There was once a time, and not that long ago, when you could be assured of finding a shop capable of making everything from a bespoke suit to a pair of custom shoes in your city. The economies of scale involved and the efficiencies of our times have sent those practices and the artisans who ran them nearly into extinction.
Or perhaps not.
Now a pair of European designers, Eugenia Morpurgo and Juan Montero have created their Don't Run-Beta shop as a proof-of-concept to bring back the idea of locally-made goods being built to order in an economical and sensible way.
Their experimental shoe shop is focused on the idea that, due to the most modern production techniques, shoe making and design might one day prove an alternative to mass production through small scale, on demand. digital fabrication.
"This is about trying new things in a shop. By laser cutting and 3D printing shoes on the premises, we eliminate a good chunk of production," Montero says.
They do it by printing and assembling each shoe – no glue is used – from five or more pieces of leather and printed materials. Using rapid manufacturing via laser cutters and 3D printers, the shop can create the components from scratch. It's a startling sort of process where no stitching or gluing is needed for the assembled shoes.
Montero adds that the shop also benefits from what he calls "controlled waste."
"We only have to buy as much as we can store," Montero said. "We make the shoes on demand. There's no surplus, There's no warehouse of size 8's. We pick the raw material, cut the raw material, and when it runs out? We buy some more. This effectively reduces the need for any real physical storage and helps to eliminate as much as 75% of the current production process.
Importantly, it also allows us to bypass the huge initial economic investments implicated in shoe production."
The method has other benefits as well, like what to do with the footwear once it's useful life has ended. They call it "facilitated disassembly," and it means components can be disposed of and recycled.
The shoes themselves, and they're admittedly limited by the process, were created from templates created by shoe designers Sophia Guggenberger, Eliska Kuchtova and Anastsija Mase. The designers were tasked with developing and producing a pair of shoes based on the Don't Run - Beta system, and they had to work within the constraints the production method.