Meet the Makers

Get to know the Quechua artisans and Zapateros behind Qhipas’ colorful, handcrafted footwear.

Wilmer

Production

“We can learn anything in this life.” That’s what Wilmer Perez Mendoza’s wife said to him after she suggested they start crafting shoes. They made purses after all.

But after seeing a woman wearing European shoes walk by their shop 12 years ago, she thought, "Why not make shoes with the same fabric as our purses, using weaving techniques passed down from our great-grandparents?"

Wilmer was hesitant, but his wife soon enrolled in a shoe-making course.

The couple started off making six pairs of shoes. After all six pairs sold, that number grew to 30. The shoes continued to gain popularity and people began purchasing them in bulk, so they decided to make 100 pairs of boots.

Today, Wilmer, his wife, and a team of Zapateros craft hundreds of pairs of shoes per week and are developing 15 different designs for Qhipas.

Wilmer is proud of his family’s dream and the artisanal shoes they have created. “In the beginning, it was just making bags. Now, I have given more work to my family and more income to my family. I have workers here who also benefit. Now they have more income.”


Norma

Design

Since she was a little girl, Norma Ochoa Duran was always wanting to learn new things. But she had no one to teach her. “I always was a bit weird. I mean, everything I saw, I touched.”

After her mother gifted her an antique sewing machine as a decoration, she decided to learn how to sew. First, it was headbands. Then came bags. Next were templates. “Even though no one taught me, I figured out a way.”

She never thought she would one day create shoes. It wasn’t until she saw a woman walking down the street wearing boots that she decided she wanted to make those, too.

Today, she and her husband, Wilmer, are in charge of the production and design of Qhipas footwear.


Francisco

MAESTRO Zapatero
Francisco Chango is a Master Zapatero in Ambato, Ecuador. Now 62 years old, he has been handcrafting footwear since he was 17 years old.

When you wear your Qhipas, you support these and many more talented artisans and Zapateros.  Buy Qhipas, build schools!

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Our Mission

Our social mission is to help strengthen and preserve the awe-inspiring legacy of language, skills, and culture of our artisanal partners.    

We do this by buying their fabrics at TWICE the local market price, and by donating 10% of the net profits that they help to co-create towards building elementary schools in their communities.  

The idea is to make their traditional livelihood economically viable enough to attract the next generation of kids into doing the same and providing the means for those kids to learn their own language, history, culture and traditions within their own communities.


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