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Factory Worker | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes
Location Felgueiras, Portugal
Production Volume Approx. 350 pairs/day
Factory Size 30 employees
Employee Salary Above minimum wage
Average Industry Salary approx. 740 € – 1.500 €



BRAND CHECK // NAE

RIGHT FROM THE START ALWAYS ONE STEP AHEAD

A VISIT TO NAE IN PORTUGAL

Portuguese label NAE was in it from the start. In 2008, when vegan shoes were still an exceptional phenomenon, Paula and Alex Pérez laid down the founding principle for their brand – »No Animal Exploitation«, which is also where the brand’s name is derived from. They quickly found their way to avesu after its founding in 2010, and today NAE is a substantial part of AVESU’s wide range with over 90 products, ranging from shoes to backpacks and wallets, to belts and even their own shoe polish.

The brand’s designs are taken from contemporary fashion trends while always remaining suitable for everyday wear. »Living our personal style doesn’t need to be something inherent to veganism, quite the contrary!“ says Paula Pérez. She wants veganism to not narrow your fashion choices, but instead inspire new ones. That’s why NAE works to include every style of footwear, from the classic court shoe to the heavy-duty combat boot, making it one of the most successful brands in vegan footwear as of today. Needless to say, this success translated to their 2019 opened flagship store in Lisbon, which quickly rose to popularity throughout the vegan community.

NAE STORE IN LISBON | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes
ALEX & PAULA PEREZ NAE | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes

Since they started their collaboration in 2010, AVESU co-founder Thomas Reichel and NAE founders Paula and Alex Pérez have been meeting almost every year, sometimes more than once. Usually at the Fashion Week and exhibitions in the fast-paced vegan mecca and AVESU’s home base Berlin, but also occasionally in the comparably laid-back Portuguese countryside, home to Alex and Paula and their dogs. They talk fashion trends, vegan innovation, upcoming collections, and brainstorm possible collaborations. But AVESU is always interested in knowing what is going on behind the scenes of a well-presented brand. So in spring 2016 Thomas used the opportunity of his visit to Portugal to take a closer look into one of the local factories that NAE works with.

NAE’s partner factory is located around 40 kilometers outside of Porto, manufacturing up to 350 pairs of shoes daily for NAE and other clients. 30 employees work on 500 square meters in offices and on production lines. It is no secret that Portugal is not in the best economic shape. With one of the lowest average monthly incomes in Europe and a high unemployment rate purchasing power is low, and so is the overall economic power of the country. The average monthly salary is around 1.150 € monthly (tradingeconmoics.com), minimum wage recommended by the government is around 640 € to 700 € per month. A production line worker usually earns around 740 € to 1.500 €, depending on experience, years of employment with the company and position. That is for a full-time job, obviously. With those numbers Portugal falls behind in the EU comparison and ends up on the list just above the former USSR and Balkan states. What does sound like a big turn-off for the work force usually means great opportunities for the industry. After all, it’s cheap labor right here in Europe. However, it’s not only low costs that draw in companies, but to the long-standing tradition of shoe manufacturing of this most western of Europe’s states’.

Especially young brands value the proficiency and experience of the local industry, offering quality and short transport while complying with working conditions along EU guidelines. Rui Riberio from NAE’s partner factory considers this theory a fact. The company pays their employees more than most competitors in the industry, and clients seem equally happy to pay more for quality AND good salaries.

Factory Worker in Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes

Moreover, Rui’s company was one of the firsts to recycle used car parts into new materials for shoe manufacturing, a great gain for NAE, who pride themselves in using recycled materials whenever possible. In addition, the factory itself recycles all of their material clippings for various applications. To keep transport emissions low, all materials are sourced from the European market, with the exception of Piñatex, which is imported from the Philippines. For a sustainable brand like NAE all of this is a great selling point.

Quality and integrity are key for both NAE-Founders Pérez and Rui Riberio. »We could make any shoe without animal products.«, says Rui. But his promise to his customers is to produce every one of their styles exclusively for them, which is not always standard in the industry, especially for small brands that can’t afford copyrights or their own designers. »We offer quality and support in brand recognition. We don’t want our clients to compete with one another, and they value that.«

The production in the factory is done with machinery and manual labor. Pattern creation, choice of materials and parts, the production of single elements like soles and uppers, and eventually the gluing and stitching – every step of along the line is meticulously executed and carefully checked. A lot of things are still done by hand, and Rui’s employees are evidently proud to carry out the skills that have made their profession in this region world famous.

