Our customers often ask about the production of our footwear, primarily wondering why we chose to make our collection in China. Historically, Goodyear-welt footwear is more commonly made in Western countries but our story is quite unique and we are happy to share how it all began in Xiamen.
The GYW market is a niche category notable for its commitment to craftsmanship. The time-consuming construction requires hand-work and specialized materials.
Most factories making GYW footwear look the same as they did decades ago. You cannot easily mass-produce quality Goodyear-welt shoes. Brands who attempt to excessively scale capacity end up fighting tooth and nail to maintain consistency in quality and, in some cases, move away from the category altogether to pursue a business model based on volume and lower costs.
When an up-and-coming brand lays out its road map nowadays, the country of origin is not typically the first step. Instead, they identify the product vision and technical specifications, from design to materials to construction techniques. The maker or factory is then sourced accordingly, based on costs and capabilities. In other words, regardless of where the product is made, the brand has already set the product’s quality standards, before the make process begins. (Read more about our approach here.)
Our story started differently for a simple reason. We had a standing relationship with a factory in Xiamen, China whose team had decades of experience making Goodyear-welt shoes. This team made the very first Grant Stone samples and they continue to help develop our current collection. Without these makers, Grant Stone wouldn’t exist. Our director and co-founder Wyatt spent eight years in this factory, learning the craft and Chinese culture en route to creating Grant Stone in 2016. His father Randy, has worked alongside this team in Xiamen for nearly 20 years.
We were also already working with premier leather and components suppliers from around the world, so we had the tools and the team to create better-grade footwear. Together, we identified the opportunity to deliver a high-value product directly to consumers and that’s where Grant Stone began.
Quality, Consistency, Value
Making the best product we are capable of sounds like an obvious direction for a business, but customers nowadays also care about the transparency of the business, which brings us back to the original query – why would a customer buy a Goodyear-welted shoe made in China?
Our answer is mundane but we believe it, and our customers echo this resolve: Quality comes first. If you want a Goodyear-welt shoe made using the basic fundamentals, including proper fitting lasts and correct components such as a leather insole and cork filler, the options are already limited. Throw in specific leathers in an array of sizes and widths and you have a uniquely complex product.
Components must be sourced worldwide based on the top suppliers’ expertise, whether thick vegetable-tanned hides from San Miniato, Italy, or oil-dipped leather outsoles from Pennsylvania, USA. These better-grade suppliers that make components like our leather welts in Massachusetts are few and far between. In today's world, you're more likely to run into a Rolex dealer than a Goodyear-welt shoe store. It is a dying art.
So today, we still work alongside our original team in Xiamen daily to develop new products and grow together. Using materials such as shell cordovan has been a fun learning process for everyone and a subtle reminder of why we began this journey. We make our products in China because that’s where we have our strongest connections to quality-driven production.
We have found quality cannot be judged by a single aspect such as country of origin, but instead derives from a collection of efforts starting with a principled mindset and commitment to nailing the fundamentals.