Back towards the end of 2015, I had this idea of making use of scrap/leftover leathers (retaso) as base materials for shoes to give them a second use instead of just being scrapped or be used for smalls like key chains and cable organizers. I wanted the scrap leathers to fulfill a more functional role by becoming shoes once again. The original prototypes made use of “squared” leathers that were stitched to form a more uniform sheet which can be used to make shoes with simple patterns such as derby plaintoes, espadrille captoes, and wholecuts. The result was a fairly functional shoe but upon testing, the large amount of stitching required to put the leathers together made the shoe “difficult” to walk with after a short period of time.
The seams tend to bend inwards when walking causing the leather to bite into the feet. I knew I couldn’t roll out a product like this especially since the goal of the retaso project is to create shoes which will be donated to children who do not have access to shoes for use at school.
Since we will be working with children’s shoes, I tried then to make a pattern which would make use of small pieces of leather as components in creating the basic shoe. While we strive to have the least amount of panels for our regular shoes, the retaso designs would require us to have as many small panels as possible to make use of even the small bits of leather from the leftovers from making our regular shoes. The initial pattern was able to make use of small strips around 1″ – 2″ in width to be used for majority of the shoes. The bigger pieces required will be for the heel counter and for the apron area. The “penny strap” is actually the connector between the apron and the tongue, thereby minimizing the need for larger pieces of leather. There are actually another variant of the pattern which makes use of even smaller panels but is only utilized depending on the situation, especially if we need to make larger shoes.
The lining used is a synthetic fabric, which is commonly used for lining slippers and sandals. It has a coarser finish than sports fabric but is stronger as a material to ensure that the shoes will be durable and would be able to withstand a few rounds of resoling in order to extend the life of the pair so that it can be passed down to other children.
The shoes are also washable. Unlike more sensitive leathers, our local leathers handle water well and can be washed every so often especially since the lining is fabric. The outsoles used are commercially available hence making it easily resoleable by the local shoemaker in the market. The outsoles are from a local company called Maratex. We decided to use a commercial outsole so it will be more accessible especially since these commercial models can also be found in some mall brands. The uppers are also stitched onto the outsole giving the shoes a longer lifespan.
I decided on using the classic penny loafer design as inspired by the classic Japanese school shoe (yes, I used to watch a lot of anime in my younger years) because it is functional, easy to wear, fit for any uniform, and is unisex. It is also a classic style which is a proper shoe. I am a firm believer that having a proper design to go with the purpose will give dignity to the shoe.
When we went through production of the pilot batch, we utilized roughly four (4) rice sacks worth of retaso leathers to produce around 120 pairs of children’s shoes. We sent out a batch of retaso shoes last March 31, 2017 when a volunteer group went on an outreach program at Clark, Pampanga. 28 pairs were given to children who needed the shoes and while not all children received shoes (due to us running out of sizes), I would consider the pilot run a moderate success. We were able to gather data on how to be more effective with our sizing in order to be able to cater to more children in future outreach events. Here are some of the pictures from the said event:
It saddened me to find out that it was the first time for some of these kids to wear shoes. At the same time, this inspired me to find ways to expand this program so that we can affect more lives and hopefully, make an impact and serve as an example for other businesses and industries to upcycle materials which would normally be considered as waste into something that can be of use to others, freely given in order to fulfill a higher purpose.
Black Wing plans to create a ready inventory of retaso shoes which will be made available to those in need. We are still working out the financial aspect of this undertaking in order to make it a sustainable effort especially since we will eventually run out of retaso leathers and would need to buy scraps from other workshops. But for now, we will be accepting requests for small groups of around 30-50 children since that is all we can cater to at the moment.
The current inventory is as follows:
- toddlers #5 – 1 pair
- toddlers #6 – 6 pairs
- toddlers #7 – 6 pairs
- toddlers #8 – 5 pairs
- toddlers #9 – 6 pairs
- toddlers #10 – 8 pairs
- kids #11 – 5 pairs
- kids #12 – 6 pairs
- kids #13 – 5 pairs
- kids #14 – 6 pairs
- kids #15 – 5 pairs
- kids #16 – 5 pairs
- big kids #1 – 7 pairs
- big kids #2 – 4 pairs
- big kids #3 – 6 pairs
- big kids #4 – 6 pairs
Hopefully we can sponsor another outreach soon. We will be filling up the larger kids sizes since most children who are in need of these shoes are from sizes kids #13 to big kids #4.
The end goal is to create a running inventory so that we would be able to give children who do not have shoes for school a little support to encourage them and let them know that there are people willing to help them in their journey to education as long as they are willing to persevere in order to create a better future for themselves.
Now all I need is someone to donate socks with these shoes…
For inquiries on how to support or avail of this program, please contact our service number at +63-927-9162015 during our office hours and we’ll discuss it from there.