In the Nigerian and African fashion industry, footwear brands have become increasingly popular. With many brand owners producing custom made or bespoke footwear for customers with high-quality materials, the industry has seen remarkable progress over the past few years.
Just like ENZI and SoleRebels, whose shoes are handmade from the finest sustainable materials, most of these shoes are also handmade. One concern, however, for most customers, is the high price of these custom made footwear compared to the international ones being produced. Often, similar shoes, one made in Africa, and the other abroad, seem to have a wide range when it comes to the prices.
We spoke to footwear brand owners on the reason for this, and the challenges they face also, here’s what we think about it;
Generally, when footwear is said to be handmade, it means that there was no use of machinery, and it was made entirely by hand. Unlike handcrafted footwear, which involves the use of machinery in addition to hand production, handmade shoes require many techniques of custom shoe production, as well as patience to deliver the product.
Whether handcrafted or handmade footwear, one thing that is unique about them is the exquisite craftsmanship. With great stitches, welts, soles, and many more, these brand owners professionally craft the shoes to make them elegant.
But, is this why they should be more expensive when compared to shoes made internationally?
According to Damilola Durodola, the founder of DobbleBees Bespoke, the cost of manufacturing these shoes locally is higher when compared to their international counterparts due to lack of power, importation of raw materials which has heightened the price, as well as manpower.
Another factor that contributes to the seemingly high price of handmade shoes is the material used. Just like Chinelo Ikegbune, the creative director of Lucy Daves added,
“In my opinion, and from footwears I purchased internationally for the purpose of my survey, most footwear brands abroad use linen, as opposed to using leather. Also, their cost of production is way cheaper because they produce in bulk from either China or Bangladesh.”
From the expensive raw materials used in producing the footwears to the cost of production, it’s little wonder that locally handmade footwears are relatively expensive.
Apart from these factors also, the precision and craftsmanship involved contribute to the increased price of handmade footwear. Compared to mass-produced footwear where about 1000 shoes can be replicated in a day, in handmade production, just about 2 to 3 shoes can be made in a day due to the specifications and precision involved.
Just like Iyanu Falomo, a customer added also the craftsmanship, the workmanship of the designer has to be factored into pricing the footwear because of the numerous processes involved in producing handmade footwear.
Considering all of these, how then do footwear brand owners in Nigeria, and Africa make their products affordable?
Most footwear brands, in a bid to cut down the cost of production, purchase imported leather in bulk, and directly from the importers sometimes, to subsidize the high cost of purchasing raw materials.
Damilola Durodola also added,
“At Dobblebees Bespoke, we try to push out more products per time to maximize resources.”
Asides this, at Lucy Daves, they try to consider the selling price of the footwear from the buyer’s point of view, then fix a price that works across any category of humans.
Basically, what makes handmade footwear relatively more expensive is the high cost of importation of raw materials, as well as the increased cost of production. By buying raw materials in bulk, most footwear brands can, therefore, make their products affordable.