A look behind the scenes: How and where are wildlings actually made? One thing was clear to us right from the beginning: A shoe that allows both young and adult wildlings to explore the world with a barefoot feeling cannot be made in factories with inhumane working conditions. At the same time we wanted to keep delivery routes short and the product itself affordable - that's why we chose Portugal as Wildling’s production site.
Our factory is located about half an hour from Porto in hilly Felgueiras, surrounded by private residences and vineyards. The company is currently run by the fourth generation of the same family, with many of the central positions being held by women - be it in production planning, purchasing or the design department - together with management staff who are quite young. Their employees enjoy good working conditions (for example, they receive a gross salary - the company pays their taxes - and subsidized food in the in-house canteen) - which contributes to an overall very positive working atmosphere.
Good planning is key
The Challenges of pressing Wildlings into shape
In addition to the working conditions, their willingness to innovate was also crucial, as a Wildling shoe entails certain specific attributes when it comes to its manufacturing processes. Because Portugal (like most other southern European countries) primarily specializes in leather footwear, a shoe that is made almost entirely of textile obviously means quite a challenge. Fabrics behave completely differently to leather - they won’t stay in shape easily, can’t be sanded or dusted down, they love to separate into their single fibres while you’re looking the other way, and they always need to be cut and punched in the same direction.
Pressing a Wildling on a shoe.
It’s hard to believe how many stiffening and shaping parts go into making a "normal" shoe - cardboard, thermoformable plastic toe and heel caps, nails, glue and seam reinforcements. Once all these inflexible components are removed from the shoe, the "thing" behaves completely differently. It wiggles, trying to slip away from the hands that hold it, jumps off the work table, pulls out of shape - in short, it rebels like a real wildling. If you then need to add an outsole that is at least as wobbly and unstable as the upper part of the shoe, then it becomes obvious why you can hear them curse us even above the noise of the factory :)
From first sketches to finished product
To ensure a high processing quality of our product (despite its challenging character), we’ve set up a small team of resident staff members on site. Manuel and Cris take care of quality assurance and production management, the expansion of our collection and optimization processes.
From the first sketch to the finished shoe, Wildlings undergo quite a few production stages. Collection planning and the evolution of new models begin in our small studio in Cologne, Germany. Afterwards, we start looking for suitable materials which are then sent to Portugal for the production of a first set of prototypes. Authorized prototypes will later serve as models for the production unit.
Ordering the materials can be a lengthy process, as many of the materials are woven, milled, needled, waxed or dyed specifically according to our needs. In production, the materials are first cut to size, then the uppers are sewn and pulled on to the last. Finally, the sole is applied and the finished pair of Wildlings goes through quality control. Packed in recycled cardboard boxes and paper, the Wildlings then travel to Engelskirchen, Germany, where Sascha, our warehouse manager, receives weekly deliveries during the peak season.
And while we’re all looking forward to the new collection, the next one is already in the making. Here you can read how product developer Kristin works on the new collections in our studio and here you can learn more about the heart of Wildling Shoes.