ECCO Shoes – From Cow to Shoe

I have to be honest and say that when ECCO shoes approached me and asked me to join their media press trip to Copenhagen, I didn’t know very much about ECCO shoes.

I think I had walked passed one of their shops a few times. I’d never actually been in an ECCO store. I felt that they sold “practical” shoes, as opposed to “fashion” shoes, to which I am clearly addicted.

So, I was a little embarressed to discover that:

ECCO is the 3rd largest producer of casual footwear in the world.

ECCO shoes are sold in over 90 countries.

ECCO is the only major shoe manufacturer that has chosen to own its own tanneries and factories, allowing them control of every detail of supply and manufacture, from cow to consumer.

ECCO has a set of ethical principles that are applied in all company operations throughout the world. It includes respect for human rights, freedom of religion and supports the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

And what interested me was talking to the ECCO people and finding out what ECCO think about their shoes, and why they feel they have a unique range. Apart from being seduced with free international travel to a fashion week, my interest was piqued by the idea of seeing the whole design process, and what inspired that design.

I was excited about getting an education!

So off I went on a jet plane, and 30 hours of travelling later, I arrived in the coldest place I have ever been to.

Ecco Press Trip 2011 - Tonder

The ECCO Centre is nestled 4 hours drive away from Copenhagen, in a small little rural town called Tonder. There were snowy fields, winter trees, cute little cottages and wild dear. I was in fairytale heaven.

The ECCO Centre is  a huge and lovely place – with multiple open and spacious buildings, every wall covered in original art. There are dorms for visitors to stay. A cafeteria that looks more like a restaurant. An indoor golf driving range, beautiful gardens and sculptures.

Talking to a lot of people, the biggest thing I learned about Danish culture is that – the people place a high importance on work-life balance and having a high quality of life.

Did you know that in Denmark, most workers have 6 WEEKS ANNUAL LEAVE? Their work hours are 8am to 5pm every day, and half days on Friday. Mothers have 12 months maternity leave, fathers have 6 months leave. They do have high taxes, but that means a high level of social welfare – free education and health care.

No wonder why they are often called “the happiest people in the world”!

Anyway, on to the shoes.

Ecco Press Trip 2011

In a guided tour of the ECCO Centre, we saw inside the ECCO branding department, and saw some shoes that won’t even be released  for several seasons ! I noticed that ECCO have brought in lots of new stylish looks for their collections.

Ecco SS11 Golf Shoes

These are some current SS11 Women’s Golf shoes. I love the bright colours. And you don’t even have to play golf to own a pair.

Ecco Press Trip 2011

The ECCO team gave us a tour of their design and development centres. The above photo is of one of the shoe designers sketching away in his creative space. This was where I was able to check out how they made shoes. The designer in me was skipping along doing the happy dance – I was so fascinated by everything!

I saw a huge selection of high quality leathers that had been developed at their tanneries. From soft, supple, natural toned, buttery leathers, to striking, patent leather in bright red with crocodile skin embossing.

Apparently, ECCO produce such high-quality leathers, that they sell them on to high end designers brands such as LV, Coach and even Porsche.

Ecco Press Trip 2011

This is a “mock-up” for a kid’s shoe. The designer puts together colours and textures, leathers and ribbons to create a more tangible look of the shoe design, and then they make a prototype – pictured in the background.

Ecco Press Trip 2011

This is a 3D paper shell of a shoe, onto which a shoe designer has sketched the more functional and technical aspects of a shoe – what can be done with the current range of leathers or straps or velcro or buckles.

From there they create prototypes which are then tested on “foot models” to check for comfort and fit.

Ecco Press Trip 2011

I did not know that designing a shoe upper (as opposed to the inner or the sole) is like putting a 3D jigsaw together. There can be up to 50 pieces of leather or fabric all in all kinds of weird shapes.

Ecco Press Trip 2011

I discovered that most regular shoes have their upper part stitched or glued onto their sole. But ECCO is the world leader in direct injection soles, where the shoe uppers are placed into a sole mould and the sole material is injected into the mould, bonding directly with the upper.

Apparently it’s the strongest way to attach the sole to the upper, it makes the shoe watertight, very flexible, the sole moulds to your feet and it’s very comfortable etc.