Assembly of Shoes | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes
Assembly of Shoes | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes

»Veganism has become an important issue in the industry.«, says Rui, who is currently working on a documentary to provide upcoming tailors and fashion designer students with a deeper insight into vegan materials. »Leather has such a long tradition that it is often the easiest choice, no questions asked. But there are so many alternatives nowadays that hold advantages for manufacturing, too!«

Rui Riberio | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes

Rui Riberio

Shoe Manufacturing | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes

And Rui has more in store. His recent accomplishment is a fully biodegradable microfiber. Which is a really a big deal. It is still very hard to make any shoe recyclable or biodegradable, simply due to the many materials used in different parts like soles, insoles, lining and upper, not to speak of the single components like eyelets and lacing. So even with a biodegradable upper, soles must be robust and withstand a lot of mechanical impact, so a shoe would always have to be taken apart to be sustainably disposed of. But so far almost none of the uppers are biodegradable. Even organic materials like Piñatex® or cork usually have to be coated to make them suitable to meet the demands placed on a shoe upper, meaning being water-repellent and robust enough to go through months or years of daily mechanical impact and weather. A fully biodegradable upper would certainly be a big step towards making shoes more environmentally friendly. (Get to know more about vegan materials).

Just Like Rui Riberio, NAE is constantly working on innovations of their own. Again being one of the first, the brand started to extensively use the pineapple fiber Piñatex right from the start, making shoes from it right there in Rui’s factory. The material does not only offer a unique look, it is derived from waste material of pineapple farming that usually would be discarded or burned. Ananas Anam Ltd, the parent company that has invented and produces Piñatex, creates a versatile material from this industry waste, saving resources in production and offering an additional, steady income to pineapple farmers alongside the seasonal pineapple harvest. The excess material from Piñatex production are in turn used as natural fuel and organic fertilizer. »Piñatex® is proof that there is a future besides leather. And that’s the best fit for our brand.«, says Alex Pérez.

PIÑATEX Productuion in the Philippines © ANANAS ANAM LTD | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes
PIÑATEX Productuion in the Philippines © ANANAS ANAM LTD | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes
PIÑATEX Productuion in the Philippines © ANANAS ANAM LTD Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes

PIÑATEX PROCUTION © ANANAS ANAM LTD

PIÑATEX used for shoe manufacturing Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes

PIÑATEX IN MANUFACTURING

Another great fit are AVESU and NAE. In 2018 Thomas and Alex decided to fuse AVESU’s insight in customer demand and NAE’s expertise in manufacturing to a joint venture. The result were two classic derbies, Justin and Jessica, with a finish of Portuguese elegance but again suitable for everyday wear. »Brands get easily excited about design possibilities and sometimes fail to provide what customers want foremost, « says Jan-Christian Göttsche, sales manager and buyer at avesu, »Simple and classic styles they know – as a vegan version. That’s what we offer in our exclusive models.« In fall 2019 the Etna Black AVESU Edition joined the club, an adaption of NAE’s classic North-American work boot, complemented with a warm, soft lining for the winters north of Portugal, with a sky-rocketing success.

AVESU X NAE Edition Shoes © AVESU | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes

AVESU X NAE Edition Shoes © AVESU

The brand’s popularity and their access to a range of factories enable NAE to always move one step further. In 2019 they launched their RE-MOVE PROJECT, a line of with two sneaker styles featuring an upper made from plastic removed from the ocean. »Its very easy to lose hope looking at our oceans. We tried to actively shift our focus and see the waste as a resource.«, says Paula. »It is a big advantag not have to produce the material itself, and in addition to bring it back into the cycle. And in this case, bringing it back is also essential to our survival.«

Nilo Sneaker by NAE | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes
Nilo Sneaker by NAE | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes

RE-MOVE Sneaker Nilo

This is the mindset Paula and Alex and their team work with daily. »It has never been easier for customers to be critical and question brands and manufacturers. And never have brands shown such an open mind to this sort of change.« The team sees themselves as a brand, but also as individual, critical customers who ask questions. »Trying to answer these questions before they come up is what makes us as a brand. We believe it doesn‘t limit us; we think it make us better every day.«

Paula and Alex Pérez | Foundera of NAE | Vegan Shoe Manufacturing | AVESU at NAE Vegan Shoes

NAE Founders Paula and Alex Pérez © NAE



© avesu 2020

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