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Development Trip

As I mentioned last week, I recently took a trip across the ocean to China to meet the folks who will be making our shoe and get to know the factory where the magic will happen. I went over for a week to the Guangdong Province of China. This was my first trip to Asia and it was really an incredible week.

China as a country was a real eye-opening experience. Despite the madness of people, cyclists, scooters and cars on the streets, there was no road rage. It really drove home how much the Chinese value politeness. The work/life balance was something I really admired to, and something that North Americans can take example from. They work hard, but they also take full advantage of the evening hours and night life their community or city has to offer. It reminded me a lot of European sensibilities that I’ve experienced.

Up until this point, my communication with the factory and production team was through a series of emails, phone calls and skype chats, talking through design and sending pictures and changes electronically. This trip had some really great results, including building a strong relationship with the factory and meeting with all the suppliers and partners that are key to make Skora a success. I was also really blown away by the warmth and hospitality of the Chinese culture; I had always heard the Chinese were amazing hosts, but experiencing that first hand was really a treat.

Outsole technical development with mould maker.

Outsole technical development with mould maker.

So having the opportunity to see where and how Skora will be made was very educational and eye-opening. Logically, I know all the steps that go into producing a shoe like the back of my hand, but living and breathing the production cycle for a week made me realize how many components and suppliers are involved and how imperative it is that everyone work in concert. This holds especially true with a shoe like Skora that’s really breaking the traditional shoe mold when it comes to design and construction.

Pattern cutting and assembly.

Pattern cutting and assembly.

The leather factories, synthetic textile factories and the factory that specializes in making lasts all have to work together and with the factory that makes the final product.  So to make the pullovers, you need all the textiles and leather, and a last, and then all of these pieces are pulled together by hand at the shoe factory, in what is referred to as a ‘sample room,’ which is pretty cool. It’s a room comprised of a small team of the factory’s best pattern makers and sewers, and they are the ones who create the pullovers and prototypes.

After that comes production, where all the components that make up a shoe are assembled by the shoe factory, packaged and ready for export. So it really is imperative that the entire chain of production work together to ensure no details are left out and that the final shoe meets the design and quality requirements.

Sewer reviewing master patterns.

Sewer reviewing master patterns.

While there, we were able to accomplish three more rounds of pullover changes (some of which were pretty major) and we did this in only five days. That was amazing to me when I compare it to the normal amount of time it takes us to work through design changes; this would have taken at least 6 weeks through the normal process of emails and shipping samples back and forth. Being able to make fundamental changes on the fly with the master pattern maker present and receive immediate input and advice on construction techniques is invaluable. This is product development at its best.

By the time I got home, a few things stood out for me. Above all else, it was my first experience of seeing the entire Skora team pull together to accomplish our development goals. We were on a tight schedule, and working under pressure only seemed to fuel the passion for our product, driving home just how awesome our team is and what a great product Skora will be.

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