The men’s dress shoe business has always been price driven. Men didn’t make that decision. The retailers that sold shoes to the mass market did. That’s why China became such an important leather shoes manufacturing country. When American shoe factories realized they couldn’t competitively price their footwear because of rising labor and material costs, factory owners decided to find factories offshore that could compete. The one country that had a massive labor force, cheap material costs and almost unlimited factory space was China.
American manufacturers decided to train the Chinese to make the kind of footwear that was in fashion in the United States. The big push to make shoes in China started in the 1980s and gained momentum during the 1990s. The athletic shoe companies already had a presence in China at that time. Running shoes were made in Korea during the 1970s, but when the Koreans decided to raise prices based on what they saw happening in the United States in terms of sales, most running shoe companies moved their production to China in the late 1970s.
The United States wasn’t the only country to move their manufacturing to the huge Chinese factories that looked more like cities than factories. Chinese factory workers lived in these factories. They bought food and clothes in the factories, and some workers died in the factories. There were no age guidelines, so it was common to see ten-year-old boys and girls working on the production lines for less than $1 a day. Factories in Canada joined the U.S. and before long, England and France joined the North America shoemakers in China.
But Italy and Spain didn’t move their production to China in those days. The Italians didn’t want to give their trade secrets to the best duplicators in the world. The Chinese could make expensive shoes cheaper, and they would sell those styles to other shoe companies in order to keep the factories filled. The Italians fought the rising labor and material costs in their country as long as they could. But during the 1990s, Italian shoe factories all over the country decided to take the most labor intensive part of the shoe making process offshore. Factory owners made exclusive deals with India and Eastern European shoe makers to cut and stitch the uppers of certain styles that required a lot of hand labor. The Italians supplied the materials, and these cut and fit upper factories as they were called, sent the finished top of the shoe back to Italy so the Italian factory could finish their fashionable styles. The finished shoes were still stamped “Made in Italy.”
Paul Evans Footwear works with factories in the south of Italy that still make shoes the old way. Paul Evans factories make exclusive styles, and customers buy them direct from the factory. For the first time in the history of the footwear business, men can buy beautifully handcrafted Italian shoes in their size, color and design one pair at a time from Paul Evans Footwear. The Paul Evans line is a nostalgic look at the past as well as an incredible look at the future. Paul Evans Footwear takes pride in producing Italian made shoes that fit, look good and last for a lifetime. That’s the mark of a forward thinking, quality footwear line.