Ravi Seth and Ricardo Páramo at their favorite coffee shop in Basel, Switzerland.
Ja Ja Genau (pronounced “ya ya geh-now”) means “yes, yes, exactly” in German. It’s a phrase the locals here in Switzerland say all the time. As an expat American and an expat Spaniard living in Basel, we heard it ringing in our ears constantly and thought it’d be perfect to create a 21st century sustainable brand out of it—one that celebrates individuality, style, irreverence, and forward thinking.
The Wool & Tweed Revolution
The concept for our beautiful wool-tweed shoes started in Ravi's office in New York City while he was managing investments at a large bank. He had elegant, glossy oxfords under his desk—black, brown, maroon, you name it—worn only in the office for clients and bosses! The problem was that they were expensive, painful, and the uppers got these ugly, permanent creases immediately upon wear. The magazines advertised flawless shoes, but what he actually got were Jekyll and Hyde monsters! Wool and tweed was the solution, but it took a while from idea to actual shoes!
After other gigs in microfinance and startups, Ravi moved to Switzerland with his wife and soon met Ricardo, who was a fan of his early shoe prototypes. Their wives had known each other for years. As a Spanish industrial designer with tons of experience in product development, Ricardo was familiar with the production challenges we faced and had some solutions. He was onboard with all the help and expert guidance he could provide, and we were on our way!
One of a kind
The status quo is boring. Look around. Everyone you see is probably wearing black or brown shoes. If there’s another color on their feet, it’s a sneaker. We’ve been brainwashed by brands into thinking these are our only options. Here’s a not-so-revolutionary thought—there’s no one else like you on this planet, so why shouldn’t your shoes be just as special?! From the very inception of our young company, we decided to produce absolutely unique, one of a kind shoes that perfectly match your preferences and personality. It’s finally about time.
We didn’t reinvent the shoe. Instead, we mixed old with new. There are a few classical forms that are enduring and elegant. We take these timeless shapes and wrap them in wool and tweed, materials traditionally reserved for jackets. By combining classical forms, stitched soles, and beautiful colors and patterns, a modern visual signature is born. Best of all, when you wear our shoes, you’ll be empowered to be your true self. And isn’t that the most stylish thing you could do?
Our shoes are not mass-produced in a large factory in Asia. Instead we spent a long time searching all over Europe for the perfect anti-assembly line, a partner with keen artistic and technical skills to bring our special shoes to life. It wasn’t easy—our shoes are pretty difficult to make. But we were fortunate to have found our brave shoemakers in Spain. They devote old-fashioned time and attention to bring 35 different components together in each and every shoe. Using only premium materials and a willingness to work outside the box, they apply rich handcrafting tradition to produce world-class shoes for us. It’s an aesthetic and a durability that you can see and feel for years.
Our customers often ask us: What happens if the shoes get dirty? How about when it rains? The answer is they’re water resistant and can be cleaned easily with soap and a soft brush. This is possible because each pair of shoes possesses a tough 4-layer ‘sandwich’. The uppers are made from a high percentage of pure wool—one of the best performing natural materials on earth that’s highly breathable, water resistant, and durable. Then we apply a water-resistant rubber adhesive, additional reinforcement underneath, and finally a comfortable inside lining. When the 4 layers are ‘sandwiched’ together, the shoes feel and perform like high quality leather shoes.
Comfortable as sneakers
Since the time of Neanderthals, style has always been at the expense of comfort—beautiful shoes are nearly always painful, and boring shoes are often comfortable. Why can’t we have both?! We designed our shoes to be as light and comfortable as sneakers. In fact, with a full-length foot bed inside and at only 340 grams, our shoes weigh about the same as an average pair of running shoes. So go ahead, wear them daily. Wear them to the grocery store. You’ll finally be comfortable and stylish everywhere. Save your running shoes for running!
These are not hippie shoes, but we did think extensively about the sustainability of materials that go into them. The uppers are made from high quality wool (and often tweed) jackets. This directly gives us the amazing range of patterns and colors that you see in our shoes, each one being absolutely one of a kind. Inside, our foot bed and lining are made from reprocessed microfiber. And on the bottom, our stitched soles are made from reformulated scrap leather. Given that 25 billion shoes are produced annually, each generating about 4 kilograms of carbon, we believe it's imperative to make shoes differently.
We make our shoes in Spain. However, most of the world’s shoes are made in Asia where shoemakers work in terrible conditions and for pennies. This is a shame and a crime, so we’re happy to give a portion of our profits to organizations that support workers’ rights in the leather and garment industries, among others.
Thank you for taking a step with us in a new direction, away from the status quo.
Ravi Seth & Ricardo Páramo