Friday, August 29, 2014

Are you supporting substandard labor practices?

Earlier this summer, results of the fifth annual Survey of Footwear Factories in China were released by the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) and supply chain firm ELEVATE.  The findings were taken from 110 factories across China, where it is now estimated that 80% of the U.S. Footwear Market is produced.  Data is from 2013.

What is good about this survey is that it gives brands of imported footwear a good general understanding of the issues these manufacturers are facing at the production level.  It also offers some transparency to the brands, retailers, and consumers on the labor practices -notorious in third world industrial centers- that are still evident, and continue to blemish the industry.  FDRA has released the survey report to its members and they have created a summary infographic to the public.

The survey reveals the current state of factories that produce footwear in China and how they are addressing challenges facing our industry.  Among them include

  • continued increase in raw materials
  • reduction in labor force
  • increase in wages

With these issues on the supply side along with the added competition among factories for the business, the pressure from the brands to manufacture a lower cost product puts the squeeze on factory owners.  Time and money are paramount.  To cope with these challenges factories turn to substandard labor practices including:
  • longer working hours
  • hiring of underage workers
  • hiring of workers past retirement age
  • paying below minimum wage
Recent factory disasters over the past few years have brought the poor working conditions in Asian factories to light.  Some consumers have used their purchasing power to express disdain for the working conditions of their imported products.  This is one factor in the increase in demand from consumers to purchase US made goods.  Typically, any backlash is forgotten quickly and the consumption of products made under questionable practices resumes until the next disaster is reported.  

Shortly after the results of this survey the FDRA announced the release of a Footwear Production Code of Conduct in an effort to define and uphold better working standards for industry players to apply to their manufacturing partners.  

The factory owners were optimistic in the survey that they would see more business in 2014.  Will that mean more long shifts, underage workers, and wages below scale to keep up?  Now that a major trade group in the Footwear Industry has essentially laid the gauntlet for social standards, will brands and manufacturers comply?  When you buy your next pair of shoes (or sandals), or anything made overseas, will you be promoting the use of 14 year old workers doing 11 hours of work making maybe a dollar a day?    

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Occasionally we get a chance to get out of the factory and meet with some of the great shops that are carrying our brand.  Surf and Adventure Company in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach has not only been a loud and proud reseller of Vere from the start, but part of the motivating factors that got us started.

We let co-founder John Eades out for a little east coast trip this summer where he had time to sit down for an interview for their highly aesthetic and addicting blog.  John elaborated on a key conversation long ago with S&A owner, Rob Lindauer which got the wheels turning and ultimately became part of the motivation behind the concept that eventually spawned Vere Sandals.

There is also a brief, but candid discussion of the struggles to start and maintain a manufacturing business in the United States as well as the rewards of creating a quality product and jobs for the local economy.  There is also a sneak peak of the byproduct of a collaboration we developed with S&A, a custom sandal that ratchets up our conservation efforts to another level.  Rather than throwing away old wetsuits, we've found a way to repurpose them to make uppers.  We like to call these limited beauties the Johnny and the June.

You can check out the Surf & Adventure interview here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Long time...

Looking at our last entry. It is obvious we have neglected something we once considered to be a great tool that would provide insight to the creation and existence of the Vere Sandal Company and our factory here in Geneva New York.  Beyond our brand and factory, we see madeheremadebetter.com as a way to offer an insight on what interests us as harbingers of domestic manufacturing, a small and emerging brand in the surf and outdoor industry, and a couple of shleps trying to create a company that reflects our ideals and strives to be as responsible to our community, environment, investors and industry as we can make it.  

With that being said, I’ll take the time to briefly fill in the large set of blanks with a little timeline.  Later entries may elaborate on some of the more memorable and meaningful events in that past that have helped us get here today.  

2012
- February:  We deliver to our first retailer:  Super Casuals in Geneva, NY. 
- March, April: Shipments for early spring orders roll out.
- May 21: A fire in a part of the factory causes damage to some finished goods, raw materials, shelving and machinery.  Cleanup and factory restoration promptly begins; production shortly thereafter. http://www.fltimes.com/news/local/article_7c9c506e-a4e1-11e1-9cc3-001a4bcf887a.html
- June 5: Shipments resume.
- October:  After a good debut season, Vere sees significant jump in prebook orders for Spring ‘13.
- Beginning next round of capital raise to cover materials and costs for next season. 

