From sketch to prototype
A simple sketch is always the beginning of making a new shoe, last or sole. As designers, we carry knowledge of function, materials and production possibilities in the back of our minds. Understanding how the process works is essential for creating a new pair of shoes with its last, sole and various details. The leather can be smooth or a sturdy nubuck. How should the sole look? Will it be a warm winter shoe or a lightweight lace-up shoe? A lot of details have to fall into place before the actual product sketch is finished.
The last and sole
The prototypes for the last and sole are made digitally these days and printed out layer by layer using a 3D printer. This process used to be even more hands-on when the prototype was modeled in wood.
Casting a sole in a metal mold
Liquid rubber is poured into the mold in a large spinning platform equipped with soles of all sizes. The sole can also be punched out from a layer of rubber or plastic.
Stacks of different lasts
All of our lasts are tidily stored with our manufacturers. One foot for each style and size. We reuse our lasts many times over, because it takes a lot of effort and money to make a new one.
A cork sole
Cork planks from the cork tree are turned into soles and heels. Cork trees grow locally in Portugal! Each sole/heel is sawn one after the next with a band saw.
Tanning & preparing the leather
The tannery transforms raw hides (a waste product from the meat industry) from stiff, rough hide into soft, lovely leather that is perfect for shoes or other leather products. Tanning is done in big wooden drums without chrome or heavy metals – in accordance with the EU’s REACH regulation on chemicals, which has led to enormous improvements when it comes to tanning in shoe production in particular. Tanning used to be a very environmentally damaging part of the manufacturing process.
Every detail of the shoe is punched out
Iron punches are made for each shoe component and each shoe style. After the components have been punched out, the shoe is sewn together and given eyelets and buckles. The sewn shoe is placed on the last and stretched into shape. The finished rubber sole is glued on. Finally, the shoe goes into an oven to secure its shape with the help of the last.
The shoe factory in Portugal
Porto has long been home to many shoe factories. “Our” factory is family-owned and medium-sized, with 105 employees. We’ve worked together for years with the help of Fernanda, who is our contact for shoe production.