Wear Your Culture with Shoes by Kai

January 29, 2017 7:00 pm by Bettina Bacani

If there’s one thing that all women will agree on, it’s that we can never have enough shoes. Women’s shoes come in many forms – boots, heels, wedges, sneakers, flats, sandals – I could go on and on. Unfortunately, all we see nowadays are those big brands in malls and department stores that have been produced by the hundreds. How many times have you seen someone wearing the same pair as you? All too often, I’m sure. Isn’t it high time you own a pair that’s unique and rich in tradition? Say hello to Shoes by Kai.trends-shoesbykai2

Shoes by Kai (SbK), owned by Sheryll Quiming-Gempis is an independent shoe brand that aims to produce world-class, quality footwear, using local fabrics woven from traditional wooden handlooms. She came up with the tagline “Wear Your Culture” because as a Sociology major in UP Diliman, she has always dreamed of doing work that advocated our culture and Filipino identity. “I was hoping this boutique business could become a medium for such advocacy, where shoe shoppers and consumers could sense and be aware of the richness of the Filipino tradition as represented in our local exquisite fabrics and the skilled craftsmanship of our weavers and shoemakers. If SbK could help instill in Filipino buyers the appreciation and need to nurture, protect, and preserve indigenous and local traditions and materials, then I could say our enterprise had been a cultural success!” (source: http://shoephoric.com/featured-68-Shoes-by-Kai-Wearing-Your-Culture-and-Loving-It-)

Right now, weaving and shoemaking are fast declining due to the influx of mass-produced footwear from big companies. It is the goal of SbK to entice shoe shoppers with their captivating designs and well-crafted pairs and by doing so, encourage and inspire weavers and shoemakers to continue their craft. More than making use of indigenous weaves in their products, SbK wants to maintain the tradition of creating hand-made shoes using wooden handlooms.


What’s so great about Shoes by Kai is that they make use of various threads, colors, and shades of fabric in every pair so that each one is exceptionally unique and limited. “There is no assurance that the shoe will be replicated again because the weavers do not have a pattern they follow. They just use the available threads and ShK makes whatever design comes to mind out of the fabrics.” Here, the weavers are not constricted, but instead, pushed to bring out their creativity with the fabrics they produce. More importantly, with every purchase you make, you’re sure to bring home a piece that is one of a kind!

Sandals range from Php 600-700 while flats are at Php 750-850; leather oxfords/shoes are Php 1,499

The shoes at SbK are made by artisans in Marikina and Liliw, Laguna. Unlike other brands whose goal is to offer high-fashion footwear, SbK advocates culture in the soles of ordinary Filipinos in everyday life. They create pairs that are perfect for daily use; pairs that are comfortable and reasonably priced, without sacrificing the quality and elegance the brand is proud of.

SbK aims to embrace a fusion of indigenous fabrics with contemporary aesthetics, while ensuring the elegance, quality, durability, and wearability of its products. They make use of Abel Iloko or Inabel, local fabrics made from cotton threads and hand-woven by locals in the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union, and Abra. These fabrics are often used for souvenir and decorative items, rarely are they considered for modern, fashionable shoes. Though the process of handloom weaving may be more tedious and time-consuming, “SbK hopes to instill in Filipino buyers the appreciation and motivation to support, nurture, protect, and preserve indigenous traditions and materials in handweaving and shoemaking.”
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