When Korean designer Lee Jinyoung of i-Clue Design visited Malawi, he was struck with the population’s lack of essential daily needs. He decided that he could easily intervene using his design skills, so he developed an inspiring form of humanitarian entrepreneurship. Using materials regularly found lying around such as scraps of fabric and old tire rubber, Lee Jinyoung created an open-source shoe design.
Dubbed “The Klem Project” both for a Malawian child named Klementi and the the Norwegian word for ‘hug,’ the open-source shoes serve dual purposes. Firstly – and perhaps most importantly – it provides free (or nearly free) shoes for children to avoid injuries and infections to their feet. The shoes are very simple and quick to make – a piece of rubber for each sole and two pattern-cut pieces of fabric are all that are needed to make a pair of Klem shoes.
The second purpose of the project is empowering the residents of an impoverished nation by teaching them a new skill. By using readily-available materials to make needed products themselves, the Malawi people can reduce their dependence on foreign aid. Lee hopes that with this inspiration and education, the Malawians can learn to make similarly creative products from the items already around them.
Realizing the immense potential for this project, Lee decided that the shoes should not be produced for profit. He wants to keep the idea open-source so that people around the world can benefit from the simple design and assembly techniques. The materials may change from one country to the next, but the idea is so simple and brilliant that it can be deployed nearly anywhere in the world. The finished product looks like a stylish eco-friendly shoe that people in first-world countries would probably pay a lot of money for. Lee’s altruistic vision for improving the lives of people in developing nations is inspiring, and we applaud his decision to keep his design open source and available to everyone.