Technology Offers Intriguing Possibilities for Shoe & Clothing Manufacturing Industry

This article appeared in the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

Advancements in technology continue to impact every facet of the manufacturing industry, and the footwear industry is certainly no exception. Virtual solutions for shoe and clothing purchases, repairs, customization and a growing emphasis on sustainability are only beginning to transform the way customers shop and buy, and business owners have numerous possibilities when it comes to leveraging this technology.

A prime example is Chaco. Through its Rockford-based ReChaco division, consumers can not only repair their favorite Chaco sandals, thereby reducing waste, but they can also use 3D software to customize their own pair right here in the Mitten State!

Now owned by Wolverine Worldwide Inc., the outdoor footwear company was founded in 1989 by a river guide in Colorado who recognized the need for sandals that can withstand outdoor adventures — be it on land, water or rocky terrains.

Chaco also saw a need in the industry to make comfortable, reliable sandals that last and can be made for each person — from shoe size and width to color. With these concepts in mind, the ReChaco division was formed in the 2000s to provide consumers with much-needed repair and online customization solutions.

Through ReChaco, customers can have various elements of their sandals repaired, all while maintaining the essence of the sandals and supporting the environment by reducing waste.

“Our customers are going to take the sandal and wear it on all types of adventures. They might get married, might go hiking, might go whitewater rafting. There are a lot of memories built in,” says Jon Golub, Director of Operations for ReChaco.

There are a number of customization options for customers to build their favorite pair of sandals. Customers can customize the footbed, straps, buckles and outsoles for a new pair of sandals. They can experiment with various colors through the 3D rendering and can place photos onto the sandals.

“Every single component on there is cut and measured for that specific size, width and gender,” Golub says. “Really, we’re going to make the sandal just one time only. You get a unique recipe ID, and that sandal becomes yours and yours only.”

The concept of allowing customers to design and order their own unique footwear — to their own size and specs — helps to cut down on mass production and keeps surplus stock out of landfills. With ReChaco, customers are able to order exactly what they want and reduce waste.

For a next-level customization experience, ReChaco will digitally dye the sandal straps with a customer generated image or pattern via upload to the website during the order process. The image will be rendered in real- time for the customer to approve, then built and shipped to the customer in 10 business days.

The shoe and clothing industry has historically featured one-for-all services but it may evolve into specialized, customized apparel for each individual in the near future. These repair and customization solutions may be just the beginning as other businesses leverage the value and simplicity of providing items to customers that are made just for them.

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