Follow Our Journey
A unique look behind the scenes to show you what goes into creating a sneaker from scratch. From my first meeting with the factory to the final prototype and eventual launch of the first collection of sneakers. I hope you enjoy the read, and if you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact me through the form below.
Ever since I launched a collection of classic footwear in the Fall of 2018, people have been asking me to create a line of sneakers. Eventually, I gave in, and I sent out some emails to friends in the industry that might 'know someone that knows someone'. I receive names and telephone numbers of different companies, companies that aren't listed on Google and that are barely mentioned in the yellow pages. This is a good sign, as the best companies do not need this kind of exposure, rather they are introduced to you by word of mouth.
A cluster of factories begins to form, located in the region bordered by the cities of Ancona, Macerata, Civitanova Marche and San Benedetto Del Tronto.
I zoom in on Google, and start browsing at random for 'calzaturificio' or shoe making companies. Of every company that I find, I try to find more information. How long have they been in business, who owns the business, do they have a website? If they have a website, is it a modern website or some old-school webpage that reminds me of the early days of the Internet? The most outdated websites intrigue me the most. After all, I am trying to find a factory that produces shoes and only shoes, not smoke and mirrors.
Three factories make it to the shortlist. Only three, where all the pieces of the puzzle seem to fit. At this point, and as it often goes when you start a business, you need to rely on your gut feeling. I send out emails and wait for a reply. When no reply comes, I pick up the phone and ask to meet.
All three factories agree for me to visit them in Italy. November is a calmer period, and they have time to discuss potential new projects. I book a ticket to Italy on Tuesday, November 20th, and decide to fly to Pescara, a small coastal city south of San Benedetto del Tronto.
From Pescara, it's about a one hour drive to the city where two of the three factories are located. There, the road goes uphill and follows a winding path. It's time to visit factory no. 1. The tone is set when the factory asks for a 500 pair minimum. Yikes, moving on. Factory no. 2, was another learnful visit. The factory was run by a friendly Italian, but someone who clearly had no affiliation with shoes whatsoever, and simply ran a (very efficient) production unit. Definitely not what I was looking for.
That evening. I arrive to the hotel, and prepare my factory visit for the next day. I think of what I will ask, having spent some time in the first two factories. I check my email and see that I have received an email from the last factory on my list:
Very unfortunate news, of course, but there was a silver lining. This email shows the commitment of the factory to their workers, and proved that it was a real family-run factory, which is exactly what I was hoping to find. I agree to meet at 8:30, in the hopes that I could have a chance to speak with the owner's daughter later that morning. The next day, I am greeted by the sales manager, who kindly shows me the entire factory and listens to my ideas about transparency and sustainability. Around 11, the owner's daughter arrives and we tour the factory a second time. When we reach the area where the rubber soles are attached to the sneaker, I am introduced to the real owner of the factory. I'd say he was well in his 60's, and he was still making shoes while his daughter ran the company.
We spend the afternoon going over different options, in terms of leather, the last and rubber soles. I keep asking questions about every detail of the shoe, from the heel liner to the type of shanks they use, and they keep replying with exactly those answers I was hoping to hear. We agree to produce a first sample based on my design and their expertise. I leave the factory late in the afternoon with a very pleasant feeling.
Lineapelle. The day of the year when you're into leather. Hundreds of companies set up their stand in the largest expo hall of Milan, to showcase the latest and finest the leather industry has to offer. I decide to go, in the hunt of sustainable leather for the sneakers. The factory has given me a list of tanneries they usually work with.
I decide to visit tanneries that I know myself, who have recently come up with sustainable alternatives to chrome-tanned leather, and to also visit the list of tanneries mentioned to me by the factory. Being able to say that a certain factory sends you to a stand, can open doors and be a helpful tool in establishing a long term relationship, which is important in the leather industry.
It doesn't take long before I have a clear idea of what tanneries I want to work with. There are those tanneries that see sustainability as a marketing gimmick, and when asked about it they dig up the tiniest sample card from the bottom of the pack. And then tere are those where sustainability has been the company mantra from before it became popular. Later that evening, I fly home with sample cards and contact details from some of the best tanneries in Italy and the UK. These include Gruppo Dani from the Veneto region of Italy, Conceria Sciarada from the Province of Pisa, and Charles F. Stead from the United Kingdom.
The first sample arrives. It is hideous. The shape of the toe is too bulky, the leather, while good quality, is the wrong color, and the pattern is completely off. But it's a start. While many brands rely on the factory to create the perfect sample for them, I always insist on my own method, that of combining forces between me, the factory, my own last maker and theirs, and the leather suppliers that I pick out.
I decide to cut the sample open, see what's inside and re-build the entire sneaker from the ground up. This is where the real work begins.
Springline Sneaker last development
Second round of samples done
Second factory visit
Second factory visit
Sneaker last done
Third round of samples done
Final factory visit
Final samples done
Website finished and ready for pre-orders