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Revisiting The Carlos Santos Factory In 2023

Carlos Santos Handcrafted for The Noble ShoeIt’s Good To Be Back

Revisiting the Carlos Santos Factory was something I wanted to do for a long time.

Since my first visit in 2020 a lot has changed and I wanted to walk you through with a new perspective.

Join me in this short, informative article about last week’s trip.

Almost 4 Years Later

The Noble Shoe Meets Ana and Carlos Santos - Carlos Santos Factory Visit 2020Back in January 2020 I visited Carlos Santos in person for the first time.

It was just a couple of months before Covid hit the deck and confined us to a miserable 2 years.

Before that though, everything was still open and accessible.

It was also an extremely important time for me as I just decided to go full time on my business.

Just 3 weeks ago I had quit my side-job at Suitsupply to focus completely on The Noble Shoe.

What better way to celebrate than to finally go and meet the people that changed my life.

I ended up going to the factory and spending a wonderful day, learning for the first time how a big shoe company operates.

Fast forward almost 4 years later and here I am, revisiting the Carlos Santos Factory with a successful business and a lot of plans.

Most importantly, I now have the bespoke shoe education to see the production in a different way and understanding.

I hope it shines through.

Tip: You can read the original Factory visit here.

All The Same Internally

Factory Picture - Revisiting the Carlos Santos Factory
Revisiting the Carlos Santos Factory

Not much (if anything changed) when it comes to the layout and the experience itself.

There are still machines that are decades old (but of course refurbishes) mixed with modern, state of the art machinery.

I remembered and knew exactly where things were and I enjoyed that sense of familiarity.

We went there as a team with my investing partners so it was an exciting time for them to have a tour.

It is interesting to see that other people have a new perspective of me and my knowledge at this stage.

They even asked me to essentially do the tour for my colleagues which I relished.

Oftentimes I feel that the passion for shoes is no longer there, but it sparks into life when I am in my element.

It’s a lovely experience to be able to look at a step in production or process and know exactly why or how.

Of course, I cannot show you everything since some are confidential machines and private labels.

Cutting & Assembling

Leather cuttingOne of the first things that happen is the inspection of each leather piece.

Animals live an actual life and just as humans, develop skin conditions, get scratches and markings and of course have veins.

With Hermes owning the best tanning facilities in France and reserving 80% of the best leather, what remains is very different.

You cannot (well, you shouldn’t) make quality shoes from the parts with veins as often clients will consider this a defect.

A lot of the leather ends up wasted and thrown away after removing and cutting the good pieces.

Pattern Leather
Pieces that will join together to form uppers

In the Carlos Santos Factory the pattern is projected by laser on the hide and then pressed to cut pieces perfectly.

These pieces undergo a process called skiving in certain areas that interconnect since two pieces are too thick to join together seamlessly otherwise.

Uppers and Lining

With glue and reinforcement on more delicate areas, the stitching begins to close and create what we call the uppers.

A similar piece is also made from softer material to create the lining and then join them together.

Shoe Uppers
Shoe Uppers in Waxy Roughout

Now it’s time to begin making the shoes.

Making The Shoes

The process in most Goodyear Welted Shoe Factories will be the same.

It follows a logical flow in usually an oval or round shape and begins with the shoes receiving form and lasting.

HoldfastBefore that an insole is attached on the bottom and in Goodyear Welted construction they add a canvas rib that functions like the holdfast.

Lasting is a crucial part of shoemaking as it stretches the leather onto the form and prevents air and eliminates certain risks.

You can spot the canvas rib on the lasted shoe

Doing it by hand is challenging, but thankfully machines can now press it in a matter of seconds.

As you see above humans still have to do work and need experience to operate the machines.

Shoe productionIt also still requires doing things by hand, even if that is securing the uppers with nails (or staples) initially.

Welting & Filling

The next main part will be to attach the welt, which is the leather piece which interconnects the uppers and the outsole.

Welt, Stiffener, Lining, Toe Puff
The welt is the leather strip at the bottom

That little thing is what makes this construction robust and transforms the shoe into a resoleable marvel.

Once that is in place, you can proceed with adding the shank and the filler material.

Carlos Santos Wooden ShankThe shank is a very important component that sits in the waist of the shoe all the way to the back.

It reinforces the parts of the shoe that receive a lot of tension.

The remaining is a filler of cork and hot glue (there are varieties) that spreads like a paste.

Cork FillerEventually, it settles and molds to your feet which can be a reason why second hand shoes might feel off to someone.

Of course, there are steps in between and minor adjustments such as trimming but not important to describe in detail.

Outsole & Finishing

At this stage, you can add the outsole and create the heel block.

There can be differences since you could do a hidden stitch channel which requires peeling off a layer of the outsole.

The regular ones just have a channel groove and stitching usually all the way to the heel start.

Heel blocks can be stacked or pre-built but for me the only real difference is when you need to repair something.

Edge DressingWhen it comes to finishing it’s also quite simple by doing the edge dressing and bottom.

After that, you can remove the protecting covering and finish the shoes with polish or dye if you are doing patina work.

Saphir ProductsThere you go, you have a wonderful new shoe ready to wear.

It sounds simple, but it is an elaborate process that needs experience and love.

A Place I Could Work

I love factory visits and it’s genuinely a place I could see myself working in some capacity.

The Carlos Santos Factory is newly built and very proficient and organized.

I would say much more compared to some others I checked in Spain for example.

I wish I could show you more pictures of the machinery and operation, but for privacy we could not.

Due to the nature of a workshop it’s also hard to do proper photography as the light conditions are not optimal.

Revisiting the Carlos Santos Factory in 2023 reminded me why I loved it the first time and why it was worth starting this business.

I hope you enjoyed this short article of me rambling about shoes and shoemaking.

Remember you can always get the best, most exclusive Carlos Santos Shoes only at The Noble Shoe.

Until next week my friends!

Thank you for reading,

Kostas Mandilaris,
Misiu Academy

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