Most of us do not have the means to shop for Gucci, Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton or any other difficult to pronounce and ludicrously expensive brands. We don't have closet full of shoes to choose from before heading out to work every morning. A couple of pairs, may be three and that's it.
So your shoes are a little worn out? May be it has a hole in the bottom or your pinky toe peeps out with every step? If this is the case, you are probably looking for a new pair. Probably something that would see you through until the next Eid, if not the entire year.
Going for any well-known brand, let alone posh ones, would certainly set you back a few thousand but there is a cheaper and a more environment friendly way.
In and around Hazaribagh in the capital, an area tanners just would not go away from, you will spot a good number of shoe shops and even factories. They have a range of footwear for you to choose from and most of them are below Tk 1,000 while some do cost as much as Tk 2,000 and above.
If you look carefully you would find the quality of the soles, made of recycled rubber and plastic, leave much to desire of and the shoes could do with more fine touches in the finishing department. They sometimes have posh brand names and “Made in Italy” or “Made in Thailand” imprinted with large friendly letters. The fact is they are made here in Dhaka.
So what do you actually get for your hard-earned money? Not a cheap pair that would fall apart the minute you walk out of the store.
You actually get a pair of shoes made out of export-quality leather.
Leather made out of cow, more likely bull, hides are exported in square feet and there are always some bits and pieces discarded around the edges. Guess what happens to them. Yes, expert cutting masters use these bits and pieces to make shoes.
Think of it this way, the same leather, with which your shoes are made of, was probably also used in making a pair of $400 strappy sandals a woman is wearing to work in the fashion capital of Milan or they could might as well been used to make car seats for luxury brands like Bentley and Jaguar.
Mohammad Ripon, who owns and runs a tiny shoe factory in a difficult-to-find narrow alley in Kamrangirchar in the capital, said they have no active association or body looking after their business.
Syed Nasim Manzur, president of Leathergoods and Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters' Association of Bangladesh, said it was very difficult to tell how many such factories there were across the country and how many people they employ. He believes the number of workers in the sector were in several thousands, if not lakhs.
He said businesses like this one where leather trims are used for making products are entirely market driven and the government has little to do with them.
While showing off the shoes made in his factory, Ripon said the most expensive pair they sell to retailers cost only Tk 900. Asked for how much the retailers sell to customers, he said, "For as high a price they can."
So the tip is, if you are going for that sort of shoe shopping, haggle until your mouth goes dry. And, if you come home and someone tells you that you have been ripped off, consider the money you spent went into environment preservation since if we don't buy the shoes, a lot more bits and pieces of leather would be floating on the Buriganga.