Our Story

Handcrafted by Quechua artisans and master Zapateros. Colored by nature. Curated by you.

It’s time to make a change, and at Qhipas, we want you to join us in creating that change. 

We believe what we wear matters, and we know you do, too. And just like you, we are passionate about preserving the culture, artisanal craft, and legacy of marginalized artisans.


The Meaning Behind Qhipas

Pronounced “key-pahs”

Quechua speakers say, "You can see the past, so it lies in front of you. But you can’t see the future, so it lies behind you."

The word "qhipa" refers to the future and can be roughly translated as "going forward by looking backward." We chose this name as a reference to our social mission to strengthen the communities and preserve the cultural legacy of the Quechua-speaking artisans who handcraft the fabric used in making Qhipas footwear. 

The Qhipas Movement

More and more, people are becoming disenchanted with inauthentic brands and products that are not ethically produced.

When you wear your Qhipas, you not only express your individual style, but you also become part of a movement that helps preserve multiple artisanal ecosystems and cultural heritage.

A Moral Imperative

Ethical fashion is more than a movement; it’s a moral imperative. And that’s why we want to share Qhipas with the world.

“Fast fashion” brands and products that are cheaply mass-produced often massively pollute the environment, exploit labor and fail to sustain the valuable skills and traditions of marginalized artisans. 

Our mission is to change that. Our uniquely colorful footwear is handcrafted by Ecuadorian Zapateros using a fabric hand-loomed by the descendants of a long line of Quechua-speaking artisans from Peru.

Qhipas footwear supports multiple traditional artisanal ecosystems — wool, dyes, hand-woven fabric, leather, and soles produced by herders, weavers, small family businesses, and master Zapateros — all of which comprise hundreds of families in Ecuador and Peru. 

And you can help us do that. With our new socio-economic business model, our Quechua-speaking artisanal partners receive TWICE their asked-for "local price" upfront.   Additionally, we share 10% of our net profits towards building elementary schools in their communities.  

These schools will help with the preservation of their cultural heritage, skills, traditions, and language — which for them is paramount.  Our first project together will be to build a school for a community's children (including food service and Quechua speaking teachers) near Cajamarca, Peru.   This school will become a reality at about 3,000 pairs of Qhipas sold.

Our Zapateros receive TWICE the local wage in addition to benefits and profit-share, and they are the best of the best. 

Qhipas are more than exquisitely crafted, colorful shoes. When you purchase Qhipas, you help to perpetuate the legacy of these traditional artisanal ecosystems and both the Quechua and Zapatero ways of life.


Our Artisinal Partnership

With every purchase of Qhipas, you help: 
  • Preserve multiple cottage artisanal ecosystems and an ancient culture
  • Economically support hundreds of artisans and their families
  • Empower and attract the next generation of artisans
  • Support ethically produced fabric and footwear

How Qhipas Are Made

The weaving techniques and dye recipes used to create the colorful wool fabric for Qhipas are native to the Peruvian Andes region and date back more than a thousand years. The fabric is woven entirely by hand using 400-year-old back-strap looms.  

The vibrant colors achieved in the fabric are all-natural dyes sourced from local ingredients, such as minerals, nuts, flowers, fruits, and insects. These dyes are produced in massive copper pots over open flames according to ancient recipes handed down for generations. The colors change with the seasons depending on what is available or in bloom.

Master Ecuadorian Zapateros (shoemakers) carefully handcraft each pair one shoe at a time using the Strobel construction system. Every pair is unique and carries the creativity and energy of the artisans who handcraft them.

The Qhipas mission isn't just to create high-quality, one-of-a-kind footwear; it’s also about creating connections with talented artisans and igniting a movement that sustains their cultural heritage, traditions, language, and way of life.