Making Shoes in León: The Story of Every Step
A love for futbol — and shoes
I must’ve been 7 years old when I bought my first pair of futbol shoes (a huge moment for most Mexican kids as futbol is almost as big a part of our culture as religion is), when I saw a pair of brand new high tech cleats, what every billboard and TV ad told me was the best piece of footwear in the market.
As I held the silver and blue synthetic upper at the local shoe store, I heard my dad’s voice calling me. “Those shoes are all plastic, WE don’t want any of that. WE wear leather,” he said in a proud tone as he pointed me in the direction of a pair of leather cleats. I will never forget the beautiful stitching and the smell of all natural leather of the upper, the black and white outsole, and the instantaneous recall of an old picture of Milton Queiroz “Tita”, a legend from my favorite team Club León charging the field on a sunny day. It was love at first sight, and my father triggered it. His comment is proof of the deep connection we have with shoes. The uppers for that pair of shoes were made in the factory of his good friend, and the leather was from the very own tannery he’s been working in for almost 40 years. That pair of shoes was made by Mexican hands, with Mexican leather and sold all around the world.
Shoes: a family business
I grew up surrounded by outsoles and lasts, and I know that every piece of footwear has its own story. From the selection of the upper material to the cutting of the pieces and the stitching, every millimeter counts. Watching all the components come together is one of the most exciting sights to behold. My grandfather learned to make shoes with my great uncle in his own shop back in the late 1950s, when pops was around 18 years old. His steady hands worked hard and strong until his retirement just five years ago.
If you are born in León, shoes are way more than just a piece of apparel. They are part of your identity, your family, and your all-around upbringing. Every piece of footwear has a story, and every stitch, every cut, every man and woman behind it and every factory has its own story. Kengos is no different.
Writing the next chapter with Kengos
Every pair of Kengos is handmade by a proud team of highly skilled men and women using all-natural, plant-based materials. Our uppers are knitted in a single piece without trimming, generating no waste material. After that, the uppers are hand-stitched one by one by a very special team of craftspeople, focusing on every detail, turn, and knot. This process results in a beautiful, sturdy construction that is 100% adhesive-free.
Once the pair is completed, the adornadoras (as we call them in Mexico) inspect every shoe to the last detail. From the whipstitch to the alignment of the upper and the position of the laces, every shoe goes through their trained eye for a final inspection that clears the way for having the completed pair packed for shipping with the seal of approval stamped by the proud hand of one of its makers.
I was 7 years old when I fell in love with shoes, and when I’m older I will be able to say that I was 26 when I was part of the new chapter in the industry we grew up loving. Kengos is where heritage and craftsmanship meet revolution and innovation. The traditional way of making shoes in its purest form, merged with the purest materials. Taking what makes us proud, what we know and who we are into the future.
Written by Iván Preciado, Sourcing Specialist