Coming across Habi Footwear was quite serendipitous when I think about it.
I first met Paola Savillo when she was in her teens back in 2008 and only recently discovered that she became a co-founder of a successful shoe business in 2011, at the age of 21(!), when she sent me a birthday greeting on Facebook.
SO… without further ado let me introduce you to Paola Savillo, co-owner of Habi Footwear.
Get ready to be inspired!
What is Habi Footwear? How and when was the idea first conceived?
Habi Footwear is a social enterprise that manufactures shoes made of upcycled scrap cloth which are woven by our urban poor partner communities of mothers and fathers. Habi promotes responsible fashion, Pinoy pride and social involvement through 100% Filipino-made, environment-friendly footwear. In fact, for some of our lines, namely our espadrilles, we have opted to use recycled airplane tire soles. Habi is managed by three social entrepreneurs, Janine Chiong, Paola Savillo and Bernadee Uy.
Habi started out as a thesis project at the Ateneo de Manila University back in 2011. The idea was first conceived during our team’s immersion at our first partner community. We were made to live with them for 3 days and 2 nights to assess what skills they had that we could capitalise on for a viable business idea. It just so happened that two of the mothers already knew how to weave, and it was only a matter of time before the other mothers in the community learned how to weave as well.
Did you ever expect Habi to become as successful as it is now?
Yes, we’ve always believed in the concept behind the business, and that we would become a world-renowned shoe brand in the future.
How many collections have you launched to date?
We currently have two espadrille collections, our Classic (for men, women and kids) espadrilles and Chic espadrilles (women), and a flat sandals (for women) line. In the past, we’ve had four other collections, namely flat sandals, heels, a holiday line (oxfords and moccasins) and slippers all for ladies.
Do you have a favourite collection?
My favorite collection will always be our Classic espadrilles, our bestseller, of course, and also our holiday 2012 line because not only was this the first line I designed, but the shoes also appealed to a lot of teenagers, yuppies and women who prefer girly-looking footwear such as myself.
Name some highlights in the history of Habi Footwear?
On May 2012, we won BID Philippines and were sent to the Netherlands for the BID International Competition where we were part of the final ten. In fact, our team’s president, Janine Chiong, was able to meet the Princess of Netherlands, as well as pitch our business to her and to a crowd of investors from all over the globe.
On March 2013, we were able to put up our flagship store along Katipunan Ave, Q.C., and by July 2014, we were able to move to a much, much larger one in the same building.
On May 2014, we were contacted by our US-based distributor, Qamay, and since then, our business has been exporting continuously to the States.
Habi has recently started selling and distributing shoes to the US. Do you hope to reach other countries as well, like Australia?
Yes, our goal is to ship to all major continents and countries. In fact, my cousin who will be moving to Australia late this year will be coming up with an online store for social enterprises such as ours.
What is the most rewarding part of working for Habi Footwear?
The most rewarding part would be that warm feeling of joy that could only come from helping less-fortunate communities and from promoting sustainable living and locally-made products. A huge perk would be getting featured through print ad, online and TV interviews in the Philippines and in the US, as well as being invited to speak about our advocacy and entrepreneurial accomplishments by many institutions in the country. In addition, I also believe that we have a great team backed by a solid friendship, so unlike many other companies, business meetings are never boring.
What are your hopes for Habi in the future?
In the next years, we plan to share our advocacy to the entire world as we believe that in time Habi may become the choice of many for its comfort, style and, of course, the social and moral values that every pair upholds. As we continue to walk our way to a happy future, we plan to uplift the lives of even more communities in the Philippines by partnering with them to help us further expand to other fashion apparel and products that utilise sustainable as well as authentic Filipino material.
Good luck girls!