2013
- March:  Unsuccessful financing round limits availability of styles and colors offered for Spring ‘12 season.  Prebook orders were adjusted to sell available product, shipped incomplete, or cancelled. 
- June - July: Make or break time for financing.  Sales at retailers, however, continue to be  strong.
- August:  Reflecting good sell-through, at once orders continued at retailers through the fall.
- Refreshed product lineup.
- September: Restructured long term debt and signed a manufacturing partnership with ARC of Yates.  These efforts combined to improve cash-flow to strengthen operations covering anticipated growth in the short and mid-terms. 
- In an effort to close the loop, Vere has decided to replace traditional petroleum-based materials (Rubber and EVA) for midsoles and outsoles with highly recyclable and equally comfortable and durable PLUSfoam.

2014
-  January:  Surf Expo - Our presence marked a solid return to the market with full availability of our product line.


- April:  Madeheremadebetter.com ressurected

Friday, October 14, 2011

Arc of Yates & Vere Sandals

Things are shaping up at Vere! Production is running smoothly and sandals are going out the door. This, my friends, is no small cause for celebration.


I got to know the team at Vere a few months back when they contacted me about working with Arc of Yates' program that allows individuals to work in the community--with the aid of a job coach--until they are ready to do so independently. This program offers those with developmental disabilities a chance to experience the working world as the rest of us do. This partnership not only provides the individuals at Arc with invaluable experience but also gives Vere a steady and reliable workforce, allowing for quick turnaround from the factory to the local stores. It is a win-win situation.


Each visit, I’d bring 2-5 individuals to the Vere factory in Geneva, NY. We contrubuted to production at all stages including: gluing, pressing, reinforcing, and sewing. The sense of self worth that working in a real-world, industrial setting provides is staggering. The goal of Arc of Yates is to provide the individuals it serves with the skills needed to become independent and accomplished in their surrounding community.. This is mainly done through training designed and carried out by the agency’s own workshop. Rarely does an opportunity like this arise where individuals can train with the aid of staff in a completely genuine setting before they are advanced into supported work. This gives Arc the unique opportunity to see how its training really measures up against what the working community has to offer-- making adjustments where necessary. Plus,, who wouldn’t want to jam out to the Stones all day and make flip flops?


A big part of what we loved about working at Vere was the atmosphere. Let’s face it, mass producing things is tedious, but not here. However, our time at the factory (four hours a day, five days a week) flew by. It’s the first place I’ve been where the effort to leave is not worth the benefit of being away from work, and that’s saying quite a lot. No dress code. No boring factory hum. No scheduled break times. The floor is prime for skateboarding, you can see the sun in the sky, and you can even burn a logo in your toast should you choose to have some in the morning. I mean, really, what more could you ask for? An indoor slide? Maybe, but let’s not get carried away.


On an equipment note, the shaper is in and running, which allows for the higher-end sandals with rubber soles to be finished and sent out. In our time at the factory so far, we have only been able to work on the sandals with EVA outsoles, so, it will be exciting to see some leather flops being made. However, it’s exciting to see flip flops being made in general. The mysteries that unfold here are amazing, like, recognizing your mom’s handwriting on a package from Santa type thing. I highly advise you stop by and check it out if you’re in the area, and feel free to lend a hand.



Orders have gone out to a local store, Super Casuals, which is located in downtown Geneva, and the public response seems to be positive. For now, they’re selling black and brown Don’s and Betty's until we finish the other styles. Things are moving quickly so hopefully you won’t have to wait too long. Trust me, these guys are trying! They are here making sandals by moonlight more often than is probably healthy.


That’s it for business news, though, and sadly, that’s it for me. My time at the factory has come to an end but I couldn’t be happier to have been a part of this and to have made the small contribution that I have. Fortunately, the individuals from Arc of Yates will stay, and they are the ones doing big things. So, this is generally where I say something witty, give my two cents, and sign off. Here goes:


I am young, but I remember the stories of my grandparents from a time when things were made here, in the U.S.A, and were made better, and were made by a community of men and women who worked at and stood behind their local businesses. Vere is bringing this back. Geneva has done its part, and Vere is doing its part in giving back at every available opportunity. This is a company that has what it takes to succeed and that we should be proud to stand behind, or on, rather. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.


Now, “go outside.”


Elijah McCarthy
Job Coach
Arc of Yates

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Too tired to make up titles

One of the most fun parts of this whole process has taking our theories and putting them to practice. We've spent almost 24 months planning and doing this now, so we've had plenty of time to think about it, but there's still that excited nervousness when you put it to test for the first time. Combine it with the fact that we're operating on a startup budget and not working with the gleaming new equipment that we all dream about having, and you have that extra set of butterflies in the stomach before each step.

