Have you ever wondered what goes into making a shoe, or why good quality shoes are often expensive? At Froggie, we focus on offering a superior product that does not compromise on style or comfort. Our Froggie Factory in Durban follows a detailed and careful process to bring you leather shoes of the finest style, comfort and quality.
Froggie has two stores: one to keep leather and materials used for the shoe upper (the parts above the sole) and another to keep the bottom stock (soles, heels and insoles). Raj and Zola run these sections. Along with their dedicated teams, they order and receive all the materials needed for each factory. A strict quality control process is followed to ensure only the best quality materials are issued for the next stage.
This refers to the process where the leather and materials are cut according to shoe patterns. Anil runs this section with help of his sharp team of clickers. Every shoe, boot and sandal we produce has a different pattern, and is made up of different pieces (linings, facings, stiffeners, reinforcements for eyelets and zip-protectors). These are then sewn together – much like a clothing garment is.
If you fancy being a clicker, you need a discerning eye and hands that are as sensitive as a lie-detector! It is the clicker's responsibility to maximise the number of uppers when cutting from a skin of leather. They also need to avoid any thin or damaged areas such tick marks and scratches. They must consider the 'lines' of stretch and resistance (which naturally occur in leather) according to the style and construction of the particular shoe. To top it off, they need to colour-shade the respective parts of the shoe uppers which are cut as a pair, not only matching the colour variations, but also considering the surface finish and grain texture.
Placing sharpened-edge steel patterns on to the skin, the hydraulic machine has a swivelling cutting head with two vertical handles, each having an embedded button for thumb operation, a safety device to prevent accidents.
Bottom stock preparation
Bottom stock consists of all the parts of the shoe that go under the foot – such as the sole. Froggie has two different departments: sole preparation and insole preparation.
Sole preparation is the part that constitutes the sole which is visible to the eye and an integral part of the design of the shoe. Depending on the look, there are different types of soles we use.
- Moulded full sole: made mostly for our factory either from Polyurethane (PU) or Thermo plastic rubber (TPR) which needs to be checked and prepared to be attached to the upper.
- A moulded forepart sole: this is a sole that goes under the front of the shoe – under the ball of the foot. It is attached to a heel and is made from ABS and can either have a sprayed finish or be covered in leather or a material.
Insole preparation is the making of the solid form that supports the underpart and has to fit the contour of the foot as the heel height gets higher. There are different types of insoles depending on the sole design and height.
A closer look at the departments
This is the department that stitches all the various parts of the upper. During the sewing stage, leather pieces are stitched together. First the upper, then the lining. There are many pieces of leather that are stitched together to make footwear, and there are different processes required to strengthen, underlay and overlay, punch, decorative stitch, pleat, etc. This is the largest department in our factory – every process undertaken is done by hand, with the assistance of sewing machines, skiving machines (where the edge of the leather is thinned to ensure a neat finish), and folding (with tape to add strength), to name a few. We have a large group of table hands that trim threads, glue pieces together before stitching, and lay tape to increase strength.
After the upper has been stitched, the sole and insole are complete. The assembly puts all these parts together in size to go into the Making Department.
This is a track where the upper, insole and sole are all attached to a last (which is the solid form a shoe, sandal or boot is made around, which is made to specific design e.g. pointed, square or round toe, heel height, boot, shoe or sandal).
The processes are:
- The insole is attached to the bottom of the last*.
- Glue is added to the insole.
- The upper is pulled over the last and attach it to the insole.
- It is passed through a heat setter. When leather is pulled into a shape and heated it will retain the shape when cooled.
- Underside of the insole is roughened to get a smooth surface in preparation for the sole.
- The sole is glued, placed and attached with extreme pressure.
- It is passed through a chiller.
- The last is removed.
- The heel is added (if needed).
- The shoe is checked for imperfections and repaired if necessary.
This department puts the sock into the product, adds trims, and repairs the shoes before they go down a line to have a finish added. A final check is then performed and then the shoes are packed into a shoe box and labelled.
This is where all the products are put together for each customer’s order. If a customer has ordered 20 pairs of a style in black, they can request a number of pairs of each size. If any of the shoes have been damaged during production, we recut.
Despatch prepares invoices for the shoes and puts them into cartons to send to customers.
This team checks the quality throughout the production process.
Where the Froggie magic happens ...
Alfonso is our designer. He works with Sarah and Warren to decide on what type of products we need in the next season’s range. We get this information from past best sellers and emerging fashion trends. Alfonso is highly skilled in understanding the trends and interprets them for the Froggie customer. He sketches many options until he decides which is the best; and then he either works on an existing last, or if required, works with a last maker to design a new one.
When Alfonso has decided on a style, he then sketches the style onto the last which he has completely covered in masking tape. He then cuts the style off the last and from there creates the pattern pieces which are then digitised onto a computer by our pattern cutters. The new design is called a prototype. There can be changes made if necessary, before it is ready to be made into selling samples. We have a team in the pattern department who make the samples. Then, all the technical information is collated and loaded onto our computer system.
Bullet is the team leader who manages samples to bulk processes called “tooling”, as well as testing throughout the processes.
The whole point of great design is to make a product look effortless. Great design is ‘silent’. In the case of Froggie shoes – great design is a result of great teamwork, great attention to detail, and great care.