July 14, 2021
By Nelli Kim
Happy July, and hope you are all enjoying the summer with your loved ones! This update is going to be all about outsoles and the Butterfly Effect.
As I shared in my last update, India has been battling the pandemic and slowly reopening. Our shoe factory is at about 80% capacity as their workers gradually return from their villages. I have a renewed appreciation for the complexity of shoe making and our factory partners. Shoe making is a lot like building a home, where the Factory = General Contractor and Component Suppliers (i.e., leather, insoles, outsoles, last makers, size graders, etc.) = Subcontractors. Although our factory was fully shut down for about a month, many of the component suppliers did not reopen as quickly, and as a result we are experiencing bottlenecks in production as we await components from suppliers to complete our production process.
What are outsoles, and what the heck do they have to do with the Butterfly Effect? There are three main components of every shoe: the upper, the insole and the outsole. The outsole is the bottom of the shoe, and is typically made of rubber, plastic (ex: EVA ethylene vinyl acetate), or leather.
There are pros and cons to each material depending on what you want your shoe to do and look like. At RĒDEN we opted for a rubber outsole for maximum cushion, durability, traction and most importantly comfort! [EVA is another great option for cushioned lightweight outsoles, but it tends to not be as durable and can have a “puffy” look that is more suited to a sneaker aesthetic in my opinion. Leather is what you generally find on the bottom of designer dressy shoes, but it has zero cushion or traction and basically starts to deteriorate the minute you wear it.]
Anyway, back to rubber…when you make a rubber outsole, it requires a metal mold to be opened in the exact shape / size you want for your shoe. This is a multi-step process that includes 2D drawings, making 3D models to check the shape and proportions, and then finally opening the molds. Though more expensive than aluminum molds, we chose to use steel molds because they result in the best outsole quality (sharpest lines and refined finishes) and are more durable. Our outsole supplier is based in India, but their outsole mold supplier is in China where the majority of steel mold manufacturing happens.
Flashback to April right after we collected all our Backers’ shoe sizes for production. By mid-April, India was starting to shut down due to the pandemic and did not really reopen until mid-June. So we basically started working on our outsoles in June. Outsole molds have finally been opened in China, after which they will be sent to our outsole supplier in India for production. Our shoe factory cannot finalize our shoe lasts or start producing shoes until the outsole molds are complete just in case there are minute changes to the shape. Shoe lasts and outsoles are like puzzle pieces and must fit together exactly down to the millimeter.
The good news is that we are making progress slowly but surely! The not as fun news is that we will not be shipping shoes in September. Hoping for late October, but we will keep you posted as so much hinges on our outsoles. Remember what I said about the Butterfly Effect? One small change can have a material impact down the line.
Ultimately, I hope that what we are doing at RĒDEN has a Butterfly Effect for positive change. Butterflies are symbols of transformation and hope, and in some cultures, they are symbols of rebirth and resurrection. My greatest hope is that the humble “butterfly wing flap” of selling a pair of RĒDEN shoes will have a significant positive impact someday.
Until our next update, I’ll leave you with this video showing you a sneak peek of our sustainable packaging prototypes. We are thrilled!!
Thank you so much for your support as always.
P.S. It's not too late to pre-order shoes!