Now if there's one thing that I have been saying since youth it is that "I hate my feet." Well, I don't really hate my feet, however, they are extremely unconventional which makes them nearly impossible to fit. You can imagine that shoe shopping is the worst! For this reason, the sandals I wear are either uncomfortable or are men's. Why am I telling you this?
I discovered Gurus on Instagram (discount code below) and at first sight thought... "Maybe I found a sandal/flip flop that will not rub on my ever so wide bony bunion feet(genetics' fault)!" Then I read on to learn that they are 100% biodegradable, the rubber is sourced from a family farm, and that Gurus plants a tree for every pair sold! I also learned that Gurus are designed after padukas, a 5,000 year old traditional Indian sandal, which in Hindi mean "footprints of the gods." I suppose functionality never dies when it comes to the basics! haha.
Gurus actually evolved from a Kickstarter Campaign. Since I learned about the startup world, and as an ethical fashion blogger, I was immediately interested in setting up an interview with the person behind the brand. But first I wanted to make sure that Gurus were worth my while, so I had them send me a c/o pair to review. Honest: Gurus are actually the most comfy sandal I've worn because they are so comfily squishy! I wore them all around my college campus this week and was more interested in the texture of the flip flop to my foot than walking as a means of transportation. LOL
And so, I wove through a set of questions that touch upon the production process, sustainability, and the product design. Sandals are not my foutee, and so I was super excited to set up this interview so that I may learn from the responses. I hope you can too! Let's get started with this interview, shall we?
Interview with Gurus CEO and Cofounder Thomas Prem
Hello, please introduce yourself (when you started working there, why, have you always worked in a social good type business)? I'm Prem Thomas the CEO and Cofounder of Gurus. I got the idea for Gurus almost 5 years ago and we have been selling for about 2 years. I used to work in finance in NYC and slowly transitioned to social/civic positions. Most recently before starting Gurus I worked as a fellow for Kiva.org to set up a new microfinance partnership in Manila Philippines.
Where are Gurus manufactured? What other products are manufactured there? Gurus are manufactured in China with some of the rubber being sourced from our family farms in India. Our manufacturer primarily produces casual footwear like sandals and flip-flops.
So your flip flops are produced in a footwear factory in China. Have you visited recently? What are the labor standards of the company and how do you know that their standards are what they claim? Sure! Yes they are. No we have not visited yet but they produce for large U.S. Brands. I will hopefully be visiting this year though.
When looking for a manufacturer we wanted to make sure that all workers during the process are treated well. Because we were not able to visit the factory initially we went a 3rd party auditor to look into the factory and workers. Everything in our report and follow-up with the auditors looked good. We also send the auditors to the factory before every shipment is sent over so we have been able to periodically check in on manufacturing, labor and machinery.
These flip-flops are so comfy! What makes them more comfortable than the generic "old navy" type flip-flop? The natural rubber definitely provides more cushion and mold to your feet over time. Unlike generic flip flops that are usually mostly synthetic materials, gurus are primarily natural rubber. I think our design also makes them much more comfortable.
For every shoe purchased a tree is planted. How many Gurus are made from one tree? We don't necessarily plant rubber trees. We work with a nonprofit to plant trees that are right for local populations in developing countries. A rubber tree can be tapped for over 30 years without harming it, so really a tree can produce many pairs of Gurus in its lifetime.
What is the process from rubber tree to the finished product? Trees are tapped daily, the sap/latex is collected and then cured into sheets which are hand-rolled. These are smoked and then shipped to our manufacturer. The rest of the process is more industrial. Rubber is processed into sheets for the sole and molded for the strap and posts.
Why do you consider Gurus sustainable? We consider Gurus sustainable because the rubber is primarily sourced from the tree and we plant trees when we sell a pair. It really is a sustainable cycle that creates a great product and gives back to local communities.
Gurus sells sandals and yoga gear... what is next? Our yoga mat is in production now, so we are waiting for that to finish and fulfill kickstarter orders. We have a few ideas for other products, but our first priority is to start shipping mats and reach scale in sandals and yoga.
Something I really want to know is what is the demographic of the Guru wearer? It is quite diverse. We initially thought our sandal would be mainly for beach wear, but the market seems to be much bigger. When you look at our customer set broadly, 80-90% are women and most of those are between 25-55. We do have some much older customers and younger ones now that we offer Little Gurus. Most of our customers like the outdoors, yoga and are a little alternative.
Any closing statement you would like to share? Thanks for the opportunity, our product has been selling for about 1.5 years and we have a small but growing following. A lot of people don't really understand our sandals until trying it on and then really believe that its the most comfortable flip-flop/sandal. I challenge your readers to give us a try and know they won't be disappointed!
15% off with coupon code beyoutifulGURUS
until October 10th, 2015
So now it's up to you to decide how you feel about Gurus. I am a fan and know I will be purchasing another pair when these give in. I love how they feel and that they are 100% biodegradable. My only criticism is that I do not trust third party auditors to state that conditions in factories are what they say on paper, even if it's a friend. I will definitely give an update on that note on my blog once Prem visits the factory this upcoming year. It will be our own "steps" into the production process of flip flops! Thanks for reading!
With a Hop in My Step,
P.S. Come back next week for an ethical fashion "step into fall" giveaway!!!