Manufacturing News

Shoe industry in Fujian treads a new path

East China's shoe industry has entered a new era. Technology has taken center stage, and buyers are no longer looking for something to just cover their feet.

3D-printing is one such technology. At the 20th Jinjiang Footwear & Sports Industry International Exposition that opened recently in Jinjiang, a small city in Fujian province, several exhibitors were proudly showing off their 3D printers and 3D scanners.

"The shoe industry in Jinjiang succeeded in the past because local enterprises entered the market fast and produced in large quantities," said Luo Xiangdong, a professor at the Shoe and Clothing Technology Research Center of Shaanxi Technological University.

"Now it's time to focus on customer experience as we are facing a highly mature buyers' market."

The variety of shoes on display at the footwear expo was dazzling. At one booth, a pair of shoes adorned with a print of Van Gogh's famous masterpiece The Starry Night halted many attendees in their tracks.

The exhibitor at the booth explained that the company makes custom shoes for its clients, based on patterns they submit in advance.

Thanks to 3D printing, the color, pattern, and even shape of the shoes can be customized. Luo's team is even working on a machine that is capable of modelling the most comfortable shape of shoe for every foot. Personalization and customization will become even more popular in the future, he said.

The local government has also acted to help support the local shoe industry, by setting up an efficient intellectual property rights application system.

This will help to encourage innovation, said Luo Liguo, associate professor at the Intellectual Property Research Institute at Xiamen University.

"It took us over 10 years to instill the concept of intellectual property into entrepreneurs' minds," said Chen Chuanbin, who works at Jinjiang Technology and Intellectual Property Bureau, adding "and now we are finally 'harvesting' IP applications from them".

Widely known as the "city of shoes", Jinjiang boasts a complete industrial supply chain for shoe production. The city's shoe industry produced 95 billion yuan ($15 billion) worth of products last year, equal to more than 20 percent of the entire Chinese shoe market.

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