Prada shoes | Where designed and manufactured? Even the luxury designer brands Prada and Gucci are tacking. Where Italy was always the quality shoe country par excellence, Portugal is less and less inferior. There was a time when Portuguese shoes had to pretend that they were Italian. They walked around with a name like Gino Bianchi. However, that shame is over. Gino Bianchi is now made in the same factory as Armando Silva. That is the name of the owner. Portuguese is almost impossible.
Prada shoes | Where designed and manufactured?
The Portuguese shoe is a great success. Even though the country has gone through a deep economic crisis in recent years, the shoe industry continued to grow undisturbed. Never before have so many shoes been produced as now. The secret: these are shoes of Italian quality, but with Portuguese prices. That soon saves twenty euros.
“We are not inferior to the Italians,” says Filipe Sousa of Eureka Shoes. The director of the company with a turnover of tens of millions wears white sneakers with blue and red edges, from his brand. The proof is that Prada and Gucci also have their shoes produced in Portugal. Sousa: ‘There aren’t that many tricks when making shoes. The only different thing is that the customer in Italy still thinks of luxury. ”
Sousa is proud to show its factory in Vizela (Northern Portugal), where more than two thousand shoes are made every day. This afternoon we are working on moss-green shoes from Isabel Marant. Women are in checkered aprons behind sewing machines. Men put the shoes together on a long production line. It looks pretty 19th century, but here we work with ideas from the 21st century.
The tricks are the excellent leather and the ‘finishing touch’, Sousa explains. A shoe goes through many more steps here during its process than in countries with low wages. The finishing and checking take place on a separate conveyor belt. Glue residues are removed, the laces are inserted, and the shoes are sprayed. From the warehouse, in Vizela, the shoes are send to the delivery country all over the world
His father started the shoe factory in the 1980s, a period that more Portuguese people did. Many Northern European countries then moved their production design to the south. “I was 9,” Filipe Sousa remembers. “My mother sewed. During the holidays I went to Lisbon with my father to wear shoes. Ten pairs here, ten pairs there. ” Already after one or two years, the father of Sousa decided to have a factory built. He received a significant order from the shoe brand TBS to make boat shoes. More customers followed.
However, when more and more buyers then moved to China, around the turn of the century, the Portuguese shoe factories had to reinvent themselves. Unlike in Spain or Italy, they could not fall back on domestic demand. The Portuguese market is only small. That is why, with the help of European subsidies for regional development, they focused on quality controled shoes for Northern Europe.
Prada shoes | Where designed and manufactured?
More flexible than the Chinese
They purchased new machines, such as a water jet cutting machine. This made it easy to process small orders. The device is adjusted, and the leather is cut into the right shape. It makes the Portuguese much more flexible than the Chinese: they are close to the markets of Northern Europe and can respond quickly to changing demand.
Other companies collapsed when a significant customer suddenly left for China, but Alberto Sousa survived. “My father never wanted to depend on one customer,” says Filipe Sousa. “He always worked for twenty different parties.”
He uses the same credo. The more independent, the better. “Through a crazy idea of mine, we started our brand in 2009, with our stores.” It is a sign of a new Portuguese self-awareness: why produce for others when you can earn two to three times as much with your brand?
Not all shoe companies can afford that luxury. Certainly not at the start of the crisis. The Portuguese banks hardly gave any loans at the time. The Sousas invested their capital. Now they sell 20 percent of the shoes they produce online and in their stores.
Filipe Sousa named his brands after his own family. There is Mr Sousa: classic, developed, reliable. Also, Filipe Sousa: innovative, somewhat cheeky. Moreover, most recently, Miss Julia appeared, named after his niece: for women, paying attention to details, simple.
That too is a difference between a shoe from China and a shoe from Portugal: workers make one, the other by families. From the boardroom to the shop floor, you will find relatives in Portuguese shoe factories. “Sometimes three generations of the same family work in the factory,” says Filipe Sousa. “They talk about the work at the kitchen table. The experience is passed on.”
The secret of the Portuguese shoe is in part that experience. “The men with twenty-five or thirty years of experience perform the most difficult actions,” says Sousa. It is not for nothing that he pays his employees more than the average Portuguese salary. So he is also the owner of four discos – for a sensational staff party of its time.