Why move production from China to Mexico you ask? If you’ve looked at these gorgeous photos and still want to know, it’s because the shoe industry in Mexico has a long and venerable history and is every bit as state-of-the-art as China’s. It’s one third the distance from New York, my Spanish is improving olé, the weather is balmy year ’round (olé olé olé) and I can be in our factory in seven hours, not twenty-four. It’s neighborly and I like that. Most important, closer to home means more control.
Proximity aside, though, moving production from China to Mexico was not as simple as flipping a switch. Manufacturers had to be found, interviewed, tested and approved. Samples had to be made, remade, tested and approved, and raw material suppliers had to be vetted to meet strict performance standards. There are lots of parts to a shoe and it was a many months process, moving inch-by-cautious-inch, to put the right suppliers in place.
THE A-TEAM IS IN PLACE
Building this new supply network has been interesting and challenging, of course, and there were the inevitable moments along the way when I thought medication might be in order, but it’s also been incredibly gratifying to know that I’ve found the right team and they’re just next door. I want suppliers who are as passionate about what they do as I am and I have found my kindred spirits in Mexico. The A-Team, Picky-Puss Squad is in place, cielo de gracias.
The best thing about having production so close to home now is that I am able to spend more time in our factories, more often, and work with our new suppliers personally. I also have a direct hand in selecting raw materials and making sure that they meet our performance standards – something that had to be delegated to our agent in China some eight thousand miles away when we first started. Travel time to our factory in Dongguan, China, was twenty-four hours door-to-door, a logistical challenge that made more frequent trips unfeasible and the delegation of decision-making a necessity. And as good as our agent was, his eyes were not my eyes, and there simply is no substitute for having my eyes on all aspects of our production. (Yes, I am a control freak.)
MARIACHI TO MY EARS
I will forever be grateful to our first suppliers in China for giving us our start and for teaching us Shoe Production 101, but am happy to be working with our neighbors next door now, who are every bit as technically profficient and capable as producers in China, but vastly more invested in the product itself and a good deal more flexible. Mariachi music to my ears. Our shoes, gloves and bags are not just numbers on a spreadsheet to them. They are sources of excitement and vehicles, ultimately, for the expression of their very well-honed skills and commitment to excellence. I love that.