story about making shoes
I'm Watari, the designer. I don't think many people know how shoes are made. So today, I would like to briefly explain the process of making blueover. Please feel free to read it.
Shoes are made using a division of labor system. Tanneries and leather wholesalers that handle leather. Fabric wholesalers that handle fabrics, processing factories that bake and shape rubber and urethane, businesses that handle auxiliary materials such as strings and invisible parts, factories that process them into shoe parts, and production molds such as wooden molds and cutting dies. Cutting shops, sewing shops, shoe factories...many small factories work together to make shoes. This is a story about the process of making such shoes.
The diagram below shows the vendors we work with when making shoes. Since many companies work together, someone needs to act as a "coordinator". In most cases, this is done at shoe factories, which is the final step in the shoe manufacturing process.
blueover acts as a ``coordinator'', negotiating directly with each factory.
There is a word called last. Also called a wooden mold. This is made of resin (formerly wood) in the shape of a human foot. Although it is an essential tool for making shoes, you cannot see it when it is completed. The last is a very important part that wraps the sewn shoe parts (called the upper) around the last to form the upper into a shoe. The shape of the last will greatly change how it looks when completed and how it feels when you put your foot in it. It is also the most important tool in shoe making. Designers use this wooden pattern as a base to imagine what kind of shoes they would like to make.
Material selection is a major factor in determining the appearance of the shoe. There are leather, synthetic fibers, canvas, etc., and the appearance changes greatly depending on the various types and finishes.
When it comes to leather, there are different types of tanning, such as chrome leather, tanned leather, and mixed tanning, and then the surface of the leather can be processed in the same way. It's an image like makeup. Dyeing, pigment finishing, bare finishing, clear, glass, etc. There are so many types and finishes of leather that there is truly no end to it.
Synthetic fibers include nylon, polyester, synthetic leather that resembles leather, and artificial leather. It has very strong physical properties and includes features such as waterproofing. Another good thing about it is that unlike leather, it has a uniform surface so you can use it without wasting anything.
Canvas is a uniform fabric similar to synthetic fibers, and the material used is cotton. It is a material that has been used since ancient times in Japan, and the more you use it, the more its texture develops. Although its physical properties may be inferior to synthetic fibers, it is popular as a material with a rich flavor.
The photo below shows the velor used for the exterior of Mikey. Shoes are made using a part called ``toko'' that can be removed from leather. It is dyed with dye, leaving the surface without makeup. This material is thicker than regular tocovelor, but recently this thick material has become less and less available.
Paper pattern - cutting die
Auxiliary materials used for shoes. We often see laces and insoles, but it's the core material that is placed in the toes and heels. A variety of materials are used even in areas you can't see, such as the sponge at the shoe opening, anti-stretch tape, adhesive, and reinforcing materials. Since there are so many types, there is a wholesaler called auxiliary materials shop that collects all kinds of auxiliary materials.
This is the core material used in the toes and heels. Made of material that softens with heat.
This is the canvas insole. A repeating pattern is silk-printed onto a roll of fabric.
A sponge placed inside the shoe. It is used for tongues and shoe openings.
These are sewing threads. Blue Over mainly uses 20 count thread.
Now, the next step is the process of completing the upper.
First, use a cutting die and a cutting machine called a clicker to cut the leather.
After cutting each part, we prepare the auxiliary materials that will be placed inside. This is surprisingly a time-consuming process.
Then, we hand them over to a sewing craftsman and ask them to sew them.
The completed upper.
Sole (processed sole)
Next is the process of making the sole, which acts as a cushion between the ground and the foot.
Our sole is a processed sole, made of a material called EVA that has a cushioning function, and rubber that is strong for grip and friction. This manufacturing method has been used in Kobe Nagata for a long time.
We use a cutting die to cut out the sheet-shaped EVA and rubber that we purchased from a rubber shop using a cutting machine.
Glue the EVA and rubber parts together.
The pasted pieces are then sanded in various places with a grinder to give them a nice finish.
Completed machined bottom unit. The white part is EVA, which acts as a cushion, and the black part is rubber, which touches the ground, and is required to have good grip and abrasion resistance.
Once the upper and sole are completed, the next step is to complete the design.
First, to make the toes and heel more three-dimensional, we use heat and steam to shape them.
Once the habit is finished, the process of aligning the upper along the last part is called ``Tsuri-komi''. Controlling complex machines requires the skills of craftsmen. In this way, the leather will be sewn into the last part.
After catching a fish, do not remove the last immediately, but take a day or so to thoroughly blend the upper into the last. Otherwise, when the shoe is completed and the last is removed, the shape will be distorted.
Adhesive is applied between the upper and sole and firmly attached using a crimping machine (cemented manufacturing method. McKay and Goodyear use a different method).
The photo shows the state immediately after the soles have been pasted together. From here, the last is removed, the shoelaces are threaded through, the insole is placed, the dirt is removed, and the shoe is packed in a box.The shoe is finally completed.
I think that shoes are a rare product where each step of the process involves walking through various locations.
There's a lot more I want to tell you, but I'd be happy if people knew that this is how shoes are made in Japan.
It is likely that there will be fewer of these technologies left in the future. However, if we continue to strain and make shoes, we may have the opportunity to hold on to this in the meantime.
What was common in the past will no longer be commonplace in the future.
It seems like things like this are going to increase, and that's just the way of the times, but I want to continue doing what I can as a brand.
Although we are a small brand, we appreciate your continued support!
↑Local craftsmen who are energetically supporting blueover even during the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to these people, Blueover continues.