The Shoe Snob Blog

April 23, 2013

Written by , Posted in News

Mybuster – Gemming is Bad Part 2 (plus some shoe porn!)

Anthony Delos

So, as many of you man have seen yesterday, I wrote an article about this notion that gemming in the RTW footwear industry is not something that is to really be frowned upon in the modern day.  With that I received a comment from a reader that I wish to share and respond to so that you can all see my response and think about it:

“I was under the impression that Vass sells his cheapest handsewn RTW shoes for 390€ (http://www.vass-cipo.hu/Arlista/VassCipoArlistaEng.pdf). So, with all due respect, maybe there is a way to produce decent shoes and sell them with decent prices”
Statements like this just bother me (the train of thought in general, not because I am angry with the poster), as it not only shows that my post was not really read word for word, but even more so that even though the statement appears to be genuine (and not undermining), I still feel that common sense was not entirely used when making it. If it had been, then it would have been clear that certain makers can charge certain prices but others can’t, and let me explain why. 
Bestetti
First let me show how this statement could then be taken one step further and say that shoes in China can be made completely by hand (assuming good leathers used) and retail for probably 1/3-1/2 of what Vass sells for. So by this rationale of trying to tell me that if Vass does it for such and such price, which makes it therefore possible (which I already know) to make non-gemmed shoes then even better is the fact that it can be done even cheaper. So why are there any expensive shoes in this world when some makers can do it for dirt prices? Well, as one should know wages are not the same in all countries around the world, not even close!!! Why do you think that you can go to Thailand and have a feast for 4 people for £20 but then barely get a meal for one at a mediocre restaurant in London???? Come on people, turn your brains on. Quit being brainwashed to think that just because someone has created a business model that allows them to make a cheaper shoe (OBVIOUSLY BECAUSE THEY HAVE FOUND CHEAPER LABOR), that the rest of shoe industry should be that way too. It’s just stupid and it makes me frustrated as I believe that many of these people who have these inflated expectations would gawk at the idea of being paid less than £10/hr but then happily expect their shoes to be of the utmost quality but for less than £250.
Bespoke Japanese maker – don’t know name, courtesy of Style Forum
So, to go back to that idea of VASS charging €390 for a handmade product means that his workers are being paid dirt cheap money. Let’s break it down. So to make a successful business one must at least double his money. Assuming that sales tax is built into the price (which I presume it is), that means that VASS net income from a shoe sale is €312 (as Hungarian VAT is 25%). Okay, now let’s assume the cost to make the shoe is half of that, being €156. Now let’s assume that out of that, the materials (as VASS uses high quality leather) costs around €56, leaving the cost of “making” to €100. Now just to give you an idea, the average time it takes to make a shoe (that is the one who takes the upper and the last and attaches them together, not to mention the cutting, clicking and closing, which are usually done by several others) takes between 20-40 hrs depending on the skills of the makers. So assuming 40 hrs, that means the makers is making €2.5/hr, or if he is really fast, then he is making €5/hr (which is still double to triple the minimum wage of Hungary….). Now that is still assuming that they are just paying for his work and not the others….So, as you can see, if you are making handmade shoes, and charging those prices, you need workers who will work for very cheap labor. This is not a jab, but simply a fact. And that is not going to happen in the UK nor the US, where these makers who are using “Gemming” are in question.
JM Weston
So please people, think about what you say before you say it and thus try to make a point. There are certain makers who can get away with not gemming their shoes and make them handmade because their labor costs are miniscule. You can not expect the entire world to be like that, and thus start complaining that other makers, who do use methods that allow for your shoes to be the price that they are, are thus overcharging you. Get your expectations in order or stop buying anything BUT handmade shoes!!!

And just in case this is not clear, this post is not a jab at VASS nor his practices in any which way or form. I have nothing but respect for VASS (the man) as well as his shoes. He just happened to get used by the poster. Luckily for him, however, he is able to make shoes at the price that he does, but this is not the same all around the world and comparing shoes from one country with minimum wage of €1.3 to another that is €7.5 is comparing apples and oranges when one can be made by hand at the same price that the other is made by machine…..which is what this is all about!