Hari Mari Makes A Difference With Sandals Built To Last
Hari Mari isn't your typical flip flop maker.
With high-quality materials and subtle but intelligent tweaks in design, the fast-growing brand is updating an age-old footwear staple — and using their position to help families affected by pediatric cancer.
Formed in 2012 by husband and wife duo Jeremy and Lila Stewart, the Texas-based shoe company is winning over fans with a combo of casual comfort and elevated style. Realizing that flip flops weren’t just for beach bums, the Stewarts wanted to design a street-worthy shoe that would appeal to coastal folks and those who live in between.
“We live in Dallas, and we are miles from any sort of coastline,” notes co-founder Lila Stewart. “We’ve also never surfed before. I’d love to learn, but I haven’t,” she says. The Stewarts figured that customers all over the country could appreciate a higher quality flip flop whether they’re meeting friends at happy hour or going to the beach.
From Japan to Egypt, many cultures have sported a version of the thong sandal, and over thousands of years it has seen little change.
Ambitious, but inexperienced, the Stewarts set out to improve upon a product that has been around for millennia. Exactly how, they did not yet know.
Hari Mari Meadows
Transitioning from a former career as a political analyst, Jeremy knew they needed to give the people what they want. So, the young entrepreneurs started talking to friends and family, setting up focus groups, and taking polls. For men and women, young and old, one piece of feedback was consistent.
“Whether people love flip flops or they hate flip flops,” he mused on a recent podcast appearance, “everyone has this common loathing for that little piece that goes between your first and second toe.”
The toe post, as that irksome bit is called, can be a major source of pain in new thong sandals. Abrasive straps and a lack of arch support were also points the Stewarts hoped to address as they embarked on a journey to design a flip flop that was comfortable straight out of the box.
“We’re thankful for partners like Zappos that saw something unique and special in the brand kind of early on,” says Lila, “Because we’ve been working with Zappos for a few years now.”
After some questionable prototypes, hard learned lessons learned in manufacturing, and a surge of success they equate to “drinking from a firehose,” the Hari Mari founders feel they’ve finally got it right. The result is an attractive flip flop that addresses two nagging issues: durability and break in time.
Tapping into new technology and traditional materials, they’ve taken the people’s requests to heart. They reworked that pesky toe piece into a memory foam filled bit of heaven, and gave the underside of straps the same treatment. In a collaboration with baseball glove maker Nokona, they unveiled a line of buttery soft leather flip flops in addition to their offering of traditional rubber sandals.
Every pair of Hari Mari’s is made with a carbon-free rubber outsole that is non-marking and boat safe, and styles like the Brazos and Beachside are designed to float. Color and comfort set their flip flops apart from the competition, and prove that basics don’t have to be bland.
Though best known for flip flops, Hari Mari has recently added a collection of chukka boots and a retro men’s sneaker into the mix, and has an expansion of the women’s line on the horizon.
With an eye on continuing sustainability, Hari Mari incorporates renewable and easily recyclable materials like hemp, high grade rubber and foam into their growing footwear line. Though harvesting rubber is more costly than using synthetic materials, Hari Mari believes it’s worth the tradeoff in the long run.
“It makes the product a little more premium, but it’s also going to last longer,” says Laila, “Which is obviously better for the environment. Fewer pairs are getting thrown away.”
As part of their zero waste initiative recycling initiative, Hari Mari is collecting spent flip flops of any brand. Shoes in useable condition are donated to low income communities in the developing world, and those that are a little worse for the wear are being stockpiled for a future recycling project. They have collected roughly 9,000 pairs to date, and hope to see advances in recycling technology as they amass an amount that can make a substantial impact.
Hari Mari Canyontrek Chukka
In addition to raising their daughter and keeping up with a thriving footwear business, the Stewarts also aim to support other children.
With a “thirst and spirit to help,” Hari Mari donates a portion of their profits to support low-income families affected by childhood cancer. By partnering with local organizations, the Stewarts are hoping to turn the tides against one of the leading causes of death in kids.
As Hari Mari continues to grow, the footwear brand hopes to expand the reach of Flops Fighting Cancer, to assist families on a national level.
While socially conscious fashion takes many forms, Hari Mari is building on a model of quality craftsmanship, sustainability and human kindness.
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