We love wool but we aren’t sheep. We march to the beat of our own drummer, never afraid to try something new. That’s how we came to combine comfort and exploration — two concepts that go surprisingly well together and are the heart of everything we do and love.
In 2011, while visiting Russia for Christmas, Galina’s parents gifted us a pair of Valenkis, traditional felted footwear favored for centuries by Russians Czars to laborers alike. Amazed by these shoes that were the most comfortable and warmest things we had ever put on our feet even when temperatures hit -40C, we recognized what they could be if we updated their look while staying true to their artisanal heritage.
Exploring the unfamiliar
Soon thereafter Dan’s job sent us to Jakarta, Indonesia, and it was there, while being immersed in a foreign culture, that we became excited by the idea of exploring the unfamiliar in another way and decided to make a pair of felted wool shoes in our kitchen. Maybe it was because neither one of us had any experience in shoe manufacturing or working with wool, but calling our first creations shoes was a stretch considering they looked more like a sheep that had wandered through a car wash.
We persevered and finally made eight pairs of slippers — each taking us eight hours to make. Some friends were decidedly unimpressed and urged us to give up. But others, who shared our adventurous spirit, convinced us to take our creations to ISPO, one of the biggest retailer tradeshows in Europe. Never ones to play it safe (or quit), in 2013 we brought the first eight BAABUK slippers to Germany, where we promptly got an order for 700 pairs.
Our own tools and machines
With no idea how to source, produce or ship such an order, and knowing it would take two years and a day to make that many shoes at our going rate, we went into overdrive. We hired a former colleague and his father to start felting slippers. After designing and creating our own tools and machines plus adding staff to speed the process, six month later we shipped our first order.
A positive socio-economic impact
At the end of 2014, Dan quit his job and we moved back to Switzerland and, because of the locals’ felting know-how coupled with the chance to make a positive socio-economic impact on a community, we opened our factory in Nepal. Right about that time the country suffered a massive earthquake but seeing the Nepalese’s’ resolve to rebuild, we knew we had made the right choice.
In 2015, with the help of a Kickstarter campaign supported by like-minded folks who wanted something new that was also authentic to the past, we unveiled our slippers that combined a traditional pedigree and modern Swiss design for original products that have just the right amount of the unusual.
Two more successful Kickstarter campaigns followed to launch our sneakers and boots. We were blown away by the support and positive response, which included receiving our B-Corp certification in 2016 and an ISPO Gold Winner award in 2017.
Today, with employees on three continents, we continue to search for more ways to make your feet as comfortable as possible while making shoes that are many things — contemporary, cozy, colorful, durable, responsibly-made, thoughtfully-designed — but never boring.
Everyday at BAABUK is a combination of enjoyment and adventure that keeps on us on our toes. We hope our footwear does the same for you and inspires you to explore beyond comfort.