Why We Make Our Shoes in Peru
I recently drove south on I-95 in Virginia passing historic American sites on the road it made me think about how this country began hundreds of years ago. At that time, most things were made locally. It was incredibly expensive to import items from across the seas and if you wanted a pair of shoes for example, you would visit your local shoe cobbler and he would make you a pair. In the late 1800's the Industrial revolution began to change things, our world became smaller and trade across cities and towns increased. A town could become well known for producing a certain product and that product could be transported across rivers to markets and stores.
The world became even smaller in the 20th century. We built highways for trucks to crisscross, and ships and planes made trading with other countries possible too. In the 1960's for example, 98% of the shoes sold in the USA were made in the USA. Today, that number is less than 10% and the type of shoes made in the USA are increasingly specialized.
It is a fact that technology, including the internet has made it easier to work internationally. Technology is also employed by shoemakers to make it more efficient, but to a large extent to make really good shoes, they need to be handmade.
When we sought out to form a shoe brand, even before we came up with the name Fortress of Inca we considered our various options. We considered working in China, India or Vietnam because the prices from factories there were just too good to ignore. It didn't feel right though. First of all, we were starting a new brand, and so that meant we would have a lot of pressure to get big orders because most of the reputable factories in Asia require large minimums for each style of shoe. We didn't want that kind of pressure and we also didn't feel like we could monitor the factories we were working with in Asia. Human rights, fair wages and worker conditions are important to us.
Call us crazy, but we think that it is worth paying a little extra to get something that is made the right way, by people who are being treated fairly! So we decided to work in Peru. We are three American business partners working and living in the United States, but without any reasonable options in the USA, we had to consider foreign production for our shoes. We wanted our shoes to cost around $150 to $300 a pair. We felt that this is what is reasonable for shoes to cost and in order to do this in Italy, we would have to lose money. So we opted for Peru.
Peru and the USA have a free trade agreement, and additionally share time zones and the Pacific Ocean, so there were additional advantages as well. Peru is well known for producing high-end, high-quality apparel products such as alpaca sweaters, wool knits and Pima cotton t-shirts to name just a few. But there are very few people that knew that Peru had a burgeoning shoe industry.
After all there is amazing quality leather in Peru and an established national shoe industry, but in terms of exports, most Peruvian shoes are sold to Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina. We wanted to change that, so we set out on the adventure that we call Fortress of Inca and we have grown each season by doing what we love - making shoes the right way and paying our workers fair wages without cutting corners. We don't use cheap materials, we don't skimp on leather and we don't worry so much about how quickly the shoes can arrive in the USA. Instead we worry about our workers being treated right and we hope that the rest well fall into place.
Our country has come a long way since colonial times when you could get a pair of shoes made in your respective town or settlement. Today, we live in an inter-connected world. We are proud of the fact that we established an American shoe company and are proud that we chose to manufacture our shoes, boots and leather accessories in a country where high-quality is appreciated and worker's rights are respected. We realize that our customers can buy shoes made in China and probably have done so in the past, but we want our customers to know that their shoes were made the right way and we hope that adds extra pride to every footstep you take in a pair of your Fortress of Inca shoes!