The adventures and musings of an aspiring shoe designer

After my trip to Vegas my next order of business was to find a factory in America.  Mary had pushed the idea of bringing it home, how everything happens in cycles and how the timing was right for an American made luxury shoe brand to hit the market.  To this day I think that’s a good idea if a lot of other things are also in place. You will see as the story progresses the unique challenges I ran into attempting to launch the brand.  My thoughts on this are that anything is possible however, there are challenges with each way you choose to move forward and seeing how shoe manufacturing had been reduced to almost nothing in America it does present some unique issues. Again I stress I do think it can be done and I almost did it, had things been a little different I would be selling my made in America brand right now.

My thought from the moment I had the initial inspiration was that I wanted to design beautiful shoes made in Italy, of course I had Italy in mind because I think that is what everyone thinks when they think luxurious, quality shoes.  I do understand that other countries have since become great artisans and I don’t doubt that great shoes can be made anywhere, either way Italy in my mind is Mecca for shoes.  I had been attempting to find a factory in Italy but, to be honest I didn’t have a clue as to how to start so I think mainly I did a lot of looking but, not a lot of accomplishing. 

In light of the fact that I was not making any progress in Italy and I did not know how to make my original plan work the idea for American made sounded even better to me.  I originally thought “they don’t make shoes in America” but, Mary convinced me that there were some factories left, I could either find a factory or start my own.  I actually looked into starting my own and came to the conclusion (which has not changed) that I don’t have the skills, equipment, money, expertise or desire to run a factory. I don’t think so.

I spent the next few months hunting down old factories and ran into many people who used to be in the business, or their parents had owned the factory I was inquiring about.  Generally I got the same advice and warnings from every person I talked to, “you can’t make shoes in America, you can’t compete with China.  We went under thinking people cared about Made in America. Give up now before you go broke trying.” 

I even met a local man who ran his own factory from my home state, today he owns a couple of boutiques but not too long ago he actually had a successful shoe factory right here.  His dad had made clogs in Denmark and brought his skills with him, the man I met with worked with his dad and made a great living out of selling these handmade clogs.  Apparently they had quite a business for about 10 years and then the trend died or slowed significantly, components disappeared and another one bites the dust.  

This man was very gracious and spent a lot of his time sharing his story with me, like I said people will help you if you ask. When I showed him my drawings he started asking me questions like, “how are you going to do that, or what will this be made of?”  I got the feeling that he thought I was out of my mind and his advice to me was not to design my own shoes that would be too difficult.   I should just knock off whatever is on trend, that did not sit well with me then and still doesn’t sit well. 

I share these things with you so you can see how many people will try to change your plans and insert their own agenda or what they have determined is the best idea.  Most people have good intentions but either way I don’t think that what works for one will work for all.  A lesson that has been threaded throughout the entire story and I am just beginning to get a firm grasp of is “others don’t truly understand my motives”.  I don’t want to just sell shoes (ie copy someone else and make a bunch of money) I want to design my own and have them be loved, of course I would like a bunch of money too who doesn’t, but that isn’t primary. Wow imagine that money not being the most important thing in life.


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