Panafrica, the French footwear label, whose colorful and socially conscious sneakers are handmade in Africa, has gotten off to a promising start on crowdfunding Web site Ulele.com.
Within eight hours following its launch on Saturday, the project reached its goal of securing a minimum of 200 pre-orders, which makes it one of the most successful launches on the crowdfunding platform.
Naturally, the label is upping its ante. “The challenge is to score a minimum of  pre-orders for our two lines of shoes in 45 days to further spur the brand’s development,” explained Vulfran de Richoufftz, who co-founded the brand with his buddy Hugues Didier. “The idea is to help us get our production going while receiving something nice and inexpensive in return. Unlike Kickstarter, for instance, Ulele doesn’t ask for money but puts the product center stage,” he added.
Participants will have the choice between two styles: one made from authentic African wax textiles costing 50 euros, or $53 at current exchange, instead of 65 euros ($69) retail; the other, a pair of cotton-canvas sneakers going for 60 euros, or $64, instead of 75 euros ($80) retail.
In addition, the sale helps local communities by boosting their textile production and sending children to school.
“Wax printed textiles are an African product, but there are only three big producers left on the continent – in Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria, as most smaller factories have shut down and production has shifted to China,” de Richoufftz said.
Panafrica, meanwhile, uses textiles of African origin, before having the unisex styles assembled by old-school craftsmen in Morocco, proposing a product 100 percent made in Africa.
Part of the profit from each pair sold is used to equip a child for school, thanks to the brand’s Walk for School program.
“More than 45 percent of world’s non-schooled children live in Africa. That’s 40 million children,” de Richoufftz said, noting that a lack of proper schooling material is often the cause, as families struggle with poverty. “We give them a kit containing a backpack, a notebook, pen and pencils, a rubber, a ruler, a pencil sharpener, some chalk and a blackboard.”
Slated to run until Jan. 10, the campaign is to help the brand engage directly with the consumer, before it will launch an e-shop in January, while generating extra benefits.
Panafrica is also available via Paris concept stores Merci and Brazilini, as well as Staggy, and Le Funk in Casablanca.