Newsletter of last week
The Newsletter of this week:
Imaginary Brands and phantom imports dominate Russian Shoe sales
The FIFA World Football Championship is history, however Russia became more transparent, somewhat. TextileFuture has published facts and figures and to close the series, we present to you some data and short trends of the Russian Footwear. We add also a feature on a historic review of Russian Footwear
By Leonid Orlov, Moscow Consultant of Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s Research Arm
“Country’s authorities look to root out phony footwear with high-tech factory to sales-point product IDs
At first glance, Russia’s footwear market – the largest in Central and Eastern Europe – appears hugely lucrative, if a little saturated, with a wide variety of brands and outlets offering an impressive number of options at a range of different price points. Dig a little deeper, though, and it soon becomes apparent that the sector is not quite what it seems. Indeed, the glitzy ads and stylish displays that are its public face actually conceal an industry dogged by black market imports and one where the local players resort to a branding sleight-of-hand to mask the true origins of their output. Now, though, the former problem, at least, may at last be being brought to heel.
One thing that immediately strikes any overseas visitor as they peruse one of Russia’s many retail hubs is that nearly every item boasts distinctly non-Russian branding, with the footwear sector representing something of a high-water mark for this particular conceit. It’s a marketing convention that has its roots in the Perestroika years
(1985-1991), a time when the country began to tentatively embrace market-led economics and when realisation duly set in that Soviet-era footwear – as with many other USSR-manufactured items – was produced to a standard well below the international norm.
Today, much of the domestically-produced footwear is at least on a par with the imported equivalents, but many manufacturers still opt to play it safe and conceal their outputs’ origins behind a distinctly foreign-sounding name. The Carlo Pazolini brand, for instance, one of the most well-known footwear lines in Russia, was actually dreamt up by a Moscow-based advertising agency back in 1990. While the general public has swallowed its apparent designer Italian affectations, the range has been exclusively manufactured in Russia and China for nearly 30 years. Similarly, while Ralf Ringer has a reassuringly Germanic lilt to it, this comfortable, easy-care footwear range originates from three Central Russian factories, with the German border some 2,300km distant.
It is a casual deception that is similarly common among footwear retailers. While the highly un-Russian sounding Respect, Zenden, Tervolina, Camelot and Calipso are the country’s leading shoe chains, they are all Russian-owned and sell largely Russia- manufactured items. Curiously, the one exception seems to be children’s footwear, where the distinctly Russian-sounding Kotofei, Lel and Top-Top (“Step-step” in the local parlance) not only predominate, but – thanks to their recognised high quality – have also carved out a successful export niche for themselves, particularly with regard to the former USSR satellite nations.
Regardless of the possible impropriety of posing as foreign footwear makers, the efficacy of the tactic seems hard to deny. Last year, some 104 million pairs of domestically- manufactured shoes were sold in Russia, compared to 66 million in 2010 and 33 million pairs in 2000. These are produced be some 200 footwear factories across the country which are, in turn supported by 32 leather-processing factories.
Overall, locally-produced genuine leather footwear is composed of 80% Russia-sourced materials, although most accessories and the chemicals used in sole production are almost wholly-imported. By contrast, footwear with synthetic uppers is only 60% locally- sourced due the lack of suitable locally-produced artificial materials.
Despite the rise of the domestic shoe sector, however, it still only accounts for 20% of all official sales in the Russian market, including those made in certain closed segments, notably footwear supplies for the army and state-employed utility workers. Overall, footwear of China origin still accounts for 65% of the market, followed by the EU with 10% and then Belarus / India with almost 2.5% apiece.
Aside from this, black market imports account for a figure equivalent to 33% of the official market total. Again, this more illicit sector is dominated by China-origin footwear, predominantly low-quality items smuggled in via Kazakhstan, a consequence of its open border with Russia as mandated by their shared membership of the Eurasian Economic Union.
This, however, may all be about to change. As of 1 July, this year, Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade is trialling a new product identification system in the footwear sector. This will oblige manufacturers / importers to add two additional bar codes to all packaging, ensuring that every individual consignment can be tracked from its factory of origin, across any border and to the final point of sale. The initial phase has seen 10 of the leading shoe suppliers to the Russian market already sign-up.
A list of Russian shoe manufacturers can be found by clicking at the second link below.
