Atlanta footwear company featured at White House event

Should you spot President Donald Trump sporting a stylish and comfy pair of red, white and blue flip flops sometime, here’s a bit of intel for you: they came from Georgia.

Sara Irvani, CEO of the metro Atlanta-based Okabashi footwear company, and president Kim Falkenhayn recently represented our state at a White House event saluting American-made products.

“It was a super fun day,” Irvani said. “We were able to bring samples and leave a pair.”

The trip came together in a hurry.

“I got a call on a Monday. They said, ‘Oh, we’d like to invite you to the White House to talk about responsible American manufacturing at a roundtable,’” Irvani recalled, noting the event was two days later. The fast action suited her always busy routine, though. She and her husband live in New York but she comes down to Georgia every week.

“You have to be in the factory,” she said. “You have to be where the action is.”

Trump logged the event via Twitter, of course.

“It was a great honor hearing from American-made companies at the Made In America Roundtable today at the White House,” he posted with a photo of himself sitting with business leaders from around the country.

 

(See you you can spot Irvani and Falkenhayn in the photo above, even though the photographer was shooting from behind the group. They’re among the very few participants wearing dresses instead of suits and ties.)

“I have a lot of situations where I tend to be the only woman in the room,” Irvani said. “It’s unfortunate there were not more women but it was it was at least nice to be there. It was great to represent.”

The discussion focused on business, not politics.

Okabashi produces shoes for men and women, starting at $23.99, from a vegan-friendly material called Microplast. The company notes you can toss them in the dishwasher for a spruce-up if needed, and then eventually recycle them. Fans rave about their comfort.

“The company was founded in 1984 by my father,” said Irvani, who joined the family business about four months ago. “We’ve sold over 35 million pairs, really, from before both ‘recyclable’ and ‘made in America’ became cool. Now it’s an advantage but for so many years ‘being made in America,’ people only saw a higher cost basis. ‘Recyclable,’ people thought was completely irrelevant. We’re very excited that people are really starting to appreciate the aspects of our shoes that before were just sort of matter of fact.”

She enjoyed the discussion and learned she has at least one longtime fan in Washington. The atmosphere was stately, with smartly attired military personnel stationed throughout the White House, a scene that made her think of the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman.” The one of the uniformed guards broke rank.

“One of them came up to us and said, ‘I’ve been wearing your shoes for six years. I love them. I’ve got multiple pairs,’” Irvani said. “That’s the thing: not everyone knows about our shoes, but those that do fall completely in love with them.”

Photo courtesy of Okabashi

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