Nowadays, when we hear «shoemaking production» we are thinking about mass-market and exceptionally – about handmade shoes. In the twenty-first century, we are pampered with choice, consumerism took root in our everyday life. Of course, industrial progress gives us a big range of materials and a variety of machines, although we start losing our personality. We are compromising with comfort. Let me tell you a few reasons to prove this.
It was not always like that. The history of shoe production is fascinating and has different perspectives. Before the 19th-century shoes were fully handcrafted. Shoemakers, also called cobblers, were working in small groups making shoes every day. A customer could come into a shop, be individually measured their feet and would pick-up the shoes at the end of the day. Those were simple shoes made from a piece of leather, sometimes with wood soles. The price was affordable for everyone who had a job. People wore shoes until completely worn out.
Woodcut of shoemakers from 1568
The changes in the production started in 1812, when Napoleon went to war with European countries. The famous engineer Marc Brunel developed the first machinery for the mass production of boots for the soldiers of the British Army. Thereafter industrialization of shoemaking started growing. Men were willing to wear the same leather boots as soldiers.
However, women wanted to keep their individuality. It helped the fashion in hand-crafted shoes flourish. The shoemakers were developing beautiful models of shoes for women. There were different customized varieties of shoes from textiles with exquisite unique embroidery. The most famous ones were the flat women’s shoes reminiscent of ballet shoes. The delicate flats reflected the new cultural emphasis on femininity. Shoe production got mass -produced, nevertheless, the bespoke shoes found its niche.
1. Purple velvet ladies shoes with gold embroidery 19th Century, 2. Melnotte women shoes 19th Century
Eventually, the technology improved and new machines were developed every decade. There were more companies opening factories, developing new techniques for mass-production. Fast fashion has conquered the World and people’s behavior to shop.
We must face the truth, companies are winning in the race for profitability, but people DO NOT. The wardrobes are bursting with shoes. But how many times have you put on each pair?
We still desire to express our unique personalities. I too often hear that people wear 1-2 pairs of shoes and just once or twice put on “those beautiful stiletto heels (and suffer from callus a bit later).
Consumerism came at the cost of personalization. Mass-market is for everybody.
I believe that the shoemakers in the twenty-first century have the freedom to implement significant and innovative designs that will revolutionize production. Designs that also will help customers make believe of their uniqueness and comfort.
My clients told me: «When I put on your shoes I feel so much joy and comfort! I feel really unique when I know that you made shoes especially for me».
Have you ever tried handmade shoes?