Friday, 13 April 2012

How do I find a manufacturer for my footwear project? Part Two - Where Do I Look?

One you have listed the specifics for your footwear project (see this blog post for what to do )

You then need to find a factory. As menitoned earlier, you will need a factory that makes the type of footwear that you require. By now you should have an idea on where you wish to make your shoes, this could be for reasons of price or quality.
In some cases, some kinds of footwear is known for being made in a very specific place, for instance if you require a traditional espadrille then you need to visit the area of La Rioja in Spain. Certain countries may have a certain handwriting or be known for a certain style, for instance luxury high heels from Italy, mens formal bench made footwear from England and sheepskin Uggs from Australia. Of course all of these kinds of footwear can be found in China as well!

So how would you go about this then? I often receive contact from designers who say they are struggling to attract the attention of a manufacturer and it is clear to me why. Sending an email is unlikely to get a response from most shoe factories. Face-to face dialogue is by far the best way of presenting your ideas and if you can't do this, perhaps you should sign up for a business website, such as Linked In, join some of the groups and start a debate. You could add me - here is my profile -

People don't like to do business with strangers, so don't be a stranger, start a discussion or go and meet someone face to face. And remember, people will probably be queuing up to take on your project, but be wary of this, there are many who will offer to do the work, but very few who will be able to deliver, so check each offer over very carefully.

Another good place to look for a manufacturer is a trade show. There are plenty of these, most of the countries which have shoemaking will also have a domestic trade show, the beauty of the trade show is that you will be able to compare different factories and check out their product all under one roof.

Often the websites for these trade shows will have a downloadable brochure so you can do some research in advance, perhaps if you discover enough you could set up some meetings in advance.

Before you work with a manufacturer, be sure of who you are dealing with, a footwear supplier found at random from a sourcing website may not be a good idea for your business at all.

My next posting will be about what to take when you have a discussion with a factory. It may not be what you expect!

Credits: photo from

Monday, 9 April 2012

How do I find a manufacturer for my footwear project? Part One - Specifics

This has got to be the question I am asked the most after, 'how do I get my shoe prototypes made?'
Well, it's quite tricky to find a manufacturer if you are new to the footwear trade. Many factories only work with established brands - the factories and agents that we work with tend to fall into this camp.
First of all if you require a footwear manufacturer, the first question to ask yourself is, what kind of footwear am I going to have made?
This is because shoe factories specialise only in one or two types of footwear - you cannot get high heels made in a sneaker factory. Some womens heel factories don't make long leg boots - they make only a specific type of footwear. This is because they don't have the machinery or the expertise or both.

For instance, to make high heels you would need a heel attachment machine.
A pattern cutter in a factory that makes high heeled boots will be skilled at springing a boot pattern (this is the art of cutting the pattern so that there are no creases across the front of the boot). A pattern cutter in a sneaker factory wouldn't know where to begin to cut a pattern for a high heeled boot! Occasionally you get a cross over in fashion and this becomes more apparent. Like when there was a trend for long leg boots with sneaker outsoles and styling - I can't tell you the problems I had trying to get a sneaker factory to understand how to correctly engineer the upper pattern for a high leg boot....anywayyy, you get the picture!

So, firstly you need to be specific about what you want -
Gender - mens, womens or kids?
Any special fitting issues? Width Fittings? Very large or very small sizes etc?
Construction - Heels or flat or both? If you are making sneakers, any specific construction such as board lasted or stroball? Goodyear Welted?
What about the soles? Are they moulded or not? Made from what?
Materials? Leather or synthetic? Textile?
Price? Low or High or somewhere in the middle?

Check back in the next few days for Part Two - Where do I look?