Factory Tour | A Continuous Lean.

ACL Field Trip | Danner’s Boot Factory

Dec 26th, 2013 | Categories: ACL Field Trip, Factory Tour, Footwear, Jake Gallagher | by Jake Gallagher

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For a town that’s oft-plagued by fleeting fads and inexplicable trends, Portland’s shoe industry is surprisingly stoic, acting as a sort of trusty backbone for Stumptown’s diverse population. At the center of this footwear foundation lies Danner Boots, one of the, if not the, oldest shoe brands in the Northwest.

Charles Danner founded his eponymous boot brand in 1932 as a way to provide footwear to the various loggers, hunters, and sportsmen that lived and worked in the area. Over the decades Danner’s business has grown, particularly during the sixties and seventies as their hiking boots became an integral part of that era’s budding outdoor movement. All the while, Danner has kept their production local, producing all most of its boots in their Portland, Oregon factory, which continues to churn out hundreds of thousands of boots every year.

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Made in England | J. Barbour and Sons

May 23rd, 2013 | Categories: Factory Tour, Made in England | by Michael Williams

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It’s not exactly Barbour season for me, but while my Bedales & Beauforts sleep in my closet waiting for their triumphant return this fall, the factory where they were made hums right along at a fever pitch making great-looking and long-lasting outerwear.

Last summer I was thinking about embarking on a trip around the U.K. visiting the British factories that turn out the classic menswear items that captivate me (like my “Made in Italy” trip). As it turned out, I didn’t end up having the chance to organize the trip —I still might do it, eventually— but I did manage to tour the Sunspel factory last fall, which was my first exposure to “made in England.” Recently I was invited as a guest of Barbour to see their factory and home office in South Shields, near Newcastle, England. No brainer.

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Made in England | Sunspel Menswear Ltd

Dec 23rd, 2012 | Categories: England, Factory Tour | by Michael Williams

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Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to see all sorts of things being made. I’ve been to Wayne, Michigan to see a newly re-tooled and incredibly modern Ford plant, to Schaffhausen, Switzerland to see the precision watchmakers at IWC craft beautiful timepieces. I’ve seen multiple generations of tailors sitting side by side in Naples, Italy making Isaia suits almost entirely by hand using skills that look liked they took lifetimes to develop. I’ve seen jeans made in L.A., suits made in Brooklyn and boots made in Minnesota.

After all of this, what I came to discover were people who are amazingly similar even though they hail from vastly different places and backgrounds. To walk into Sunspel in Long Eaton, England and see people making cut and sew underwear was an equally astonishing and familiar pursuit. In American and England, I don’t think people expect factories like Sunspel’s to exist anymore. I for one don’t, even though I have been to so many similar types of places. (I should point out that my marketing company Paul + Williams does work on behalf of Sunspel. Full disclosure and all that good stuff.) It goes to show that people want the real thing, they want quality and they will pay for it. That’s how I feel and over the course of doing ACL I’ve discovered that there are many people out there that feel the same way.

To go against the changes in society and continue to make the highest quality in England was likely not an easy thing to do. It is like swimming upstream. It takes guts and resiliency. On top of that, it takes a lot of hard work and some luck too. The important thing to remember here is that it can be done — these things can still exist in a meaningful way. I admire Sunspel because of its heritage and history. I respect it because it didn’t just close down its factory in the Midlands and chase cheap labor to the bottom over seas. I love it because it is real.

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An old image of Sunspel factory sewers from the company archive.

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Fuck Yeah Made in USA

Sep 7th, 2011 | Categories: Factory Tour, Made in the USA | by Michael Williams

I feel it incumbent upon me, with all of the factory videos floating around in the world, to create the Fuck Yeah Made in USA Tumblr. A few of the most recent additions to the world of footwear factories are below in all of their 5D glory! I’m sure I am missing a bunch of stuff here, so submit your favorites in the comments below. [Fuck Yeah Made in USA]





Made in Italy | Isaia Napoli

Jun 28th, 2011 | Categories: Clothing, Factory Tour, Italy, Made in Italy 2011, Napoli | by Michael Williams

The third installment from the ACL Made in Italy tour focuses its sights on the Neopolitan tailor Isaia. Located on the outskirts of Napoli — in a small town called Casalnuovo, a place that has been the home of tailors for generations — in a factory where nearly everyone that works in production is a second or third generation tailor. Isaia itself is a family-run business; founded in 1957 by Enrico Isaia, the clothing maker is now helmed by Enrico’s grandson Gianluca Isaia, and has various other family members involved in its day-to-day operations.

The factory is an expansive two story building that is tucked away in an unmarked alley with a large gate. If I were to find the place without the assistance of Isaia’s driver, I’d venture to say it would have been impossible. More than that, if I had to drive myself through the traffic in Napoli, I don’t know if I would be alive to report about the wonderful tailoring I witnessed. But all of that just adds to the allure of Napoli and of course, the Neapolitans. I find Southern Italians to be charming and friendly with a good sense of humor. I find Napoli to be intense, exciting and renegade. Definitely unlike any other place in Italy that I have been.





Made in Italy | The Iconic Gucci Loafer

May 24th, 2011 | Categories: Factory Tour, Italy, Made in Italy 2011 | by Michael Williams

On the outskirts of Florence, in Italy’s traditional shoe-making home, sits a nondescript, boxy building that was built during the post-war Italian industrial boom of the 1950s. While the factory doesn’t look like much from the outside, once through the door it’s an altogether different story. The facility has the honorable distinction of making the Gucci loafer, one of the most iconic shoes made by one of the most prestigious and revered brands the world over.

If teleported into the building without any knowledge of the craft that held within those walls, one could reasonably think workers were turning out semiconductors or some other ultra-modern device. The neatly-organized space is bright and clean with machinery clustered sporadically along a looping line. It is the perfect marriage of technology and traditional craft with a seasoned group of shoemakers, sewers and cutters all under one roof. The nexus of old and new world is best exemplified in the attire of the tradespeople themselves; each worker wears a white lab coat with a beautifully tanned leather apron in a charming way that only Italians can pull off. The craftsmen attach the leather loafers to the last by hand with a nail and hammer while sitting on a little wooden stool at a well worn and purpose built work bench. Even the tools have their own Gucci embossed leather kit to keep all necessary instruments organized and at hand. Looking around, I had a vision of what it would have been like for an Italian 1950s me driving my Cinquecento to the factory, grabbing my apron and going to work as a skilled (and humble) craftsman. If Daniel Day Lewis can do it, why not me?





ACL Field Trip | The IWC Watch Factory

Feb 10th, 2011 | Categories: Factory Tour, Watches | by Michael Williams

After the SIHH watch fair, we took the train from Geneva to the German speaking side of Switzerland to visit the offices and factory of watchmaker IWC. Located about an hour outside of Zurich, the town of Schaffhausen is a small enclave on the Rhine river that has become famous for high end watch manufacturing. The IWC headquarters look almost exactly as you would expect. The older part of the building was at one point merged with a perfectly modern, clean and stylish building expansion. The resulting structure is classic and modern all together in one piece. The interiors of the office are outfitted almost exclusively with USM Modular furniture, which made me feel like I was in a Star Destroyer, or at least a Nebulon-B frigate. What I’m trying to say is the place is pretty space aged and cool.