Making Soul Shoes, Part 1: Raw Materials.

Ever wondered how your Soul Shoes are made? Where does the hide come from? How are they put together? In this series we're going to take you through the process from beginning to end starting with this first part; the raw materials. 

Leather, leather, leather!

We love leather and think it's a fantastic raw material that is comfortable, durable, versatile, wears beautifully, is classic, stylish, the list goes on. It's also a by-product of the meat industry, so we think if we can take that by-product and treat it with respect and make something awesome that doesn't fall apart and is made by local artisans, we're doing a little something good for the world. 

Where our hides come from...

NZ Leather: We source our New Zealand leather from Tasman Tanning in Wanganui. 

Tasman Tanning began as a family business in 1953 and has grown to 280 staff producing high quality leathers for leading manufacturers around the world. Their tannery is situated in the North Island of New Zealand, in the city of Wanganui where the Wanganui river flows out into the Tasman Sea.

New Zealand’s hides have a reputation for reliable high quality with few blemishes, markings or other inconsistencies. The cattle are strong and healthy. It’s no wonder when you look at the beautiful natural environment they grow up in. Some would say it’s the best in the world!

Tasman tanning states on their website that they respect outstanding NZ hides,

               'by endeavouring to minimise our impact on the environment through our choice of processing. At every stage of manufacture we work to design and utilise formulations that minimise the production of waste. Water-based products are used so that we don’t emit the volatile organic compounds associated with solvents.'

We use NZ leather as much as possible, and Rob will go to the tannery and hand select hides for the workshop. We get our stock colours but we also love to find unique and unusual one-off hides to make exciting individual pieces. 

Italian Leather: Our Italian Leather is sourced from Volpi Conciere, in the leather district, Tuscany, Italy. Every hide is vegetable tanned. 

Veg tan leather became unavailable in New Zealand so we decided to go to the source and find our own. Tuscany is home to some of the most famous and prolific traditional tanneries. Once a year Rob flies to Italy and hand selects hides there too! 

Vegetable tanning is an amazing process, take a look at this video...

 Other bits and bobs...

We also need a few other materials to make our shoes. We use rubber soling and runners (the squishy bit between the soles and leather upper). As much as possible we use recycled rubber and our famous recycled conveyor belt soles. We've just found some great soling that is 99% recycled, which we're very excited about. 

We use copper and steel rivets sourced from New Zealand. We use NZ thread from Footcom, we use glue, we have essential machinery and tools (more about that in part 2!) and of course, most power! Everything is made in our workshop, by hand from start to finish by one of us! 


1 comment

  • John Jarrett

    Interesting stuff, especially about the leather dying. Great to know how my shoes are made, thanks Soul!

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