Just how does one hand craft a pair of shoes?
This was the question on the mind of H. Tin Saigoneset ten years ago as he left the Saigon shoe factory job he’d had all his life, said goodbye to his wife, children and family, and set off on an adventure to Tokyo.
The benefit of a dress shoe which is made using the Goodyear welt construction is that the shoe can be re-soled repeatedly, giving the shoe a lifespan of years, sometimes even decades.
Traditionally made in Italy, Spain, France and England, the Goodyear shoe is also a very popular style in Japan. The Japanese embraced this style of shoe many, many years ago loving this style of handmade shoe for its elegant, sleek, and sharp look.
The global economic downturn of the last ten years has seen rising labour costs in much of Europe and Japan. As a result of these increased costs, the traditional Goodyear factories have all but disappeared from these regions. This saw Goodyear production move to other countries, most notably in Asia. However, Goodyear shoemaking is a hard craft to master and despite the traditional techniques and processes being brought to Asia, only a few, like Tin, have so far been able to attain the high standards needed for these fine quality, artisan shoes.
Tin initially started with a workshop which contained Italian machines that could stitch the Goodyear outsole. At first, he only produced small quantities of shoes, but as time went by, orders increased and his output grew. His initial target market was Japan but after he made in-roads into the Japanese market, he soon found that the global market beckoned.
Today he has a company with two facilities which are fully equipped with Italian made stitching machines that have been imported specially for this purpose. Each month, these factories craft 6000 pairs of traditionally made, high-quality artisan shoes, all for export to Japan, Europe, Canada and Australia.
“We started making shoes mainly for Japanese brands. The Japanese market is one of the most strict that I have ever known. They have their own internal processes to refine quality,” said Tin as he explained the driving force behind his desire to maintain high standards at his shoe factories.
Of course, the Goodyear welt construction requires a longer manufacturing time than a less sophisticated shoe. From die-cutting the raw hide to layering the leather and hand finishing it to perfection right down to the stitching, quality and care are the keys to success. It’s therefore important to ensure you have a factory manned with highly skilled workers who not only understand the process but who are also passionate about what they create.
“I am very lucky to have such a dedicated team of workers that really understands the craft,” continued Tin.
In Vietnam, Tin’s company – Blake’s Shoes – has the only two domestically owned factories capable of the high-quality production demanded for Goodyear shoes. These factories each employ between 60 and 100 staff and, working in direct collaboration with Innolux, are responsible for developing and creating the lasts for each artisan shoe range.
The brogueing, zigzag cutting, tassels, and other classic details are all done by hand in the traditional ways once employed by Italian shoemakers, with the hand finishing and colouring being completed by Innolux’s artisans (click here to see how our technicians hand colour shoes). These processes are applied to a variety of genuine leather shoes and men’s boots in many different styles.
Such styles include:
Lace up – Classical Oxford, Derby, Hole Cut, Chukka Boot and Desert Boot
Slip On – Moccasin, Loafer, Monk, Chelsea Boot and Dealer Boot
Private labelling is possible on our own factory shoe collection (click here to see our collection) enabling wholesalers and retailers to order shoes made with their own logo. We also welcome orders for custom made shoes with a minimum order quantity of 100 pairs.
Goodyear Welted Shoes
Also known as: blake dress shoes, classical shoes, artisan shoes, hand-crafted and hand-coloured shoes, crust leather shoes, stitched soles.
Men’s dress shoes require style, elegance and comfort – as well as sturdiness and durability. That’s where the Goodyear welt comes in.
The Goodyear welt process is a traditional method used in the manufacture of men's dress shoes. In this process, the upper part of the shoe is shaped over the last and attached by sewing a strip – or a welt – to the inner and upper sole. The welt can be made of leather, linen or synthetic material, such as plastic. A thread is used to hold the material firmly together.
This construction method takes its name from Charles Goodyear Jr, the inventor of the machine that mechanised the process in 1869.
Shoes constructed using the Goodyear process require a longer manufacture time than those created through less sophisticated methods. They also require a factory with highly skilled operators who understand the process and can apply it to an elegant, high-end design.
Traditional methods applied by skilled artisans
Innolux’s Goodyear and Blake shoes are made in one of our two Vietnam factories. Each one employs 60-100 workers and uses traditional Italian methods to manufacture a variety of genuine leather classical dress shoes and men’s boots in variety of styles, including:
Lace up shoes – classical Oxfords, Derbies, hole cuts, chukka boots and desert boots
Slip ins - moccasins, loafers, monks, Chelsea boots and dealer boots
The broguing, zigzag cutting, tassels, and other details are all made by hand using traditional methods.
Our factories specialise in work with crust leather in natural base colour that, after assembling, is hand-coloured and hand-finished by in-house artisans. (See how our technicians use the hand-colouring technique.)
Wholesalers and retailers can order shoes with their logos from our factory’s private label collection. The factory specialises in custom-made orders, starting with MOQ of 100 pairs.
Bringing high-quality European methods to Asia
Goodyear shoes had been traditionally made in Italy, France, Spain and the UK. More recently, the Japanese had embraced their production as well. However, with the rising labor costs in both Europe and Japan, factories that produced Goodyear shoes using traditional methods have almost vanished. Production moved elsewhere, and over the last 10 years, the techniques and know-how were brought into Asia.
However, few in Asia can really make fine quality artisan shoes. There are only two factories in Vietnam – our Vietnamese-owned and managed partner factories – that can produce high-quality Goodyear shoes. Both factories are equipped with machines imported from Italy. Most of the process is done using the same methods and techniques as used by traditional Italian shoe makers. Innolux is responsible for the development, last-making, hand-colouring and finishing.
The Benefits of Goodyear construction
One key benefit of having a Goodyear welt construction is it allows the shoe to be resoled repeatedly, giving it a much longer lifespan than that of an average shoe – in some cases, for up to 20 years, provided the upper part of the shoe is well maintained.
Another benefit of the process is having a shoe that’s relatively water-resistant due to the welt-sole construction.
Some of the top-end brands that sell dress shoes created with the Goodyear welt process include Alden, Church, Crockett & Jones, Loake Shoes, and Wildsmith Shoes.
full gallery of Artisan shoe
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"From die-cutting the raw hide to layering the leather and hand finishing it to perfection right down to the stitching, quality and care are the keys to success."
Having long been fascinated by the craft of handmade shoes, he was eager to learn the secrets of master shoe makers. Tin understood about the Japanese desire for high quality shoes and he knew that there were a few master shoe makers in Japan still working in the traditional ways. What interested Tin in particular, was the art of the Goodyear Welt.
The Goodyear welt process is the traditional method for the manufacture of men's dress shoes, taking its name from the inventor who devised the original machine to replace the earlier, completely hand-sewn method. In this process, the upper part of the shoe is shaped over the last and attached by sewing a strip – or a welt – to the inner and upper sole. A thread is used to hold the material firmly together.