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Footwear Plus

February 1996

" Can You Pass The Test ? "


Can You Pass The Test?

The school bell is sounding for a number of people in the footwear industry. Disillusioned to discover that many shoe dogs-young and old- don't have even the most basic knowledge of how footwear functions or is constructed, Shoemaker Alan Zerobnick created the Tenderfoot Shoe School to teach the process of shoemaking. He offers 2 intense 3 Day Workshops a year at his shoe factory in Port Townsend, Washington. Attendees include not only employees of footwear companies but those of chemical companies involved in the shoe industry and legal departments that help obtain patents for those in the footwear business.

"I've run into many people in the shoe industry who need training," maintains Zerobnick. "They are people who need knowledge of how a shoe is made. In the workshop they see how everything is done and actually make a pair of shoes for their own feet. They see that shoes are not a simple matter."

A batch of recent student were from Lands' End quality control department. "They did millions of dollars of business in shoes and they didn't know how a shoe has to function" says Zerobnick.

Zerobnick is quite entrenched in the footwear industry. He began in the business at retail at the age of 14 for Edison Brothers and later Burts / Bakers for 5 years. In the 70's he began making leather goods, including footwear, and marketed them to such companies as Coca-Cola, Neiman Marcus and the Children's Television Workshop. He also custom made shoe for Professional Clowns, including Ronald McDonald.

He has spent the better part of his career perfecting a non contact foot scanner. The computer is programmed to measure the foot and design a custom shoe last. His company Digitoe, plans on opening a retail store in Seattle by June thereby making Mass Customization a reality.

The Shoemaker says he doesn't make a lot of money from his classes but teaches "to share my craft and trade." There are not report cards at Shoe School, just the satisfaction of students being able to create a pair of shoes for their own feet.




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