Tanuki Niji, the feathery light Wildling shoe in natural white with its little rainbow, is among the decidedly popular models. But what’s the story behind that colorful flag?
Tanukis are no ordinary family of shoes, and there’s more than one reason for that: Tanuki is ultra-lightweight and gives feet a real feel-good experience thanks to the unique Washi fabric which is made in Japan in the traditional manner from 75% paper. We are especially happy that the natural white Tanuki Niji with its little rainbow flag is so well-loved – because Niji is not only the epitome of warm summer days and happy toes in motion, this model also makes a statement.
From a DIY project in the community...
Even Tanuki Niji’s origin story is extraordinary – you see, the initial idea originated from within the Wildling Shoes Facebook Community. If you’re familiar with this community, then you already know how much animated discussion goes on there, and how much creativity is generated around embellishing and customizing people’s favorite shoes. In June of 2019, on the occasion of Gay Pride, community member Ulrike spontaneously seized needle and thread to add a rainbow to her hand-dyed Tanuki Yoru. Ulrike’s Facebook community post of the rainbow shoe with the caption “Wildling Pride” garnered loads of likes, heart-eyes emojis, and enthusiastic comments, even from outside the Facebook community.
Ulrike’s DIY Wildling and the Tanuki Niji, which appeared in the shop in 2020 (image: Ulrike Brauns)
… to the Wildling Shoes shop
In the Wildling Shoes team, the idea of the “statement rainbow” had plenty of fans too, not least because it fit in perfectly with our philosophy: adopt a clear stance and take a stand as a company, too – for visibility and for diversity. So it didn’t take long for Ulrike’s Facebook post to land on the virtual desk of the Product Team, since they happened to be knee-deep in the middle of planning for the 2020 Spring/Summer collection. And not much discussion was needed for one thing to become crystal clear: We’ll release a special edition – the new version of the natural white Tanuki Suna comes with a flag on the left shoe, the side our hearts are on. Accordingly, the model is named Tanuki Niji: Rainbow Tanuki. Hurray!
Celebrating diversity – on every level
The rainbow flag is the most well-known and internationally widespread symbol for the queer community – and on a very fundamental level it is also a symbol of tolerance and acceptance, of appreciation for diverse ways of living. (By the way, there are plenty of other flags with additional colors, appealing to even more people. Because this kind of production is always planned and executed well in advance, we’re not there yet, but who knows ... maybe someday the rainbow will get an update – after all, the Wildling Shoes team is always learning something new.)
Read more about what diversity and belonging mean to Wildling Shoes and how it is linked to the Stonewall Riots, Pride Month and the extended rainbow flag in this article: Diversity has no season.
Image: Wildling Shoes/Nora Tabel
Niji’s flag is a bold statement that in the Wildling Shoes Community, we celebrate and embrace diversity in practice on every level, and that we’re enriched by the ways in which we differ. That’s why we are on a mission as an organization to create an inclusive, feminist, anti-racist space – for diversity, equity, reconciliation, and fair, meaningful work. To raise awareness about discrimination, to break down barriers, and to move people.
Collectively and beautifully colorful
What does the rainbow mean for Ulrike, the source of its inspiration? “You know, I’ve always loved having the rainbow flag somewhere. On a necklace or earrings – I even sewed one on my favorite backpack. Precisely because. Symbolic of a sense of community, of belonging. And also because it’s just so beautifully colorful.” You can imagine how excited she was that the rainbow made its way to the Tanuki. “The fact that you adopted the idea for the Niji model and are creating greater visibility for LGBTQ+ and all allies is something that really makes me happy.” (Incidentally, the term “allies” refers to people who themselves are not affected by a particular form of social discrimination and who stand in solidarity with people who are socially discriminated against – as allies).
We join Ulrike in celebrating the fact that this visibility just keeps getting stronger and stronger! In case you didn’t get the memo yet: Backed by popular demand, the community has decided that the original special edition should become a Basic model – this white Tanuki with its colorful statement has been permanently available in the Wildling Shoes shop since Spring 2021.
Cover image: @fraeulein_sagenhaft