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What it takes to manufacture a handcrafted ELF shoe

What it takes to manufacture a handcrafted ELF shoe

Handcrafting shoes is a skill that requires precision, patience and years of experience and we are so lucky to have people on our team that are master at all three.
We hope you enjoy a deep dive into the art of shoe making and find a whole new appreciation for the handmade leather shoes you have in your closet.
Hari - Upper Maker at ELF
Hari is an upper maker at ELF and joined our team at the end of November 2020. He is the newest team member but already such a master of his part of shoe manufacturing that we just had to ask him
to explain the intricacies of upper making.
You are an upper maker at Bali ELF, when did you join the team of ELF and can you explain which piece of the shoe you manufacture?
I manufacture leather upper parts of the shoes starting from pattern-making, cutting details, weaving, creating braids and cut-outs using special hand tools. The upper part of the shoe is finished when all different pattern pieces are sewn together. We use Butterfly Singer Sewing machines to sew all parts and get the upper part ready to be attached to the sole.
How long does it take to make an upper for a leather shoe? And which upper part takes the longest and the least time to manufacture?
It really depends on the shoe style and amount of details. Simple sandals and slides take less time and about one hour per pair. For a pair of boots I need up to three hours each. The styles that have woven details and cut outs take the longest. For example, our Athena wedges that are all woven with braid accents are the most complicated in the making due to the amount of intricate details on the front and heel part of the shoe. It used to take me six hours to complete a pair of Athena wedges, but over time I managed to bring it down to four hours.
A lot of ELF shoes have cut-outs or scalloped edges. How do you make those?
We use multiple number of tools for professional leather crafting - heavy-duty scissors, rotary cutters, gauges, groovers, mauls, pricking irons, punches, skivers, stamps. Different size scallops or different size cut outs means a different tool. Depending on the amount of details we can use up to 20 different tools for making a leather upper part of a single pair of shoe. All the details on the shoes are create by hand.
What do you enjoy most about being an upper maker at ELF?
Most of all I truly enjoy working with high quality materials and with good tools. I also like developing new styles when we create new collections. It’s so satisfying to see how the details that are drawn on the image by the designers come to life in the form of beautiful handcrafted patterns, weavings or cut-outs.
Didik - Sole Maker at ELF
Didik has been a part of the ELF team for 5 years and is so committed to constantly improving his skill. For this blog post he explains different steps that go into making our shoes that feel like walking on clouds.
Can you explain which piece of the shoe you manufacture?
I make soles for the shoes and put upper parts and soles together to complete the style. All our shoes are made with leather insoles and outsoles. Insoles are slightly cushioned. Outsoles are made using centuries old technique of stacking thick leather pieces together. For the heels we use lightweight wood and we hand-wrap them with durable high quality leather for an authentic look. Lasting is the final step in the process, when the shoes are created around the foot form called last. The leather upper is put on the last and connected with the sole and the heel, the soles are trimmed and waxed for a perfect finished look. The process is finished and the shoes are ready to wear.
How many parts does the sole of a shoe have?
Starting from the very bottom part of the shoe - we use rubber non-skid pads to protect leather outsole and heels, then we have durable long-lasting leather outsole, wooden heel, insole lining, leather insole with slight cushioning and leather sock. This makes it 7 parts just for the sole and insole.
What is the hardest part about manufacturing our leather soles?
Physically the hardest part is cutting the leather sole. The leather material that we use for the sole is really durable and hard and we have to use very sharp heavy-duty special knife for getting the right shape. Another complicated step in the shoe assembly is connecting upper part with all the sole parts on the shoe last. This process needs to be done with high precision and great attention to details so all the proportions are in place and the parts are properly connected.

What do you enjoy most about being a sole maker?
I love seeing the end results -  the finished pair of shoes. I like this feeling of being proud of myself!

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