I am a huge supporter of Australian made, both clothing, footwear and produce for the table.
From when I first started buying my own clothes and footwear I’d more often than not, choose to buy items made in Australia.
I’m not sure if it had something to do with being brought up on a farm. Or I just felt it was important to support Australian businesses.
But one thing I know, it was worth paying a bit more for the quality. I continued to do this for many years until it almost became impossible.
Now that I am manufacturing my own product I can see why the majority of clothing and footwear are made overseas.
Do you ever think about how things are made when you buy clothing or footwear?
Why are Slappa’s manufactured overseas?
Manufacturing in China takes me away from my family a lot. The flights are long, I rarely see another westerner, living in a hotel is not glamorous and not being able to speak the language makes it even more of a challenge. (This isn’t by choice. I started to learn Mandarin but was told it was a waste of time as most people in this part of China don’t speak the Mandarin dialect!)
It can be lonely and damn right frustrating but I am learning every day and I’m not the only one out there doing this. There are many more entrepreneurs just like me.
It’s not by choice that I, and many others, manufacture in China or other parts of the world. The simple fact is there is no manufacturer in Australia. People just don’t seem to want to do these jobs anymore.
So what do you think when you see “Made in China”?
Well, I use to think cheap, mass produced, sweatshops and poor quality. This is still true in some cases, but not all of the time.
These days most Chinese factory workers are well paid and looked after. Their wages are almost equivalent to Australian factory wages.
The Hard Miles
You might think making a pair of thongs is simple. Wrong.
While it might be true for some thongs, it’s definitely not for Slappa’s. It’s really hard work. We need to make sure the size, firmness and support are correct. Comfy and supportive is not simple to achieve (we take footcare seriously).
Getting the right people behind you, creating good relationships, finding the right factory that can make your product to your standards and doing your own quality control are just some of the ways we guarantee a quality product.
For me, achieving all of this can be a nightmare. A small change to the materials, temperature and a different worker can make a huge difference to the end product.
This is why my manager and I are hands on at the production runs in China. Keeping an eagle eye on the production lines means we can pinpoint any changes and rectify problems straight away.
We have changed factories a number of times, for many reasons. Finding a new one is extremely difficult as most manufacturers won’t even consider making our product as we produce smaller quantities than the likes of the European, Russian or Middle Eastern countries. I try to explain we are a smaller country too!
So why do I do this?
I ask myself this question every day. Some days I think I have rocks in my head, other days my customers make it so rewarding and worthwhile. Plus it’s pretty exciting to see so many people all over Australia and the world wearing my thongs.
It’s great to be able to say I now feel so confident in our current factory that I’m currently producing the biggest order ever. That’s right, it’s the largest production run in our 7-year history.
I’m very nervous, but also very excited. It’ll be a relief to not keep running out of stock in some sizes and colours after the summer season. Mind you, when our customers keep telling everyone “they are the best thongs I have ever owned”, there is a big chance we’ll still run out.
At Slappa’s, we pride ourselves on the quality of our product and the customer service we offer. We like to think we are a niche product.
Sure there are some things you can’t keep doing yourself and need to outsource but in our case, we want to try and continue to give that personal touch for as long as we can.
So next time you’re buying a product think about the people behind the product and the processes it has gone through to be made.