Founded in 2013 in New York by Mickey Ashmore, Sabah is a simple shoe brand with Turkish roots. While working in Istanbul, Ashmore received a pair of traditional leather slippers, Turkish in nature but not part of the modern wardrobe. He wore them nonstop, earning compliments from his American and Turkish friends. His obsession led to Sabah.
Since 2013, the original Sabah, a heeled leather slip-on shoe, and Sabah’s Baba, a backless leather slip-on shoe, have been produced in Gaziantep, Turkey, in one of two workshops. (They overtook the first.) But now, since April 2022, Sabah also has a factory in the United States, in El Paso, Texas. It houses 12 workers, less than a fifth of the total number of the Turkish workshop: 70. Ashmore, however, wants them to be equal.
“We searched far and wide for our second home, focusing on wanting to manufacture in America, close to our largest customer base and the Sabah headquarters. We chose El Paso, for many reasons, and because that we found shared many of the same characteristics as Gaziantep, Turkey, where our original Sabah workshop is located,” he says. “We wanted the new Sabah workshop to complement our amazing artisans in Turkey, so that there is a dialogue, a sharing of ideas and a fusion of skills, craftsmanship and talents.”
The El Paso workshop will also be an incubator and laboratory, where Sabah can test new materials, experiment with new silhouettes and create bespoke, limited-edition designs in small batches. The first such experiment, the El Paso Baba, was dropped this summer, becoming the first American-made Sabah shoe in the company’s nearly 10-year history.
Crafted from a limited-edition, undyed vegetable-tanned leather, the El Paso Baba not only continues a tradition of shoemaking, but also sustains a declining manufacturing hub. Even though vegetable tanning is losing popularity, Sabah still does, because of the way it makes leather look and feel – and how it helps it age more gracefully over time. The brand also adheres to old age manufacturing standards – a lockstitch construction, for example, is a sturdier and less frequently followed way of sewing a shoe together, but Sabah prefers it for both styles. El Paso, Texas, on the other hand, is a city full of talented leather workers.
“El Paso, like Gaziantep, is a frontier town with a history of commerce, crafts and cultural exchange,” says Ashmore. “Among many things, El Paso has a rich history of making leather goods and cowboy boots. Handcrafting a cowboy boot uses many of the same techniques and skills required to produce Sabahs and Babas.”
Before ordering, however, it’s important to note that El Paso Babas work a little differently. They range from size M38 to M49: M38 (6-6.5), M39 (7-7.5), M40 (8-8.5), M41 (9-9.5), M42 (10-10 ,5), M43 (11-11.5), M44 (12), M45 (12.5), M46 (13-13.5) and so on.
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