The lasts are key
Whether a shoe fits or not is ultimately down to the lasts. For this reason we design and finish numerous last models for subsequent batch production at Gabor Headquarters in Rosenheim ourselves. Why? Because the fit is given top priority at Gabor.
“In many cases lasts are simply purchased from abroad. There is absolutely no guarantee that the shoe will then fit”, explains Gabor Head Modeller Harald Börzel. Not an option for Gabor. Since the skilled trade of last modelling was being threatened with extinction in Germany, Gabor began to establish an in-house department for last development many years ago. No easy task at first: “There were barely any training manuals or reading matter – all the knowledge was solely stored in the heads of the old hands and therefore threatened to go ‘into retirement’ with them”, remembers Börzel. Working closely with reliable last suppliers, Gabor finally managed to press ahead with in-house training.
Fit has precedence
The last is primarily responsible for determining whether the shoe fits perfectly or not. For example, if the toe height dimensions are too low or the insole is cut short, the shoe pinches. All at Gabor are agreed: the art is to design the very latest fashion shoes without compromising on the fit. The modeller’s ambitious goal: “Our shoes ought to fit eight out of ten women!” Therefore specific last prototypes are fashioned from wood for every type of shoe – from court shoes to moccasins – and for every heel pitch. They are the basis for the entire fashion range – and are characterised by their enormous diversity.
From model to shoe
Only when the last modellers are fully informed on the very latest trends, from attending fashion trade shows for example, does work begin: after ideas for the next collection have been developed in conjunction with the international teams, the head last modeller and team establish the last types and shapes for the new season. Everybody at Gabor eagerly awaits the outcome: for the lasts aren’t only needed for the model drawings but also for the creation of the insole and stiffener, heel and outsole. Wood is now milled, filed, primed and measured until the new last model corresponds with the concept. If the result is satisfactory, the model is digitalised and the actual last prototype is constructed out of plastic. One final check. No more changes to be made? Then the range of lasts is commissioned to the supplier. There are around 220 pairs in different sizes per model.
Progress through knowledge
Gabor collects its own data to be able to guarantee an exact fit. Officially, the sizing guides that were determined from foot measurements in the early stages of industrial shoe production still apply to this day. In order to level out any discrepancies, Gabor collects and stores everything concerning optimisation and advancement on an extensive database: this isn’t just all the last dimensions but obviously feedback from customer complaints, too. Has the setting up of its own last development department worldwide for Gabor been of benefit? “Most definitely”, assures foreman Christian Müller. “In this way it's not the contractor who dictates the fit but we ourselves who decide how we want the lasts to be.” A strength that pays off: for Gabor customers depend on the reliable fit after all.