Don't Run shoe factory brings production
line to local high streets

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Italian designer Eugenia Morpurgo has set up a high-street micro factory, which uses digital manufacturing to produce her range of customisable shoes that wearers can assemble and repair themselves.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets
Lace-ups with leather uppers designed by Sophia Guggenberger

Called Don't Run - Beta, the project is a collaboration between Eugenia Morpurgo and British-Spanish designer Juan Montero to create a production line for leather shoes, so the buyer can customise their new footwear and see it being produced in-store on a laser cutter and 3D printer.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets
Sandals with leather uppers designed by Anastasija Mase

Morpurgo first launched her canvas repairable shoes – that can be repaired easily because they're joined with reversible, mechanical fastenings rather then the usual stitches or glue – in 2011.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets
Sandals with leather uppers designed by Eliška Kuchtová

Now she has followed up with a new range of colourful sandals, lace-ups and boots using the same system, but with leather uppers designed by Sophia Guggenberger, Anastasija Mase and Eliška Kuchtová.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets
The full range of shoes

Customers first choose the style of shoe they want and the pattern is adjusted to their size on-screen. They then choose the foam from which the sole and insole will be cut, colour of filament for the 3D-printed connectors and a piece of leather for the uppers. They watch the machines at work and are then taught how to assemble the shoes.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets
Customers choose the foam from which the sole and insole will be cut, colour of filament for the 3D-printed connectors and a piece of leather for the uppers

To make the shoe, the leather uppers and rubber soles are laser-cut with a series of connecting holes. The 3D printer then produces a series of connections that are used to attach each piece of material through the holes.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets
The leather uppers and rubber soles are laser-cut with a series of connecting holes

Next, the uppers are folded over the sole and either tied with laces or attached with more connectors, depending on the design.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets
The 3D printer produces a series of connections that are used to attach each piece of material through the holes

"Taking a step away from the established status quo and the relentless pursuit of quantity and profit, Don't Run - Beta offers a possible alternative to mass production through small scale, on-demand digital manufacturing," said Morpurgo. "It is an experimental system focused on illustrating the possibility of a transparent, open and collaborative production line for shoe making and design."

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets
Stage one of the assembly process

She explained that this pilot production process is an example of how designers can use digital technologies to make their own products.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets
Stage two of the assembly process

“The decentralisation of large-scale production and distribution makes it possible to offer greater control to both designers and consumers," Morpurgo added. "What we have are high streets with micro factories set up to deliver personal and transparent products only in the presence of real demand."

More micro factories:

  • Can City mobile aluminium furnace by Studio Swine
  • Precious Plastic by Dave Hakkens
  • C-Fabriek curated by Itay Ohaly and Thomas Vailly

It is also a cheaper way of producing shoes on a small scale. Traditionally, shoe producers need two sole moulds for each shoe, but this is expensive and the reason companies produce a large number of shoes to cover the cost.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets
Stage three of the assembly process

As Don't Run - Beta replaces the physical moulds with digital data, the designers are able to use unlimited digital libraries of soles, sizes and styles. This not only eliminates the need for storage space but also reduces the cost by up to 75 percent.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets

The leather is sourced from local sellers in an attempt to re-use off cuts and waste material, so the pieces are cheaper but also unique.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets

The price of each pair is dependant on the weight, since this is a direct reflection of the material used and time taken to cut and produce the shoe.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets

The production line was trialled at the end of last year as part of a month-long residency at an art space called These Things Take Time in Ghent, Belgium.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets
Generic industrialisation process

It was set up in collaboration with TimeLab Ghent who provided all the technical support and machinery.

Shoe factory by Eugenia Morpurgo brings the production line to local high streets
Don't run process

Don't Run – Beta was also made in collaboration with Olivia de Gouveia for graphic communication and Francesco Zorzi for illustrations.

  • Non-Toxic

    Moulds for shoes are not expensive if it’s already open. New moulds are expensive. You’re using reclaimed leather anyway. Why not use a Chuck Taylor bottom. And using glue is not a sin. Modern consumers don’t want hippy shoes.

  • Jon

    Nice idea in theory but those shoes look very uncomfortable and as if they will last about 10 minutes!