Not Your Typical Sneaker Drop: Shoe Brand Calls Out Fashion’s Bad Practices

German footwear brand Ekn flips the script on exploitative manufacturing

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Fashion brands often try to build hype with product drops–but not for a reason like this. German sneaker label Ekn has released a new shoe that calls attention to the fashion industry’s exploitative business practices. 

The sneaker, named Kamthala, flips the script on a common model whereby some fashion companies design products in the Global North and manufacture them in the Global South–often to the detriment of the environment or workers. 

Instead, Kamthala was designed in Bangladesh by up-and-coming female designer Rokaiya Ahmed Purna and manufactured in Portugal. It is also made from vegan and recycled materials and will be available globally for about $217 (200 euros), with all profits going towards a new nonprofit in Bangladesh that supports women and girls. 

More than a typical sneaker, Kamthala (named after and inspired by the jackfruit tree, the national fruit of Bangladesh) makes a statement to the fashion industry to stop unethical manufacturing practices in developing countries and also collaborate more with creative talent outside the West. 

The footwear brand wants to turn fashion’s exploitative practices on their headEkn

Hamburg-based creative agency Accenture Song (formerly known as Kolle Rebbe) developed the project.

Calling on big fashion

Ekn was founded in 2015 by Noel Klein-Reesnick, who previously worked for New Balance and Adidas. His aim with the footwear brand is to provide an alternative to the fashion industry’s inhumane and environmentally harmful practices.

“Unfortunately, the repression of workers in the Global South remains the basis upon which countless international fashion brands generate their profits. This has to change,” Klein-Reesnick told Adweek. “We are aware this shoe won’t change the world, but we want it to be a sign of respect. Hopefully it will make people think differently and invite other brands to change their perspective.”

To become more progressive, the fashion industry must also broaden where it finds talent, Klein-Reesnick added.  

“We think it’s important for the fashion industry and beyond to switch the way we look at the world,” he continued. “People in so-called producing countries have the same talent, goals and creativity, but they’re held back—often by brands that we wear every day.” 

There is a growing demand for fashion brands to adopt more ethical and sustainable practices. For example, earlier this month at Berlin Fashion Week, activist duo The Yes Men staged a spoof Adidas show exposing the inhumane working conditions at southeast Asian factories where many of the brand’s clothes are made. 


Client: Ekn Footwear
Managing director: Noel Klein-Reesink                      
Creative director: Marek Bäuerlein                
Product design: Rokaiya Ahmed Purna                      
Trainee : Raphael Mauckner                
Agency: Accenture Song
Managing director creation: Fabian Frese                  
Managing director client service: Lenart Wittgen                  
Executive creative director: Martin Terhart               
Executive design director: Marcel Krempin                
Group creative director: Alexander Grapp                 
Lead creation: Alexander Grapp, Felix Zielke                                     
Account managers: Anton Kröger, Kea Jacobs, Olga Baiz, David Gies            
Designers: Jakob Reinhard, Mitja Schneehage, Julia Fiedler 
Copywriters: Sofia Christidou, Lorenz Ritter, Rasesh Patkar  
UX designer: Emma Paraschiakou                 
PR: Jessica Hartley, Ruth van Doornik             
Production company, Dhaka: Filmstation Production LTD

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