Shipping giant DHL is partnering with a South African footwear brand to honor the legacy and creativity of Africa

Shipping giant DHL is partnering with a South African footwear brand to honor the legacy and creativity of Africa
More than just a fashion statement, Veldskoen is symbolic of the rich cultural history of South Africa.Veldskoen
  • DHL partnered with a South African fashion brand for a limited-edition shoe.
  • With investors including Mark Cuban and Ashton Kutcher, the Veldsoken shoe has gained attention.
Long before the first Europeans arrived in Cape Town, native Southern Africans, today called the Khoisan, lived, farmed, and cultivated the land. The nomadic Khoisan traversed rugged terrain in foot coverings made from animal skins that proved both durable and breathable for the subtropical climate.

When they arrived on South African shores in the 17th century, Dutch settlers found their native wooden clogs weren't suited to their new environment. So they adopted the Khoisan's practical footwear, calling them Veldskoen. Rugged and durable, the Veldskoen boot became the worker's shoe of choice.

Today, Veldskoen, or vellies, are worn by everyone from diplomats to farmers. But more than just a fashion statement, the boot is symbolic of the rich cultural history of South Africa.

Last week, shoe company Veldskoen announced a collaboration with German-headquartered logistics company DHL Express (DHL). With a colorful, modernized makeover of the iconic South African shoe and support from early investors including Mark Cuban and Ashton Kutcher, Veldskoen co-founders Nick Dreyer and Ross Zondagh introduced the namesake brand to the US market. The launch of the DHL and Veldskoen's "Dear Everyone" campaign marks the shipping company's first fashion collaboration with an African brand.

"When DHL approached us with an idea to collaborate on a limited-edition shoe to highlight South African fashion, it was a no-brainer for us," Dreyer told Insider. "There were instant synergies between our two brands, the most obvious one being the desire to make a difference in the communities in which we operate."


There have only been 365 pairs of the "Dear Everyone" shoe produced. To get a pair, buyers need to enter a lottery before April 15 and shell out $300 if they are selected.

Insider spoke with Dreyer to learn more about why this collaboration is special, what message it sends to the fashion industry, and the strategy behind bringing it all together.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Shipping giant DHL is partnering with a South African footwear brand to honor the legacy and creativity of Africa
The launch of the DHL and Veldskoen "Dear Everyone" campaign marks the shipping company's first fashion collaboration with an African brand.Veldskoen
What inspired you to market this traditional African footwear?

My co-founder, Ross Zondagh, and I are two of the most unlikely people to launch a fashion brand, but five years ago, that's exactly what we did. I'm an ex-art dealer with a business and hospitality background and my business partner is an ex-builder. Neither of us is fashionable. We knew nothing about shoes and we knew nothing about e-commerce. But we were driving one day and we had this conversation about the South African Olympic team during the 2016 games, and we both noticed the team didn't look South African. The American athletes had these beautiful Ralph Lauren suits and the French athletes were dressed distinctively as well. But South Africa just didn't have anything that signified the country. And we thought, "what could they have worn?" And one of the things that we have in Africa is this shoe and the shoe is called Veldskoen.

How did that idea become the Veldskoen brand we see today?

It really all began with the conversation my partner and I had in the car that day. The truth is that the Veldskoen shoe was kind of boring. So I asked this young kid that was working for me to just Google a Veldskoen and photoshop color laces and color soles, and use the colors of the South African flag. When it arrived on my phone via WhatsApp and I flicked through the images, bang! It was like a lightning bolt hit us. We knew that we had something. By the time we finished the car journey, which was six hours later, we had actually registered the business. And we had registered the trademark, which nobody had ever done.

Fast forward to 2021 and Veldskoen made its debut as the official off-field shoe for the South African athletes at the Olympics. How was it to see your vision come to life in that way?

When the Southern African athletes walked out of the Olympics wearing our shoes, it was just such a wonderful culmination, not just for the brand, but as a marker for South Africa and for Africa. That's the most special thing about this brand. It represents so much for Africa.

Veldskoen has this rich African heritage. How did you go about modernizing it?

We started with the classic design of this fabulous heritage shoe, which sort of cut off at the ankle, and we added a lot of technology to the shoe. So our shoe, for example, is completely hydrophobic. It's not suede in fact, it's full-grain leather that's been turned inside out, which means it repels all liquids. So if you pour water on the shoe, it runs off like water from a duck's back. It's totally breathable so you can wear it without socks, which in Africa is a big deal because it's hot and you don't want to wear socks. So it works for that reason.

For the DHL and Veldskoen collaboration, you created a new design. Can you talk about that?

When DHL's project came along we had to consider what these things would look like on a global fashion level. Our design team came up with this idea of a wedge and we wanted to bring the South African colors and inspiration throughout.

So we partnered with the incredible local artist, Reggie Khumalo, who created the mural on the side panels of the shoe and I think it looks like nothing else. I personally think it's one of the most unique-looking pieces of footwear in the world. And it's odd because it's an ancient thing. Yet it looks incredibly contemporary when you put African passion and design and energy into it. So, it sits in two worlds: the ancient world and a hyper contemporary world. And I think that's where Africa belongs right at the top of the conversation when it comes to design.

Veldskoen is also an eco-friendly shoe. Can you talk more about the sustainability of the product?

In the west, sustainability means eco-friendly or environmentally conscious, and that is true for Africa as well. But sustainability for us also refers to the community. As custodians of Veldskoen legacy, we wanted to do something important for Africa. We wanted to do something important for the manufacturing base in South Africa. And that view of sustainability was carefully considered at every stage of the development.

Each pair of the DHL x Veldskoen collaboration is handcrafted in Durban by 66 pairs of hands in total. This is such a special opportunity to show the globe the talent, creativity, and manufacturing ability that Africa has to offer.