There are too many brands out there that use philanthropy for marketing purposes. Yes, it can be a sexy idea—that for every pair of pants you buy, some anonymous person in need somewhere in the world also gets a pair. But doesn’t it strike you as odd that there is no follow-up or confirmation that these things actually happen? The consumer makes a purchase and goes along their merry little way. There may or may not be pants, but there is definitely no accountability.
Anyways, French shoe brand Piola is not one such brand. Yes, about five bucks of the price of each shoe goes toward microeconomic development in Peru. But here’s the rub: Each shoebox comes with a unique code on it, and for your five bucks to be donated back to Peru, you need to log on to their website, enter your code, and confirm which project you want to support. One of the co-founders, Quentin Richard, explained, “If our customers do not take the time to log into our website, we won’t invest. We do not want to surf on a fake marketing trend.” So there’s a level of authenticity and customer participation involved with Piola. Richard doesn’t want to be distracted from his actual goal, which is to make great shoes.
Did we mention that he makes great shoes? He does—and he appears to be getting better at it.
Philanthropic brands tend to struggle with aesthetics. Not so much, Piola. Highlights for this fall include the Mancura boot, with its smart combination of suede and leather panels, as well as the Slippery Elm, with its richly hued leather upper, which just might be the perfect casual Friday shoe for the transition from work to weekend. In addition, a high concentration of rubber in Piola soles (“About 60 percent of wild raw rubber from the Amazon,” Richard explains. “Whereas other brands use 4 to 10 percent of industrial block rubber”) makes for an extremely comfortable wear.
Piola may not be Tom’s, but that’s a good thing. Piola doesn’t make shoes for Peruvians. Piola helps Peruvians make shoes for discerning buyers. And, yeah, we’re entering the damn code.