I am currently still on “vacation” in Hong Kong. Vacation being in quotation marks because I’m actually interning at a company—which requires me to jump around between our Hong Kong office and our office in China.
The place where I work is a manufacturer of gloves for many companies. Some brands include Wal-mart, Nike, Volcom, Lululemon, Target, J. Crew, The North Face—just to name a few. I was very surprised because I didn’t know that they had such a huge portfolio, but I’ve been told that many other glove manufacturers have folded, causing more and more business to be brought to the place where I work.
Anyway, the other day, I got to visit a place in Dongguan that makes molds for shoe companies. I can’t say it was life changing, but it did put things in perspective.
Sure, I knew someone had to have made the soles for the sneakers we wear, but I never went as far as to think about the people who make the molds for the rubber to be poured in. It seemed silly that all this time, I thought soles just magically happened.
Inside the factory, they had designers who were all in an office space, designing 3D molds for shoes. Then in the production area, we observed molds being made in simple ways (by hand or closely watched by a technician as a machine did its work), as well as really high tech ways (where a metal plate was set in a huge sealed machine, and the design was carved into the plate automatically). A lot of water was used to cool down the metal, as well as clean the area of the metal that they were working on. There were also people in an area of the factory that inspected the molds, and people making small changes to molds by hand.
When we walked outside to get back on our car to leave, we caught a glimpse of the river that ran through that part of the city. It was jet black. We suspect that it probably had to do with the mold making company—but curiously, there was still a lot of plant growth everywhere. I’m still not sure what that black stuff in the water was.
So no, soles don’t just magically happen.