Country of Origin Update, Dec 2015
Originally, our shoes were made with a stock leather from Seidel Tannery in Milwaukee. The shoe uppers were cut and sewn in-house by Weinbrenner.
For Version 3 of our shoes, in our Quest for Quality, I decided to take a look abroad. Weinbrenner was exploring working with a new tannery and uppermaker located in the Dominican Republic. Jerry at Weinbrenner suggested we work with the Dominicans too, because they're really good at what they do.
The upper maker, DMG International, is the reason why our v3 shoes have 9 stitches per inch now, versus 7 stitches per inch before. DMG used to make uppers for Allen Edmonds. Allen Edmonds loved the Dominican craftsmanship so much that they decided to open up their own factory down there. DMG currently works with amazing American brands such as Red Wing, Thorogood, and yours truly =)
The tannery, B Leather, earned the highest audit rating of Gold from the Leather Working Group, which works to improve environmental stewardship in leather making. The leather still originates from the USA. But B Leather is responsible for transforming them from wet blue hides, into the rich dress leather that you'll see and feel on your new pair of Chronology. Our new Black Smooth leather is deeper in color, glossier in finish, and softer to the touch. Wins in every category.
I chose to source leather and uppers from the Dominican purely to achieve higher quality for our shoes, and NOT to save costs (in fact, our costs have gone up).
Weinbrenner's legal counsel advised them that their shoes with Dominican-sourced uppers can't be labeled as Made in USA anymore, as per Federal Trade Commission standards. This was a bit of a bummer at first, but it didn't take long for me to agree with the FTC. It would be misleading for us to say our shoes are Made in USA if the leather was tanned and the uppers were cut and sewn in the Dominican.
But if not Made in USA, what should we call it?
The most common term used for a product made with some foreign materials and labor is Assembled in USA. I didn't like this word, though. Assembly is what I do with Ikea furniture. It downplays the technical skill and experience that Weinbrenner puts into our shoes after the uppers have arrived in Wisconsin from the Dominican.
I was told that some other companies use Handcrafted in USA. I personally find this term to be misleading. Yes, the shoemaking machinery is operated by hand. But Handcrafted suggests that no machines were involved, which is untrue in most (if not all) cases.
While researching what other terms I could use, I stumbled upon Keen's American Built. Similar to us, Keen receives components from around the world, then build it into finished boots in Portland, Oregon. They put together a cool video showcasing their American Built story, the factory, and the people behind it. Check it out.
Built. I loved this word. Built lets you know that skill and care were involved, unlike Assembled. And Built isn't misleading, like how I feel about Handcrafted. It also lets you know that this product is durable. And so here we are, with ours: Built in Wisconsin, USA.
If we ever find suppliers in the USA that can match our new Dominican suppliers' quality, we'll likely work with them. But our primary goal will always be what we do best: serving you with The Highest Intersection of Timeless Style and Timeless Comfort.
Final note: our elastic shoelaces are made in Rhode Island, USA, and our outsoles are still made in Missouri, USA.