family sitting together

Sustainable fashion and its obstacles

Shopping at major online shops usually involves browsing for the product you want, clicking “Add to cart,” and then choosing between “Overnight delivery”, “Premium express” shipping, or the “Deliver on the desired date” option. Practical, quick, uncomplicated.

But because Wildling Shoes sees great value in being a transparent manufacturer with a transparent supply chain, we would also like to shed some light on why we all sometimes have to wait a little longer or even – in some unfortunate cases – in vain for our Wildling shoes. To do this, let’s take a peek into the production halls and the warehouse, in hopes of being able to demonstrate what sustainable fashion and fair production – coupled with cost-efficient operation – really mean for Wildling Shoes.

shoe being stitched together
Image: Wildling Shoes/Sarah Pabst | A Wildling minimal shoe's sole being stitched onto the shoe

If you’re producing canvas shoes, like sneakers for example, you’re more likely to find the relevant expertise in Asia than in Portugal. They’ve been manufacturing textile shoes in Asia for centuries, and all the major factories are equipped with the appropriate machinery and trained personnel.

Yet Wildling Shoes still made the choice to produce in Portugal, and there are a number of reasons for that. The proximity of the country means that it’s easier to monitor the production, and while the emphasis hasn’t traditionally been on textile shoes, the region has developed solid expertise in shoe manufacturing. The production companies outsource some jobs to sub-contractors, so it’s easier to keep an eye on that happening in Portugal than it would have been in Asia. Besides, the coffee there is simply amazing! ;-)

soles being glued to shoe
Image: Wildling Shoes/Sarah Pabst | A Wildling minimal shoe's sole being glued to the shoe

Taking these steps and placing production and staffing in Portugal also entails higher costs than would be the case in Asia, for example. That’s a price we’re willing to pay. It also means, however, that we have to plan the amount of materials needed for production with painstaking precision. Having a bunch of Wildling shoes sitting in the warehouse waiting for new owners is neither sensible nor financially prudent. Large companies can compensate for this by selling the leftover shoes at knockdown prices at the end of the season – and nowadays the fashion industry splits the year into at least eight seasons. In the clothing industry it is quite common to plan sales and to take the reduced prices into account from the onset. And unfortunately, some companies even go so far as to burn the leftover articles from a collection because it’s not worth the costs of storing them somewhere just because nobody wanted to buy them. That’s the consequence of having all articles available at the drop of a hat.

The planning process for a Wildling Shoes collection begins roughly one year in advance. In other words, the orders for the upcoming season have to be placed while the current season is still in full swing. As a young and expanding company, we can only make our best guess at next year’s sales figures.
Every season, we plan for a lot more shoes than in the previous one. But no matter how optimistically we calculate – up to now, the number of actual orders has taken us by surprise. But we’re getting better!

person pushing a trolley
Image: Wildling Shoes/Stefano Chiolo | A person pushes a trolley through the Wildling Shoes warehouse

Of course, we could just borrow money to rent additional storage space and produce so much that every single person who wants a certain shoe in a particular size and color would definitely be able to get it. But the economic risks need to be considered. And even if our shoes were a lot cheaper – we wouldn’t want to mass produce them, only to get rid of them afterwards just because our planning was off or the green models sold better than the yellow ones.

In a nutshell, we are always glad when we don’t leave our Wildling shoes in the warehouse to eke out a dark and dreary existence.

The fashion industry has some catching up to do in this respect. We see it as a balancing act between having a large immediate supply and ensuring sustainable manufacturing and production methods. We may take our time to make Wildling Shoes grow strong and healthy instead of aiming for mass production... that presents its share of challenges, but it’s part of what Wildling Shoes is all about.

Besides, rules were made to be broken at some point, right?


Anna, Ran & Wildling Shoes Team


Header Image: Wildling Shoes/Nora Tabel | A family sitting in urban scenery wearing minimal shoes