How we make our shoes
Our shoe making starts with the last. Over the years we have developed a wide range of lasts to suit different constructions, fittings and trends. Together with our last makers, we spend a lot of time developing and testing our last model before tooling up all the different sizes and beginning the range building, designing and pattern cutting.
All our designs are original and have a distinct Groundcover handwriting. Our technical expert tapes over the last to produce a two-dimensional form, which becomes the standard from which the patterns are dissected. We make up samples for evaluation and wear testing before committing the new style to the range.
Amichan, one of the last of the manual pattern graders, then grades out the patterns in waxed board, using an old machine called a pentagraph and some complex formulas and measurements. He has been doing this his whole life, but is rapidly being replaced by computers. Cedric then handcuts the size range, to be made up as a final check before we commit the patterns to knife. With 40 years of experience in shoe making, Errol Singh is our factory manager and number one clicker. He knows exactly where on the skin to place the knife, producing minimal offcut waste as he cuts the upper on the clicking press.
In the closing room, we mark, skive, glue and stitch the upper together. The toe puffs and heel stiffeners are attached and moulded, and the buckles, hooks, loops or eyelets fitted. The closed upper is now ready to go to the making room for lasting.
Amos Buthelezi, our key man in the making room, pulls the upper over the last and cements it to the insole. This is a very delicate operation, requiring great care and attention so that the leather fits snugly over the last but does not stretch to tearing point.
After stitching the upper to the midsole and runner, we heat set the lasted shoe at 130°c to shrink the upper around the last and give it stand.
In the sole room, Aaron Mpangase primes the sole and runner, allowing them to cure before bonding them together using a two-part glue, heat and pressure. Tebatso Makampane now trims off excess rubber and sands the edge to a fine finish.
The completed shoe then goes to the shoe room for edge staining, polishing and Ernest Ndlovu’s thorough quality control inspection, before being boxed and ready for wear.