This is an opinion guest post by Paul Evans, Co-Founder & CEO at Paul Evans, a fairly new NY based shoe company.
You have most likely heard that American manufacturing is undergoing a renaissance. Many believe that our country’s manufacturing costs are becoming more competitive and that future economic prosperity will be tied to growth in the manufacturing sector. While many industries are well situated to benefit from a rise in American manufacturing, I do not believe footwear is among them.
In the United States there are virtually no footwear manufacturers still in operation. Beyond Alden in the Northeast and Allen Edmonds in the Midwest, shoe manufacturing in the United States is limited to a select number of local boot manufacturers. Believe me, I’ve looked. I spent over a year sourcing factories internationally to find the best possible product at my retail price point. I found that factory in Italy after extensively traveling the country.
Italy is a superior choice for shoe manufacturing because of expertise, tradition and location. There are thousands of factories in Italy that have been in operation for generations, passing along the savoir-faire and passion necessary to create beautiful shoes. The Italian artisans have been around for so long that their experience ensures stylish, quality footwear. They’ve seen thousands of styles throughout the years and know how what works and what doesn’t. Feedback from my factory has ensured I am able to produce a shoe that will endure.
Additionally, factories are clustered in communities that are dedicated to producing shoes. During one of my sourcing trips I was driven around town to meet the many suppliers involved in the production process. The relationships my factory has with its suppliers ensures production will be as seamless as possible, while also keeping production costs low. And of course, the numerous trade shows in Italy contribute to the continued success of the Italian fashion industry as ideas are shared, relationships are forged and new and creative merchandise is sold for international distribution.
Two of the most well known Italian trade shows are Pitti Uomo and Micam. Pitti Uomo is a menswear extravaganza with something for everybody. Held twice a year in Florence, menswear buyers, brands and enthusiasts are able to see new product, order merchandise for their stores and of course create lasting relationships. Micam is held bi-annually as well in Milan and is arguably the most important footwear trade show in the world. Anybody who is anybody in footwear is there. And again relationships are key in this industry. The relationship I have with my factory is without a doubt my brand’s greatest asset. They don’t pick up the phone for just anyone. It takes time and effort to cultivate a lasting bond with these Italian artisans who are so passionate about fashion.
And that’s why my shoes are made in Italy. The skilled artisans, the convenient infrastructure and the presence of a large footwear community make Italy a superior choice for shoe production. Italy is the ideal country for new brands looking to break into the world of fashion.