American Shoemaking

February 1999

" Shoes Tomorrow "





Profound changes in the way footwear is marketed and manufactured were anticipated at the EuroFootwear Conference held in Bordeaux, France, last October. What's new? Electronic Commerce and data on a global scale.

Customized Shoemaking Is Coming

An example of producing custom fit footwear using computers as a tool was provided by Alan Zerobnick, Chairman of Digitoe Computerized Footwear Systems, of the USA.

Following a career in shoemaking going back to 1970, Mr. Zerobnick recalled that in 1994 he developed and built a Digital Imaging Workstation for scanning the feet and converting the pictures to a format that could be read by a computer. His vision was to place these foot scanning devices in remote locations in the "Global Village" making it convenient for people to have their feet measured. Once their last details were on file, they could communicate with Digitoe directly by Internet or telephone without having to return to a retail fitting center.

In 1997 Digitoe opened its first retail test site in Seattle, USA and began to accept clients for customized shoe lasts and footwear. A range of extremely different sizes and foot shapes was involved and it was found that 75% of shoe last fitted perfectly on the first try while the remainder needed just minor adjustments to accommodate "fit preference".

Mr. Zerobnick said that we were no longer limited by geographic location and the vision of a Digitoe Global Village Network continued to grow. The technology for making customized shoe lasts and footwear now existed and a multi-media studio had been set up to produce the education and training material that would be required to communicate with the consumer and train staff who would be required to manage the customized shoe industry of the future.

Mr. Zerobnick thought that the biggest challenge lay in the education and training "we must focus our efforts," he said, "on educating the consumer to the availability and possibilities of the "customization" that can be achieved by combining Old World Craftsmanship with Modern Technology to produce shoes.

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