The Last is First
It’s been a while since I’ve written, but it feels good to be back! When I started this blog, it was to document my journey with Skora, to let you see the process as it unfolds, and hopefully let you learn something along the way. Skora is about authenticity, and we want to be able to share that with you every step of the journey.
Since I last wrote, we received the first iteration of our shoe (which is called a pullover, but more on that later), an actual physical version to hold in our hands. And wow, it was just….incredible. There is no other way to describe it. It was almost surreal. For the better part of the last year and a half, it was all sketches, designs, renders; all these flat, two-dimensional versions of the ultimate vision. So I can’t begin to say what it felt like to hold it, to smell the richness of the leather and feel the texture of the outsole. It was an incredibly powerful moment that validated all the work, all the effort and time and stress and money. It’s seeing your dream come to life.
For those of you who are not familiar, let me explain a little about what goes into the process of making a shoe. The design is almost the easy part; you dream it up, make your sketches, try to figure out the parts and pieces that go into it. Then, you have to find a factory. Finding the right factory that is not only capable of meeting the level of quality and craftsmanship you desire, but also is willing to take the risk of investing their time and resources into developing a brand new product. Once you’ve overcome that hurdle, you can begin working on translating and collaborating to turn those “blueprints” or technical drawings into the first ‘pullovers’.
The pullover is where you take the materials and sew them together in a pattern, like you would for a jacket or dress. Once the pattern is made, it is pulled over what is called a last, which is a hard, usually plastic, model of a human foot. So the pattern is stretched and sewn over the last to create the upper that ultimately is the structure of the shoe. At this point, there is no sole, and more often than not, first pullovers look like potato sacks. Actually, I’ve tried them on and it felt kind of like a house slipper.
The pullover is where you can really look at the design, and see how it works in 3-D, and beginning the process of development. On paper, everything looks great, it looks the way you think it’s going to function. But once you see the pullover, your senses go wow, ok, I don’t think this will work like that. One of the first pullovers that came through made us realize the elastic was way too stretchy, another we tweaked the lacing a bit because it didn’t sit quite where it should on the foot, and on and on and on. Ultimately, you go through many iterations of the pullover, until you get the right one. And that’s when the really exciting part happens – we get closer to producing the first tester pairs.
It’s all really a combination of art and science, because you pick something that works, something that looks good on paper, but it takes the human hand and an artful eye and some gut to really see what’s going to work and look the way you want it to.
We have a lot of other exciting stuff coming up. I just returned from my first trip to our factory, so I have a lot of pictures, videos and stories to share with you. Stay tuned!