National Russian Dress: Footwear
Russian peasants used to wear lapti (bast shoes), whereas in towns high boots were the most common footwear. Heeled boots appeared in Russia somewhat in the 14th century. The high boots were usually square-tipped, whereas the nobles were distinguished by upturned toes. The tops of the boots were comparatively short and angularly cut towards the knees. They were sewn of coloured leather, morocco, brocade or velvet and were often decorated with embroidery and even gems. In the late 17th century under the influence of western fashions the nobility started to wear low shoes.
Lapti, Traditional Bast Shoes
In Russian self-perception the braided footwear known as lapti is one of the most important symbols of the traditional national mode of living.
The lapti made of bast or birch bark were the main type of peasant footwear in Russia till the mid 19th century.
The lapti were worn with the onucha, i.e. a puttee, a strip of cloth wrapped round the foot. The onucha was fastened to the leg with a bast lace fixed to the shoe and was twined up around the shin in the manner of the Old Greek sandal. Nevertheless, when walking for a long time one had to rewind the onuchas.
The lapti making was a peasants’ winter occupation, when they had no field works to do. The laying-in of bast took place in summer, when bast had all the required strength properties. The newly braided lapti were stretched on a single last, so the right and the left one were the same.
To make one lapot one needs seven bast stripes two meters long each. One bast stripe was to be as wide as a thumb of the man who gathered it and then made the bast shoes. For making the shoes they needed bast from the even part of a linden trunk, without any defects along the full length. It means that mature, tall and even linden trees were chosen for barking. Frequently after the summary loss of its bark the tree would die and remain to stand with its naked “stripped” trunk. The sorrowful fact found its reflection in the Russian figurative expression: “to strip like a linden”, which means to deprive somebody of all the needed resources and thus endanger his/her life.
Since leather boots were always expensive and only well-to-do people could afford it, while the poor wore lapti, so the bast shoes came to symbolize poverty, and low birth, as well as lack of culture and backwardness.
Hence is the number of set expression in the Russian language: * “lapot” as a trope stands for a simpleton, an ignorant person; * the derivative attribute “lapotny” of the same meaning; * “Methinks, we don’t sup soup with a lapot”, (rough translation) means “we are not just out of the trees, so don’t you teach us how to live”.
Bakhily (aka bredni, brodni, butyli, lovchagi, ostashi, sapogi cherepanskie) are men’s working and fishing footwear made of leather. These were soft leather jackboots with high tops to the knees or thighs. The bakhily were usually made on the straight last, i.e. the same for the right and the left foot. Soft leather soles were stitched to the boots with an axed thread, and then the boots were turned out. The tops were also made of soft leather, with one seam behind, and were fastened onto the leg with a strap. The strap was put through a small loop or a ring stitched to the back part, and was twined up round the leg and tied under the knee. To make them more durable and protect feet from moist the bakhily were dubbed with tar and fish oil, and soaked in slated water; additional straps of leather were lined to the toe and the back part.
In some parts of Russia “bakhily” was also the name of working footwear on solid nailed soles or footwear made of skins of sea animals or calves, but with soles of seal skin. The tops in all the cases were also soft and long and fastened onto the leg with straps.
Bakhily were usually put on woollen socks or stockings. Insoles of soft hay were put inside.
The bakhily were usually worn for fishing, hunting or any other crafts. Soft turned-out jackboots were typical footwear in Russian villages. They were known as far back as 10th century as footwear of the townsfolk.
Valenki (aka valentsy, volnushechki, vykhodki, pimy, katanki, or felt boots) are men’s and women’s winter footwear filled of sheep wool.
These are felt footwear with high tops, round toes, and flat soles without high heels. As a rule they were made on one last, the same for the right and the left foot. The tops reaching knees were usually not turned down but slightly cut for more comfortable walking. The soles were often lined with leather to prevent the boots from soaking wet.
The valenki could be grey, brown, black, or, more rarely, white. White felt boots were embroidered with coloured worsted or beads. They were fooled by special masters, called katali or pimokaty. In every province there were a few villages that specialized in felting boots. Along with that there were large centres of felt boots manufacturing; their products were distributed far beyond the limits of one province. Thus, for example, in the North-East of European Russia and in Siberia the so-called kukhmorski valenki were famous; those white embroidered felt boots were made by masters of Malmyzhsky District of Vyatka Province.
In spite of being very famous as Russian national footwear the valenki are comparatively young footwear in Russia. They appeared in Siberia in the mid 18th Century, and came to European Russia in the early 19th century. In the 19th Century the valenki were holiday footwear of wealthy peasants. White embroidered valenki were holiday footwear only of very rich peasants. In the late 19th and early 20th century felt boots got widely spread, becoming basic winter footwear of peasants in European Russia.