Today in this first blog I want to share with you the details of the creation of the brand of Contre-Allée, the motivation of starting, the people behind this project and of course what inspires our designer to have this amazing shoes.
The story of Contre-Allée :
In addition to being a french eco-friendly shoe brand that produces raffia shoes in Morocco Contre-Allée is above all a story of friendship in an exotic setting on the side lane.
After travelling far and wide in the Moroccan medinas, Anne & Marouane discover a material, not yet widespread in the textile industry : raffia.
« Raffia is a very strong textile fibre, derived from a type of palm tree that grows in marshy environments and along rivers mainly in Madagascar.»
Seduced by its qualities, the two musketeers decided to use this smooth but solid material and to imagine a unique shoe, natural and comfortable!
We had a double purpose in creating this brand. The first objective was to re-discover raffia, which remains a material not very used in the field of textiles.
The second objective was to highlight the knowledge of these craftsmen and, to avoid short mass consumption which is not very aware of the origin of products which are
purchased. The majority of shoes available on the market are consumer products. We wanted to be on the sidelines of this process and put the weaver’s’ know-how back to the heart of our brand.
We wanted to tell you more about the history of Contre-Allée today.
We are back in 2016 when one day Marouane presented to his friends a pair that he had drawn at home, telling them that he had the possibility of making a real one. The first time his friends saw and then wore a pair of raffia shoes they were convinced. In addition to being extremely light, it is a comfortable material. It is one of the materials that adapts the most to your feet!
So they started with a pair and then others, until Japanese visitors passing through Marrakech fell in love at first sight when they saw our shoes in a small shop. Before leaving, they wanted to place an important order with us, allowing us to take off, to continue to dream and to continue to inspire those who follow us. To meet their demand, we had to expand, recruit and set up our manufacturing workshop with hand craftsmen. Since then, Contre-Allée has been present in Asia and Europe.
Who are the creators :
This amazing startup was created by three personnes as you already read. Let's know more about them.
MAROUANE HAIAL, CREATIVE DIRECTOR & FOUNDER
Marouane is a born designer. After doing interior design studies in Paris, he took charge of the styling creations, manages today the production process. As a true sartorialist, he combines raffia and refinement.
CLÉMENT MARTIN, SALES DIRECTOR & PARTNER
Being a long-term friend with his childhood friend Marouane, after his business school studies, Clément joined the company at its starts to bring all his international experience and knowledge to confirm and strengthen the development of Contre-Allée at its starts.
Anne EPAGNEUL, Marketing Director & Partner: After doing her business school in Paris, Anne brings her commercial fiber instead of weaving her own raffia shoes!
Anne was at the beginning of the story of Contre-Allée the spark to put the light on the project but since then wished to fly towards other horizons.
Why the name of Contre-Allée ?
Contre-Allée is a French name, which means a side aisle, parallel to the main track. The main fashion path is the one we all know, of certain giants who run many points of sale with mass trade, unfortunately still sometimes far from being environmentally friendly.
Our Contre-Allée is our way to another way of being, of doing, and of expressing ourselves through our shoes. By proposing handmade natural raffia shoes, we offer to people a different way to dress, to live, and to act , so we can protect this planet all together .
The reasons behind launching an eco-friendly shoe brand :
Firstly, sustainability means many things.
One of the most common issues standing in the way of a consumer’s ability to evaluate the environmental impact of a product or package is a lack of clarity in language. Consumer perception and market reality are two different things, and the line between the two is often kept purposefully blurry. As the use of terms like “natural” or “organic” showed us with food, language can often be very misleading.
Like “natural,” the word “sustainable” has many assumed definitions, encompassing everything from recyclable, biodegradable, environmentally friendly or something with a low carbon footprint. But these terms are too often interchanged, and lack any traditional standards or government regulations, meaning that brands often use this terminology in ways that are confusing or misleading to the consumer we try to communicate openly about the nationality of our suppliers and where and how we produce our shoes .
