On 16 August launched in Time Square, New York, The Colombian Secret Weapon, a line of boots that had been created for military use, but now can be used by anyone on foot. Behind this project is a story of war and peace.

Carolina Duran, executive director of the Corporation Ventures, convinced Mr. Wilson to give a radical turn to his business smart military boots. Photo: photo: corporation ventures

A few blocks from the Police Cadet School General Santander are the installations of Industrias Wilches, which for more than 15 years will provide footwear and wearing to the Army. This family business, founded by Wilson Wilches, unlike others in the industry, came out of his comfort zone and ventured to invest in science; technology and innovation to develop clothing that give soldiers a greater protection. More than a business option, safety and comfort of the military who daily risk their lives in the Colombian jungles, is an ethical commitment for Sr. Wilson, who, depite not being military (although its size, personality and the way he runs the business it seems), deeply admires the military institution.

That leap into the void emerged its flagship product: an intelligent patented antibacterial jackboot with thermoregulation, water-resistant and impact-absorbing while walking. «Our soldiers deserve the best, so we turn to science and technology to try to solve the main problems they have when they are in campaing. Humidity, long walks, cold at night are among the many challenges facing by our soldiers. That’s the reason why we developed this clever boot, «says Don Wilson.

The story of this scientific adventure of this entrepreneur 56, a native of Velez, Santander, and for more than 40 years has been dedicated to the business of leather, it began less than 10 years ago or more, when he heard a lecture by the researcher and Dr. Jorge Reynolds Pombo, director at the time of the Soldier program of the Colombian Future of the National Army, which invited various members of the military industry to join the project. Mr. Wilson did not hesitate to do so; He knew that his contribution could be in the field of military footwear. For more than seven years, he and the National Army, supported by institutions like Colciencias, invested about 3,400 million pesos to develop the smart boot.

The success was total. For three years this shoe is part of the clothing of the Colombian soldiers. In actuality, it is carried out a second stage for implement a system for the sole that generates energy, in order to load various electronic equipment. However, Mr. Wilson, as a good entrepreneur, wanted to expand its market and considered the option to export this shoe and sell it to other armies of the world, desire which was added the conjuncture of the signing of the peace agreement which reduced sales added. To create a business model, participated in 2017 in a call for Aldea program of iNNpulsa Colombia. There he met the team Ventures Corporation, headed by its executive director, Carolina Duran, who became the ally chosen by Mr. Wilson to start the international expansion plan.

Although the objective of structuring of Aldea was only the business model, seeing the potential that had the boot of Mr. Wilson in the international market, Carolina suggested they continue to work together, but chose radically to change the marketing strategy. «Why instead of selling boots to other armies, we move them to the fashion market for use by the common people,» she said Mr. Wilson. He at the beginning doubted the idea. Changing the market was an even more uncertain leap than he did when he decided to make clothing from science and technology. But in the end he accepted at the time that Carolina gave the example of the commercial success of the razor classic Swiss Army, and others.

Now the ball of the future of Mr. Wilson was in the hands of Carolina. In December 2017, she traveled to New York to meet with shareholders Moret Group, an investment firm that owns major fashion companies like Jockey, Nautica, Danskin, among others. She was only 15 minutes to convince them. «Before starting my presentation, I put two pairs of boots on the table and the partners began to look at them, touch them and to detail them. I did not have to do anything else; they were delighted with the product, «Carolina said.

Another point that convinced Moret investors was the story behind the boots. Carolina told them that they had been created in the middle of the Colombian armed conflict and that the purpose of Industries Wilches and Ventures Corporation was using them in peace times and contexts. At the same meeting, began the creative process of how to transform aesthetically the boots without changing its technological essence.

The person chosen for this challenge was David Ben David, a young artist who, after a while of graduating himself from the School of Visual Arts New York, created the company Sprayground, with which revolutionized the market for backpacks and positioned himself as one of the disruptive fashion designers most important in this sector. His arrival at the projecto from Mr. Wilson came in early 2018, when he met in New York with his friend Federico Lara, chief technology officer of FedEx Cross Border, who had worked on a campaign for this company courier and parcel. He told David: «I have a crazy idea that maybe you won’t accept». «I do love the crazy ideas, I seem ‘cool’,» replied David. Federico told the story of Don Wilson and his boots, worn by Colombian soldiers to fight with the guerrillas and other illegal groups.

The New York designer David Ben David was interested in history lay behind the boots that used the Colombian army, so he agreed to intervene them artistically and be part of the project.

Photo: Archive week.

In March 2018, David and other members of Moret came to Colombia to visit the company of Mr. Wilson. According to Carolina, it was at that time that investors ended up falling in love with the initiative: «Cleanliness, installations order and Mr. Wilson charisma ended up enchanting Moret». David, who is a fan of war aesthetics, was inspired by the sharks of the B-52 to intervene the boots. Thus it began producing prototypes coming and going from Bogota to New York for the partners’s final approval. Meanwhile, it launched the assembly of the advertising campaign.

With the approval of the final prototypes it began the production of the boots, named The Colombian Secret Weapon. At present, there have been 600 boots two references (total 1,200) and 100 more than at this time are being taken over by an equal number of musicians and artists, and will be auctioned on the day of the launch (August 16) in the Time Square, New York. This week David and the young rapper Dave East, image advertising campaign, returned to Colombia to record the video with Smart Films, another Colombian entrepreneurship leveraged by Ventures making audiovisual production with smartphones.

When we ask David the reasons to intervene the boots when his specialty is backpacks, he replied, «I love the meaning of boots. Knowing that this article has been used in times of armed conflict with more than 50 years, the longest in the hemisphere, and can now be part of the dress of young civilians in the concrete jungle seems super ‘cool  to me’. My work here is also to serve as a bridge for these types of developments to have a new life in the world «. Among many morals and learning, perhaps the most important message that leaves this story is how an article designed to war can end up being part of the daily lives of men and women on foot.


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