As Keely Solimene describes it, Bella Ha began with a suitcase. “It started when our family went to Vietnam to adopt two little girls and discovered that one had an identical twin,” recalled the founder of the flip-flop brand. “In our search to find her, we had amazing experiences, but it also opened our eyes to wanting to give back — and to give other people the chance, too.”
That’s when she got the idea for a shoe company. To get her project going, Solimene, who is new to footwear, recruited a team with experience at major fashion companies, including Target, Gap, Cynthia Rowley and Style.com. “We selected a shoe [for this project] because shoes take you places,” explained Solimene.
Together they began developing their flip-flop line in 2013, with a manufacturer outside Florence, Italy, that hand-makes each pair. Direct-to-consumer sales debuted online in spring ’15, with all styles retailing for $100.
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The Bella Ha collection — named for Solimene’s daughter, Isabella, and her twin, Ha — is infused with a travel theme. “When you pack your suitcase, wonderful things happen. You see the world,” said the brand’s founder.
Currently, the line consists of a single flip-flop silhouette in a range of colors inspired by Khánh Hòa province in southern Vietnam, which is identified by a metal tag with map coordinates.
That area is also the site of the brand’s first outreach effort. Bella Ha has partnered with We Care Solar to distribute solar suitcases that provide light to off-the-grid medical clinics. Solimene traveled to Vietnam late last month for the first solar suitcase delivery. She told Footwear News, “We’re relying heavily on our partner and letting them be the guide in where help is needed.”
Solimene noted that looking ahead, Bella Ha will stick with flip-flops, but future collections — and giving projects — could focus on other regions, such as Ethiopia. “Eventually, we’re hoping to have tags on the shoes spanning the globe,” she said.