“I have too many shoes and I won’t pick a new pair for sometime”, said no shoe lover ever. Recently, when I got an opportunity to visit a shoe factory in Agra, I was overwhelmed by the sight of uncountable leather beauties around me. Although I am not a morning person, but when I was told that we will be going on a road-trip to Agra to visit a shoe factory, I just couldn’t say no to the offer.
A day-long trip from Delhi to Agra organized by mens’ shoe brand Alberto Torresi (a brand by Virola Shoes Pvt. Ltd http://albertotorresi.com ) was an experience to cherish – not because I felt like a three-year-old in a candy store, but it was a first-hand understanding of shoe construction that gave me a new insight about this niche industry.
On a good day it takes approx. two hours to reach Agra from Delhi by Yamuna Expressway, however we weren’t so lucky and it took us longer than expected to reach our destination because of traffic and other factors. As soon as we reached the Virola Shoes factory in the outskirts of Agra we were taken to a huge hall, where a fancy display of shoes instantly caught our attention. While we were sampling shoes and checking the latest trends, we were asked to head to a conference room to meet the brand head.
“So did you all know that India is the second largest footwear manufacturer in the world?” asked Ishaan Sachdeva, director, Alberto Torresi, when he met us for the brand orientation. The young scion of Virola Shoes Pvt Ltd. gave us a quick introduction about the brand and mentioned that the name ‘Alberto Torresi’ was decided over a dinner meet in Italy in the early 90s, where his father laid the foundation of the brand for European clients.
Elaborating more about the company, Ishaan added, “We are the only shoe manufactures in India, who use stress-free technology in our shoes so that our products are not only fashionable but also comfortable. We have a patent technology that we use in all the soles; it keeps the shoe light and durable. For Indian market we manufacture mens shoes between 39 and 45 sizes; for international market it goes up to size 52.”
After an elaborate discussion, we headed to shoe factory and discovered the story of how a shoe is born. We were first taken to a massive storage area where processed leather sheets in various shades and patterns were piled on wooden racks, a cold and dark store with typical pungent smell is how I would describe it. These sheets were then taken to adjoining design area where they were cut into desired shapes and sizes that are used to construct shoes. After placing all the parts on a plastic foot-shaped cast, a rough shoe base if formed by sticking and stitching the parts together. This raw shoe is then fused firmly with a ready-made sole and processed ahead.
Not only does the company manufactures these leather shoes, but the soles are also made in-house in a separate division where heavy machineries are used to make the shoe base. After all kinds of processing and testing the shoes are packaged and boxed in the factory itself, form where they are sent to retail.
At the end of the trip, I discovered a wonderful shoe story that I had to share with you all. Not only did I learn about the skillful craftsmanship, but I also realized that there are 1000s of workers, who work in hot and reeking conditions each day to craft a perfect pair that adds a special touch to our outfit. So, next time you go to a shoe shop think about the lifecycle of a shoe and value it accordingly!
(clockwise from top) A step by step representation of shoe manufacturing in Alberto Torresi factory, Agra
(clockwise from left top) The final stages of a shoe construction in a factory