Very Special Footwear

Behind our Brand

“Finding Australian-made shoes in Australia is so difficult, it’s become part of local fashion lore.” – The Guardian, 2015.

Shoe making is incredibly complicated and time consuming, requiring a lot of patience, skill and care. In fact, it takes nearly a whole day for our team to make a single pair of Kuwaii shoes.

Each pair of Kuwaii shoes are handmade in Melbourne, in one of Australia’s last remaining footwear factories. The factory is run by our makers Breeze and Myra, expert artisans who make each shoe with an incredible level of skill and passion. We are particularly proud to support these talented women who are working in an industry that is traditionally dominated by men. Our makers also have a background in producing comfort footwear, which means that Kuwaii shoes are not only beautiful, but are incredibly well made, supportive and comfortable.

Each season, we spend time finding special, premium materials for our footwear. We source at least 50 percent of our leather from production surpluses – that is, leftover materials from larger companies which would otherwise have gone to waste. Because of this, many of our styles and colours are made in highly limited runs.

Like all Kuwaii items, our shoes are made to last. They are designed to be timeless and classic – a real investment for your wardrobe, as hard wearing as they are beautiful. Our leather uppers are stitched by expert leather workers in Melbourne, while our soles are made in South Australia from high-quality, durable materials.

Every component of Kuwaii shoes can be repaired and replaced, which means that they really do stand the test of time. We are extremely proud of the quality of our footwear, and offer a six month warranty from date of purchase for any manufacturing faults that may occur.

How your shoes are made

Kuwaii footwear is handmade by our gifted makers, with an incredible level of skill and attention to detail. The art of shoemaking is pretty special, and we know our customers appreciate the love and care that goes into every pair.

 

1. Making the sole:
Each Kuwaii shoe features a detailed sole, which requires an individual hand-made process all of its own! The soles can be made of resin, leather or EVA (a hardwearing platform material). A single sole can contain up to seven components: rand, sole, heel, top piece, layers of platform, and gum. This process is time-consuming and extremely detailed. We are very lucky to have a team of specialist sole makers who make sure every Kuwaii sole is well-balanced, comfortable and hardwearing for our customers. The many components of the sole means that they are easily replaceable, so we recommend regular maintenance to make sure your Kuwaii shoes enjoy a long life.

2. Cutting the pattern:
Pattern cutting involves creating the shape of each component of the shoe, to ensure the perfect fit and comfort for the wearer. Every Kuwaii shoe has a unique pattern, which can include up to 16 individual pieces of pattern to make one pair! The pieces of pattern eventually become metal knives, which are used to cut the leather pieces ready to be sewn up into the upper of the shoe.

3. Making the knives and cutting the leather:
Once the pattern pieces have been rigorously checked for correct fit, we send them away to be made into metal knives. All the components of the shoe (upper, lining, sock, insole and all the sole components) have their own special knives: one for each size, and one for the left and right of the foot. These knives are used to cut the leather out with a special die press called a clicking press. All the knives are laid out on a hide of leather, and cut piece by piece, size by size, and shoe by shoe.

 

4. Skiving
Our makers use a special skiving machine to trim the edges on each piece of leather, which creates a bevelled edge on the underside. There are different skiving knives for each type of leather seam. This means that the edges are thinner than the rest of the piece, so when the pieces are stitched together they form a beautifully neat join. Crisp, neat seams not only provides the high quality finish you’d expect from hand crafted shoes, but also give a more comfortable fit.

5. Stitching
The different pieces of leather are then carefully sewn together by our specialist leather machinists. We have a whole separate team who specialise in sewing our leather uppers! Once the uppers have been stitched and the soles prepared by our specialist makers, the assembly of the actual shoe begins:

6. Lasting the shoe
After stitching, the leather upper is stretched over the last* – a process that requires heat and force. Kuwaii shoes are lasted either by hand, or using a series of machines: a back part moulder, toe puff steamer, toe laster, seat and side laster. At this point, the interior reinforcements are added to the shoe such as the toe puff (which gives the toe strength and rigidity, ensuring it doesn’t collapse) and the heel counter (which gives the heel its shape, strength and ensures a good fit). The insole pieces are also attached to the upper at this time, too. The last has a spring inside it, so that the shoe can be removed once this process is complete.
** A last is a wood or plastic foot-shaped form that is used to create the shape of a shoe. It’s a template over which the leather uppers of the shoes are molded after they have been sewed, and is incredibly important because it determines the exact fit and feel of the shoe. Each shoe style and size requires it’s own unique last.

7. Preparing the insole
There are two core pieces of the sole: the shank, which is a strip or plate that provides rigidity, support and protection; and the midsole, which is the cushioning layer between the outsole and the upper. The midsole is where our PORON memory foam layer is added, which improves comfort and shock absorption. These two parts of the sole are covered by the leather insole or sock (the piece that sits against your foot) and the outsole (the piece that sits against the ground).

 

 

8. Cementing
Cementing is a sophisticated and time-consuming technique that joins the sole to the upper. Once the upper and sole components are completed, they are ‘cemented’ (glued) and left to dry overnight. The next day, the glue is then ‘re-activated’ (re-heated) and the two parts are attached to each other with a sole press machine and an activator. Once completed, our shoemakers then pull the leather upper over the last and over the insole, fixing them to create a solid unit. The outsole is then attached.

Cementing is a shoemaking technique that takes a long time, and increases the cost of our shoes. But we think it’s worth it. Shoes that are cemented last a very long time, and keep their shape over time. It also means that our shoes can be resoled, and we are very proud to have customers returning to have their Kuwaii shoes resoled years after they were purchased. With the right care, our shoes can be resoled and repaired for many years.

9.Finishing
This is the final cutting, cleaning and polishing of the shoes – a process our makers do by hand. This process can also include adding eyelets, punching holes for laces, and of course adding the shoe laces and any trims. Each shoe is then individually checked and polished using top quality polishes, before being boxed and sent straight to our stores, ready for your feet!

 

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