Thanks to a new collaboration, old jeans have become new shoes.
Nashville-born small-batch jeanswear brand Imogene + Willie, which sources and manufactures its denim in the U.S., has partnered with footwear brand Sabah, best known for its handmade leather slippers or Babas, to create a denim patchwork version of its Baba shoe, a backless slip-on.
The limited-edition collection of 140 pairs for men and women dropped Oct. 1 and was fashioned from recycled denim gathered from Imogene & Willie’s “Kill Your Jeans (with Kindness)” upcycling program which encouraged customers to turn in their old jeans. The program’s name refers to the kindness supposedly woven into each pair.
The shoes feature a recycled denim patchwork upper made from hundreds of pieces of denim carefully cut out by hand and stitched together. They were constructed in Sabah’s new workshop in El Paso, Texas–an extension of the original one in Turkey–and incorporate the region’s history of leatherwork and boot making by using undyed natural saddle leather that is 100 percent vegetable tanned as the linings.
“Working with denim, and particularly a patchwork of denim, requires extra care and sensitivity in the cutting and placement of the pieces to form a shoe. Whereas leather is more uniform, every patchwork piece was unique and how it was cut and placed greatly impacted the visual appeal of the Babas,” Sabah founder Mickey Ashmore told Rivet. “Denim has inherent differences in that it is less malleable and stretches less when being shaped into a shoe–so there is less room for error.”
But he also found a striking similarity between the two materials. “What I’m most excited about is to see how these Denim Babas wear in–Imogene + Willie, like Sabah, uses only the highest quality materials, which in this case will mean the denim uppers should continue to age beautifully with time and use, just like our leathers,” he said.
Although the shoes have only just hit the market, Ashmore and Imogene & Willie founders Carrie and Matt Eddmenson are already discussing a possible second drop. However, it will have to wait until the old jeans upcycling program is relaunched later this year or early next and would be available in Spring 2023 at the earliest, said Ashmore.
Denim Babas come in women’s sizes 35 to 43 (U.S. 4.5-5 to 11-11.5) and men’s 38 to 49 (U.S. 7 to 16-16.5). They retail for $345 and are sold exclusively at the Sabah store in Austin and the brand’s website and Imogene and Willie’s online store.