The Black/Blue Louie laid in the jig, ready to be pressed


Today we finally got to test the bond on our footbeds. We worked with Worthen Industries and UPACO Adhesives in Nashua, NH on our materials and the best methods for ensuring a solid, permanent bond, so we had a good start. They tested sample materials for us back in October and recommended the adhesives, and we had them on hand and ready to go long before we got our EVA and rubber last week. We spent last week, almost all of last week, unpacking the EVA and checking it into inventory. This week, we got to run the heat tunnel and finally work the footbed presses.

The test table after our first (failed) round of material bond testing

We had some tense moments, as when we ran the individual footbed parts through the heat tunnel, we discovered that the volume and direction of the air was way too much, and it was blowing the parts all around the oven. The parts managed to work their way through the heat tunnel wind storm and we assembled the first set we ran through plus two more sets using slightly different settings to see what worked best. After a few hours of waiting to make sure everything was set, we did our pull tests. No bueno.

In the pull test, the idea is to pull on the separate parts until they come apart. Ideally, when it breaks, it's the material itself that breaks, which shows that the adhesive bond between materials is stronger than the material itself. When that happens there are no delimitation issues, and that's what we're looking for. Unfortunately, we got consistent clean peeling right along the adhesive, so it was time to find the issue, and fix it.


After some tinkering inside the heat tunnel which led to the creation of something we dubbed the "Tunnel of Love," and some adjustments to the timing of the press, we got a more consistent drying and activating on the adhesives. This led to a cleaner press between the parts, and we got the kind of material tear we were looking for.

EVA tear from our last material bond test. Material tears are good.

It's just another step in the process, but one we've been waiting a long time to get to.

Today we also got our leather skivving machine working properly, and we're able to move forward with the leather uppers. They are almost all cut, and tomorrow we'll start sewing the lining webbing inside the leather straps on all those Josie's and Al's.

Almost all the uppers are done, and we're ready to crank through those bottom units and get the finished product out the door before too much longer. It's been a frustrating series of setbacks and delays, but we're on track again and excited to finally be making the kind of progress we've been expecting to make all along. Plus, it feels good when it works the way it's supposed to.

Thanks for hanging along with us on the ride. We think it'll be worth the wait.


The first 10 pair of the Louie Black/Blue midsoles - pressed, cut, and ready for the next step...
The Next Step: the Vere logo laser etched into the heel of each sandal

Friday, June 17, 2011

Production Begins

It's been a busy and slightly crazy two months but we're thrilled to tell you that production is finally underway. Delayed shipment of our raw materials, along with an assortment of minor setbacks, stalled production by a few months. But, we are fully operational now on Genesse St. in Geneva, NY, in a space that was completely empty just nine months ago. Below are some shots of what we've been up to these past few weeks. Excited to get these sandals out into the market and on your feet and thrilled to be putting "made here. made better." into action.

Our first leather footbed cut


Mike on the embroidery machine, and John on the leather cutting press


Leather footbeds as a good representation of our size curve--most of you guys are a size 10 or 11. Our full compliment of cutting dies in the background.


It's definitely a family affair here at Vere. We put John's mom's (Lorraine) skills to the test embroidering some toe posts.


woven "V" straps - one of the first steps in building the sandals.


toe posts with our Vere logo


footbeds for our "Al" leather sandals


John, unloading the cutting dies







Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earth Day 2011

You may have heard us profess on occasion (OK, on several occasions): "Made Here. Made Better." Why? Because we believe we need to keep production local to reduce carbon footprint, make our products using methods and materials that are friendlier to the environment, and reduce and reuse waste. That's what we've set out to do in the sandal industry.

So, in celebration of Mother Earth, we've created a small (but vital) guide of recycling programs and tidbits in our neighborhood, as well as yours, and oh yeah--what we're doing to help.

Our Neighborhood:


Just next door to our global headquarters, 2trg, a technology recycling group (how about that!), is hosting a community collection for unwanted electronics.

The Deets:
Friday, April 22nd
122 E. Genesee Street
Outside Building B
10:00 AM- 6:00 PM

Your Neighborhood:

Visit Earth911 to find a recycling center near you.
Check out your state guidelines for recycling specific products.

Nothing to dispose of but want to get involved? Pledge an act of green with the Earth Day Network on their website or via Facebook. (We're told all the cool kids are doing it.)


Want to hang with us?
We'll be cleaning up the beaches of Seneca Lake in conjunction with the Seneca 7 race we sponsor
next weekend, April 30th, in Geneva, NY. Meet us at 2PM at Lakefront Park. Bring yourself and some gloves. We'll supply the trash bags.

OK, that's our spiel for the day. Now go outside.