Berlin has another shopping magnet for people longing for floor contact and something comfortable to walk in: Chala, a German barefoot shoe brand from Freiburg has recently opened its very first store in the German capital. And more are due to follow: in Hamburg, Cologne and Frankfurt. The young brand produced so-called Huarache-Sandals that were traditionally worn by Tarahumara, Mexican Indio tribes, and made of leather. Co-founder Armin Gretzmeier was so fascinated by the shoes and their easy wearing that he started his own label producing an own Huarache-Sandal named Chala that is made in Germany with organic-leather, Vibram soles and German adhesives. Read here, about his motivation.
There are some barefoot shoes on the market already and the acceptance slowly grows. But one still doesn’t reach a broad audience with it. When and why did you decide to design and sell barefoot shoes?
7 years ago we started with our classic barefoot shoe retail and from the demand our brand Chala emerged, which developed quite well over the past few years. We definitely covering a niche right now, nevertheless we try to address a broader mass. 2012 we started with Chala and since then developed the brand, a lot also with the help of creative customers.
What does the production and design of barefoot shoes depend on? Which are the biggest challenges? How important is the style aspect?
We definitely bet on quality (raw materials from Baden Württemberg etc.) and thin soles. We sell “Handmade in Germany” and who wishes for a barefoot sole expects floor contact and a good walking feeling. The biggest challenge is to find our preferred materials and to process them, usually the production of a sandal takes a lot of development and testing. By now, the style still plays a minor part, but it’s constantly getting more important as we recognize that more young trendy people get interested in our sandals.
Which materials get processed?
Bio-leather, sustainable and plant tanned (from Baden Würtemberg), Vibram® soles, highly technical Rogers Poron (a special cushioning from the US) and adhesives from Germany. All those are being processed in our sandals manufacture in Freiburg.
Why do you bet on do-it-yourself-kits? Doesn’t such a construction set involve the risk of a high reclamation rate?
Actually, it complicates the way of selling and creates barriers, but we also have a very good chance that our product provided that the customer deals with it, almost fit to every foot. Yet, we intensively work on making it easier for our customers in the future, on the other hand we also learned to not underestimate him…
There is already one store of your brand and soon another one is to open. In sales, do you rather bet on direct-to-consumer or also on the classic wholesale? If so, which retailers but the brand?
Our first store is in Freiburg, but it’s more like a shop in shop concept. Our first real brand store opened in Berlin 6 weeks ago. More shops are to open in Hamburg, Cologne and Frankfurt. Our product is sold exclusively via our own channels (online and in store). This creates a certain exclusivity and price consistency and furthermore we do not have eternal resources in our manufacture.
How many models are there and which are the bestsellers so far? What’s the price range?
The price range goes from 30-100€ and we sell 3 different models which can be combined with the respective laces, footbeds and soles – so all in all we have 408 different variations. Our classic models are the bestsellers though.