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Even though Mohaupt admits she is “very insistent on things being done my way,” she recognized that catching naps at work was not a good strategy for sustaining her business. So she started the long process of looking for a factory that could make the shoes more quickly but still meet her standards for environmental and social responsibility. Eventually she found a factory in China that also produces shoes for Italian luxury brands and, she says, pays its workers several times the living wage. There, the soles are carved out of wood from Pará rubber trees, which are grown for latex production in Malaysia. Usually, Mohaupt explains, after the trees are tapped out, they are burned down. Now not only does the wood not go to waste, its sale helps support family farmers, and the growth of the trees provides a habitat for indigenous plants and animals. The sandals are then assembled in Chicago.
While the company still offers bespoke sandals, which run from $360 to $470, the ready-to-wear line sells for significantly less—$142 to $188. Styles range from wedges—“everyone loves a wedge”—to more delicate kitten heels, and come in maple, cherry, walnut, and ebony finishes. As with the handmade versions, wearers can switch out different colored and printed ribbons to change the look—the RTW sandals come with a set of seven different ribbons.
The company also now offers colorful ties made from recycled saris made by women working for Jhoole, a not-for-profit fashion-production facility in India where they are paid a fair wage and work with organic and recycled materials. All of the proceeds from sales of the sari ties, which are $25, go back to Jhoole.
Mohop now has five full-time staff members at the Logan Square studio, including two summer interns and Mohaupt’s husband, who quit his job a couple weeks ago to come on board. ”I haven’t slept at the studio for, like, a month,” says Mohaupt, who admits that it’s been hard for her to give up control in exchange for growth. “I made it a hard road for myself—I don’t compromise as much as I probably should. We’re growing slowly—slow and steady.”
Mohop sandals are available online at www.mohop.com as well as at House of Sole, 1237 S. Michigan, and Wolfbait & B-girls, 3131 W. Logan Boulevard.