I will give you extra reasons why the Contre-Allée team decide to challenge themselves and start an eco-friendly shoe brand
Producing Less Textile Waste:
The slow fashion movement is a new notion in the fashion world that contradicts the current force of fast fashion and limitless consumption. In reality, slow fashion is not a new concept. Fashion was always slow until fast fashion took off in the late 80s and early 90s. Sustainable fashion and minimalism try to reintroduce the idea of not purchasing more clothes than we need.
Sustainable fashion brands rarely follow trends, and they don’t push new collections every week to trick you into buying more. Slow fashion is all about quality and timeless pieces. That doesn’t mean that these clothes are boring or not stylish.
Buying less and buying better have a huge impact on the planet. Globally we dump to landfill or burn one garbage track of textile waste every second! If we extended the life of our clothes by 7 months, we could cut the waste in half! Which is still a lot of waste honestly. But put in other words, we could save one garbage truck of textile waste every two seconds! That’s huge!
- Using Less Synthetic Materials:
Synthetic materials, such as polyester, nylon, and spandex require oil. And oil production is one of our biggest greenhouse gas emitters. So instead, opt for natural, plant-based materials, for example, organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo.
Sustainably, the use of natural materials is a lot more common practice. Synthetic materials are used very rarely and most times are made of natural and vegan materials.
- Using Less Water :
Fashion is a very water-intensive industry. Cotton, for example, needs a lot of water to grow. As a result, sustainable fashion tries to reduce the use of cotton. Switching to organic cotton is a great solution since it uses 71% less water than conventional cotton. But sustainable brands often opt for other natural materials such as linen and hemp which uses even less water.
Using plant-based leather instead of traditional leather is another way to reduce fashion’s water footprint. Pinatex®, for example, which is a plant-based leather made from palm tree leaves doesn’t need any water to grow because it is simply a byproduct of the already existing pineapple farming.
But did you know that your clothes use tons of water after you purchased them? That’s right, your washing machine runs on average with 50 litres of water per load. Washing your clothes less frequently (of course, only when it’s possible, I don’t want you to walk around in stained tops and smelly underwear) could have a huge impact on your water footprint. Washing less also damages less the clothes so that you could keep them longer, and you’d produce less textile waste (as we talked about it above). See, it’s all connected!
- Fewer Animals Harmed: It is quite obvious that environmental destruction is harmful to wildlife. The huge amount of waste and pollution destroys habitats and as a result, more and more species become endangered. But what about animals used in the industry? Our fibres are vigan it come from the palm tree .
- Using Less Energy :
Synthetic materials, in addition to producing more greenhouse gases, also use more energy. Recycled polyester, for example, uses half the energy than new polyester. But the sustainable materials I already mentioned (hemp, linen, bamboo) are even more energy-efficient. That’s why sustainable fashion supports these fabrics more than polyester and other synthetic fabrics.
But reducing energy consumption can be implemented at every step of the supply chain.
New dyeing methods are put in place to reduce energy and water use.
Ethical fashion brands often prefer creating smaller collections with hand-made items. In this case, craftsmanship and human labour replace a small amount of energy used by factories.
The slow fashion movement, and the notion of producing less, but better quality, and extending the life-cycle of our clothes could easily cut fashion’s energy use by half and we love to be part of this changement and we are trying everyday to offer the best ethical shoes . Today our CO2 emission is less than 9 kilogram per shoe unlike other brands where their emissions are around 14 kilograms .
The products and material used to create those shoes :
« A day of hand-weaving is needed to produce one pair of raffia shoes! »
The added value of our products lies in the handmade production of Moroccan craftsmen. This know-how provides real traceability and quality and durability of
our products. We want, through this collaboration, to enhance this material by creating a soft, original and trendy shoe.
Contre-Allée offers a shifted alternative to insiders in the
shoe industry and comes out, with all modesty, the ordinary.
so it's a piece of art in your closet!
The different models of shoes have been imagined by discovering the districts of Casablanca The soul of these neighbourhoods vibrate and resonate in
each of their fibres. By wearing our shoes, you wear our history.
