April 20, 2023
Breaking the “Made in China” Stigma
Our Founder and Chief Warrior Stacey shares a behind-the-scenes visit to our factory and supply team in China. From running the production to running 10K!
Last month, I traveled to China to visit our factory and meet with our suppliers for the first time since the pandemic started. Prior to COVID-19, I would spend about 100 days each year working alongside our manufacturers on the factory floor. Despite not being able to have in-person meetings for the past three years, our solid foundation and trust allowed us to maintain our high-quality standards and even develop new products. Currently, 85% of our products are manufactured in China, with the remaining 15% made in Taiwan. Moreover, we source roughly 90% of our raw materials from China. Therefore, it was vital to visit our partners in person to strengthen our relationships and continue to search for sustainable innovations.
My primary purpose for this trip was to oversee the production of our new Dian Block Heel collection, which features bamboo leather. When it comes to testing new and groundbreaking materials, I'm deeply grateful for the patience, assistance, and investment in time (and talent!) from our shoe factory. Whenever we introduce a new material, it means that we must start the testing process from scratch all over again - this includes testing glues, patterns, backing, stitching, production temperature, and more. Developing a pair of shoes requires an immense amount of time and effort, regardless of whether we end up producing 10 pairs or 10,000 pairs. Nonetheless, it's crucial for VEERAH to continually strive for improvement and create the most sustainable shoes possible without compromising on quality and aesthetics, and we cannot do it without our factory’s support!
Attention to detail is key - every stitch and every sole is inspected before shipment.
Every pair was carefully inspected before shipping out.
Bamboo is a highly sustainable and regenerative plant that requires little water and no pesticides to grow. It also has high CO2 absorption, making it an environmentally-friendly choice for material sourcing. This plant-based material is made up of 66% bamboo and 34% PU, reducing the use of cotton and petroleum-based materials commonly found in traditional synthetic leather. Unlike traditional leather production, its process contains no heavy metals or harmful chemicals, making it gentle on the skin and non-irritating. Although bamboo has been mainly used in casual footwear and apparel, it's exciting to see it finally being applied to dressier shoes. Some may wonder why we don't use 100% bamboo or make our products biodegradable. In reality, we've explored and tested many different approaches and materials, but we can't merely adopt a material because it checks off all the sustainability boxes. For example, after launching the world's first collection made from apple leather in 2017, we spent months collaborating with suppliers from Italy to enhance the material's softness and texture. We had planned to launch a bridal collection made from apple leather, but during production, we discovered a material flaw and had to discard the entire production run, apologize to our customers who had pre-ordered the shoes, refund their money, and scrap our marketing plan. We're staunchly committed to creating the most sustainable shoes possible, but they must also be durable, comfortable, and stylish. Otherwise, they won't be worn and will only contribute to more waste and are ultimately worse for the environment. Nevertheless, I'm optimistic about recent developments and see even more promising developments in this field on the horizon. More to come later!
During this visit, I was impressed by our shoe factory’s growth and expansion. Just three years ago, it was a small workshop with only a handful of workers, but now it boasts a workforce of over 20 people. Some people may have negative perceptions about shoes made in China, assuming that they are produced using cheap labor and materials, and under poor working conditions. However, having seen the factory and the treatment of workers with my own eyes, I can attest to the fact that this is not the case. We have recently worked together to develop a code of conduct, and I have discussed with the factory owner, Kevin, the possibility of getting his factory certified by third parties. Despite the fact that it would be a significant cost for a factory of its size, he believes that the money would be better spent investing in the factory and his team rather than paying for a stamp of approval. He is continually searching for ways to enhance the facility and potentially upgrade to a better location. However, he is aware that the certification would be unavoidable when he eventually expands to a certain size.
Although the government has set the legal minimum wage at around $250 per month, the factory we work with pays its employees a minimum of $580 per month, exceeding the minimum wage by 130%. After talking to both the factory and its workers, I'm confident that this wage is a fair living wage. Additionally, I was happy to observe that the factory was empty by 6 pm. It was apparent that the workers had put in overtime the previous day to meet a deadline, but it's crucial for their well-being not to have to work overtime for two consecutive days.
Teamwork makes the dream work! Here’s the amazing factory team who made your shoes! We couldn’t have it done without each and every one of them.
Going for a run with Kevin and a few team members in Qifeng Park in the heart of Dongguan City was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. We completed a 10K loop, and Kevin shared with me that there's a friendly competition among workers to see who takes the most steps each day. He's even working on a program to encourage more exercise and provide incentives for different activities. I was inspired by his efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle among his employees, and I committed to contributing to the winning prize for the workout competition. We also planned to invite more workers from the factory to join us for a run on my next visit, which I'm very much looking forward to.
The team is taking a break in the beautiful Qifeng Park in the heart of Dongguan City.
Kevin is enthusiastically sharing the point system for the factory’s exercise competition.
Kevin (the factory owner) and I are ready for our 10K challenge! I can’t decide if Kevin loves or hates me more after the run lol.
Furthermore, I had the opportunity to visit both our new and existing suppliers during my trip. Visiting our long-term supplier who made the Hedy Ankle Boot glitter upper from 100% recycled materials and lining from Tencel cellulose fiber was a highlight. Their new office was vibrant and lively. Seeing all the possibilities of recycled and plant-based materials, made me feel like a kid in a candy store. I especially loved the faux fur made from 100% polyester. We welcome any messages from those interested in getting their feet in some furry shoes for the winter season :-)
Feeling like a kid in a candy store while seeing all the possibilities of recycled and plant-based materials.
I was also impressed by the innovative developments from new suppliers. It’s both exciting and encouraging to see new materials being used, including mango, beer distiller’s grains, pineapple, and more. My personal favorite is the coffee with cork material, which has a pleasant aroma. Sorry, Kevin, I will have to bring some for you to test out!
During one of the visits to a new supplier, I unexpectedly ran into Momo, a girl who had worked as a production assistant when we launched VEERAH seven years ago. This trip not only proved productive but also felt like a wonderful reunion. As the borders are finally open, I look forward to visiting our factory and suppliers in China at least once a quarter to ensure we can continue growing together and keep up our commitment to our customers as well as stakeholders of people and the planet.
Being Taiwanese, I'm often asked about the ongoing tensions between China and Taiwan. But after years of traveling back and forth, and working closely with our partners, I've met some of the most caring and hardworking people on both sides. We share a commitment to excellence, family values, healthy well-being, and a desire for peace. I truly hope that our shared aspirations will continue to bring us together, rather than divide us.
This coffee-cork material has the most amazing and refreshing aroma. I need to figure out how to use it in our shoes!
Hello Momo! My dear old friend who worked by my side to launch VEERAH over 7 years ago. Such a wonderful surprise to run into her!
The VEERAH team spends a tremendous amount of time on the factory grounds to directly manage product quality, working conditions, and relationships with the workers. Want to see and learn more? Check out unfiltered #BTS footage in our IG highlights to meet our manufacturing team.