A flexible approach to footwear15 August 2003
Lottusse 1877 produce some of the best quality shoes in the world and they are the leading Spanish brand when it comes to traditional Goodyear welted shoes. Each pair is hand crafted using many shoe making techniques which date back to the mid-nineteenth century. The other major producer on the island, Camper, have transferred much of their production off the island and now use Inca as an administration centre and company headquarters. Lottusse have continued to manufacture on the island despite inherent difficulties of labour and geography. They continue to be a significant employer in the area. The Lottusse factory is full of the sights, sounds and smells of a 'proper' shoe factory. The air is thick with the aroma of chrome tanned side leather and vegetable tanned sole bends mixed with the sweet adhesive fumes and machinery lubricants. Mechanisation has taken place in some elements of manufacture such as pattern cutting and sewing yet many of the operations are still carried out by hand. The result is a pair of shoes that you feel has been crafted by hand as opposed to manufactured by machine. However, it would be silly to be fooled by the traditional sight as Lottusse also produce two collections a year for men and women incorporating some of the most fashionable and stylish footwear designs. With strong competition from Italy, France, Germany, Spain and other famous Goodyear welted producers such as Church Shoes from the UK, the concentration on quality and brand marketing is important. Fashion and tradition The grandson of the company's founder, who shares the same family name, now runs the factory in Inca. Antonio Fluxá, the current managing director, is the third generation of the family to control the business. 'Our company philosophy is to remain as a high-end manufacturer of traditional and modern leather footwear. To maintain this position we need to have good suppliers and good quality leather is very important for us', he told Leather International. The factory has two lines. One for the traditional Goodyear welted footwear and another for the more modern gluing and stitching techniques. Both lines produce famous men's styles such as brogue, Oxford, loafer or deck shoes. Other plants also produce modern sandals, trainers, mules and sling backs for men and women. All Lottusse shoes are manufactured using leather with some models also incorporating textiles. The Lottusse group make between 350,000-400,000 pairs of men's and women's shoes each year. Leather from Spain 'We source most of our leather from tanners in Spain', says Fluxá. 'For upper leather we buy grade one material and each piece is inspected when it arrives at the factory. The colour and the finish of the leather will have already been decided between our designers and the tanner as each collection is in the design stage.' Lottusse work closely with the tanner and ask for specific styles, colours or effects created by their own design team. They use a number of leading leather manufacturers in the country including Indasa, Fontanella, Incusa, Maximo Mor, Curtidos Codina, Curtidos Jomar, Inpelsa, Rodrigo Sancho and several others. They specify, where possible, bovine hides of 13-16 sq ft with a European origin for uppers. They also use calfskin, goat and sheepskin leathers in their production. 'Although we source much of our leather from Spain we have found that we have to buy some materials from Italy. Often the Italian tanners offer different innovations that we cannot find in Spain', says Fluxá. He also added that, in general, Italian made leather was more expensive than that produced in Spain. Typically, they source a fifth of their leather from Italy. Much of the lower grade lining leather is produced in India but Lottusse are looking for reasonably priced suppliers closer to their factory as the lead times from India can slow down shoe production if demand is high. They use all types of leather including full and semi aniline, pull-up, pigmented, waxy and oily finishes, corrected leather, suede and nubuck. Much of the men's collection is in shades of brown and black. However, some men's and the women's lines feature a range of colours. Approximately 60% of production are for men's shoes. From the two production lines around 45% is manufactured into Goodyear welted footwear. It takes Lottusse approximately 3-4 days to produce a single pair of Goodyear welted shoes. Goodyear Flex system Traditional leather soles are still highly demanded by consumers, especially in Europe. In many instances rubber soles have replaced leather as they offer the wearer greater flexibility. Lottusse have perfected the Goodyear flex soling system, which provides a traditional sole with greater bend and flexibility. Lottusse source much of their sole leather from tanners located in the town of Igualada close to Barcelona. Each sole is hand cut from a template and soaked in an oily solution for one week. They are stored in a dry and cool area within the factory, away from natural light, to be allowed to dry. The drying process takes several weeks. After drying, the soles are fixed to the shoe upper and the sole is then able to bend almost double on itself without being damaged. The process is both time consuming and adds cost but Antonio Fluxá believes that it offers Lottusse customers a higher degree of comfort that would not be afforded with straight vegetable leather soles. The Lottusse brand The company brand is best known through their own chain of outlets located throughout Spain and in selected parts of Europe. In total they have 17 stores in Spain plus Lottusse branded shops in Frankfurt and Cologne in Germany. In addition to the network of shops Lottusse also supply a number of high quality footwear retailers and department stores across Spain and the rest of Europe. Half of the production is sold directly into the domestic market and they also have major markets in Germany, France, Italy and Portugal. Lottusse were founded in 1877 by the grandfather of the current managing director, also called Antonio Fluxá. Last year the company celebrated their 125th anniversary of making high quality handmade footwear. There are 120 employed at the factory in Inca and they produce approximately 400 finished pairs a day. In total the group have three factories with the main headquarters and a secondary factory for women's shoes, located in Inca. Lottusse branded garments and leathergoods are mostly produced in a factory close to Barcelona with a leather belting line also located at the headquarters in Inca. Additional footwear production is located at factory sites in Portugal.