We named our men’s or women’s shoes Bachko, Lamdina or Sbata and we add a text to describe these areas because our journey started from Casablanca to the world , to see the coastal city and the largest one in Morocco, with a cosmopolitan atmosphere, an eclectic culinary scene, and unique architecture that draws inspiration from both Moorish and French Art Deco styles just like our collections it an invitation to travel and poetry in raffia shoes but be careful not to lose one after the 12 strokes of midnight!
What about the sources of inspirations ?
The main inspiration of Contre-Allée is the freedom of traveling the difference between all the cultures that you can learn during a trip , and the power of discovering new people and things . The summer with all its vibes and opportunities . Casablanca is also an inspiration as a moving city with different cultures and emotions The latest collection was inspired by nature and youth, because we can see it clearly today when we all found ourselves confined, nature reclaimed its rights in so many places quite rightfully, and young people are more important today than ever to change the world. We all have a weight on our shoulders to rethink the world of tomorrow. This is why we created models who play with oranges, lemons, Lemon or Orange Laymouna models, and our youth is also represented through light raffia school shoes like our La Villette model or our Lamdina model shoes.
Do you know what raffia is?
The raffia fibre is obtained from the raffia (raphia) palm tree, which grows in tropical regions and wet soil in Madagascar, Africa and the Philippines. The raffia palm (Raphia foraminifera) is made of long leaves that can attain 60ft (18m), which makes it the palm tree with the largest branches. Each palm branch is made of nearly 100 leaflets, which are cut and torn off in parallel lines yielding long continuous fibre of a pale green colour.
Collectors go deep into the island to harvest the raffia palm. They strip and dry the freshly cut pale green strand and sundry them. The dried raffia fibres then turn beige to yield the natural coloured raffia we all know.
The raffia strands are then brought into warehouses, where they are sorted and separated into different qualities of raffia, according to their colour, texture, fibre length and width.
Each quality is then transferred to another section where they will be put up into raffia hanks, balls, braids or spools. Part of this natural raffia is also dyed to obtain coloured natural raffia.
The qualities and uses of raffia :
Both flexible and resistant, raffia allows the gardener to make strong and flexible ties, especially during grafting, but also to attach a shrub or a tomato plant to its stake, for example. These are the same qualities that florists appreciate when tying up their bouquets or building their flower arrangements.
Raffia fibres are also used to make ropes and basket weavers appreciate them to create hats, bags, baskets and baskets, mats, as well as sandals, flip flops and Strabane fabric used as a natural covering in furnishings and interior decoration ...
All these processes from the raffia harvesting, to the dying and packing, are done manually by the local people with the utmost respect to the environment. Governmental laws also contribute to the preservation of the raffia palm trees by limiting the harvest of raffia palm from June to October each year to allow the branches of the raffia palm trees to regrow before the start of the next harvest season.
Most often, it is offered in its natural shade, particularly in garden centres, but when it is used as a base for artisanal creations, it is often tinted, therefore coloured.
Other uses of raffia
The Raphia palm, in its name, indicates a link with a floury matter. It is the stipe (trunk) that contains "sago", a material which, when grated, gives a flour rich in starch but not very nutritious. The stems are therefore cut as soon as they are interesting enough to extract the sago. From a culinary point of view, the juice from the heart of this palm tree, when it is still young, is used to make palm wine.
Before the leaves develop to make the raffia fibres used in the garden, we can extract a material used as a base for waxing and polish products.
The ribs of the fins, very rigid, can make brooms, while the rachis (petioles of the fins) are so hard that they are intended for frames.
What is the next step of Contre-Allée :
We are always working on new materials to provide 100% eco-responsible products and reduce our Co2 emission. At the same time we are working on our next collection that will be as usual full of surprises .
This year we decided to launch a new responsible product that we will present in a special event so stay tuned, we will keep you updated to share this new piece of art with you. Moreover, we are going to be present in new countries so keep an eye on our instagram stories .
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please feel free to contact as we are always happy to chat with all of you. We hope that you will have enjoyed our first blog edition, and we look forward to seeing you soon for the next edition !