What about shoes made in China?
So what about shoes made in China?
*I’m going to make a full disclosure here. In my shoe making career I’ve made shoes in Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and China with 90% of that being done in China. My passport will attest to over 50 visits to the mainland beginning in 1996.
So is China a good place to make shoes? Yes it is! But you have to be careful. I’m not talking about personal safety. No, I mean as in all business dealings who are you really working with. In China, brokers, agents, silent partners and trading companies abound. It can be a challenge to get down to the actual factory owner, but well worth the effort. Big shoe companies all buy directly and have lasting partnerships with the shoe factories.
Can I get a quality product from China!
Yes you can! Nike, Adidas, Puma, Vans, Under Armor all source high quality shoes from China. Is it easy? Nope. It takes continuous effort and continuous inspections to maintain quality. Not because the factory is trying to rip you off or cut corners but because the brands demand high volume, lower prices and efficiency. In my experience most quality problems are not willful deceptions, more likely human factors, unintended consequences or honest mistakes. That said when a shoes arrives with poor quality raw materials I see a QC system that was paid off or broken or inept.
The big brands actually drive the industries quality and enforcement of local labor laws. A Nike contracted factory will have the highest quality and most rigorous inspection policies. Are the workplace standards the same as the USA and Europe? Not a chance, but high quality merchandise can’t really be made in a dark and dirty sweatshop. That said there are some jobs and operations in the shoe factory that are hard, dirty and tedious. But in my travels the shoe factory jobs are better than standing knee deep in a sodden rice paddy or breathing coal dust in a deadly Chinese mine.
Personally, it’s an ego rush to see hundreds of people busy working on a design from my own hands. Knowing they are earning money for their families just like I earn money for my own.