planet.”

You can get a pair of Mukluks for about $200 or up to $350 for a more handcrafted pair. They can keep you warm in cold weather, like the -32 degrees Celsius that we see here in Canada. They also have waterproof products, perfect for those gross, slushy days! Maybe it’s time to take this footwear back to its status as a gift; it’s the perfect holiday present for your loved ones: sustainable, authentic, and functional.

 

Rebecca Bundsheh (Pictured: Sarain Fox)

Vincent Tsang

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