Above left is a photo of the direct injection machines, which were actually funny little robots rolling around the room, hissing and humming. A bit like the Dr. Who Daleks (without the angry shouting).

Above right, is a photo of ME trying to sew bits of leather together to make a shoe upper. It was so tricky and stressful (especially when you have a pro standing next to you). BUT I was actually quite good at it! I was so proud. If ever this blogging thing doesn’t work out, I might go into making my own shoes haha.

We spent hours at the development centre and I can say that I now definitely have a higher respect for shoes made with higher quality materials and craftsmanship. I didn’t realised that the shoe design and making process was so long and complicated!

Overall this was been *such* an enjoyable and valuable adventure for me.

If ECCO’s objective was to get me to realise what the consumer is paying for when they purchase high-quality shoes – it worked.

So now, I’ve found that when ever I pick up a “fashion” shoe – I immediately start to inspect the quality, the way it had been assembled, and I wonder how the materials were sourced. Yay to being a shoe geek!

Vintage Fashion Advertising for Men

This landed in my inbox the other day, and I thought I would share it with everyone, since I like to subscribe to a broad range of fashion experiences for entertainment. Enjoy!

The ads had no credits, so my apologies to the original editors.

Vintage Men Fashion
This says – “Jump into the hottest fashion idea of the season… with a smooth, comfortable fit that makes the most of your body. The stretch terry jumpsuit comes with or without hood in washable, natural cotton and polyester blend. Designed for people like you who makes things happen.”

Vintage Men Fashion

Various magazine spreads offering the latest looks in menswear. Apparently mustard and graphic prints were in.

Vintage Men Fashion

A magazine dedicated to “MEN – In Belted Sweaters”

Vintage Men Fashion

“Things Happen When You Wear ELEGANZA!”

What I find most funny is the way the women are portrayed in all these advertisements – literally hanging off the shoulders of the hunky men.

Liam at 23 months

Liam 23 Months

Liam is almost 2 years old.

His is definitely his own little person now – with his own little personality. I say that with such surety, because he is now doing things that his older siblings do not do, and have never done.

He is a little fuss pot. If there is a boy-version for the word PRINCESS, then Liam is it. He is so picky about everything.

And trust me, my first two kids were NEVER like this. They were all relaxed and not-fussed about small things.

But Liam! He doesn’t like sand in his sandals, he doesn’t like to have dirty hands, he doesn’t like to wear certain t-shirts, he only wants to drink from the PINK cup, and the pink cup has to be CLEAN.

It’s kind of annoying, but at the same time very cute. And because he is my last baby, I can feel myself looking past all his peculiarities and going all lovey-dovey on him.

Playtime

Liam has two big brothers to entertain him all day. He is constantly surrounded by noise and movement and talking. So when the older kids are at school, Liam comes to me looking to be entertained. He wants someone to read him a story, someone to talk to him, someone to wrestle him, someone to just watch.

He’s not great at playing by himself, or with other kids his age.

But again, that’s fine because I just love hanging around the little guy. Did I mention he’s my last baby?

Usually I have to take him out during the day – or else he will trash my house.

I can’t do many chores at home while he plays around me in the house, because he gets bored and “tries to help” by throwing all the kitchen stuff onto the floor, pulling all the books off the shelves and tossing them into the hallway, yanking all the shoes out of the cupboards.

Liam is super active, but he loves his sleep. At night he sleeps, from 7pm to 7am. He needs to take a 1.5 to 2 hours nap sometime during the day. And he drinks half a cup of cow’s milk before bed.

Eating

Liam eats whatever we eat. I don’t make him a separate meal. But most times he pushes the meal away and says, “I no like it.”

Some weeks he will refuse to eat anything but corn chips for dinner.

Other weeks (like this week) he will only eat green lettuce, peas, corn and carrot sticks. In fact, yesterday he hungrily ate 6 large lettuce leaves for dinner and kept asking for more. Crazy!

So I figured that within a month, he’ll get enough vitamins and minerals to keep him healthy and well balanced! I hope!

Development

Mr Messy and Mr Bump

He just LOVES the Mr Men characters.

If there was a hero to sum up his early childhood, it would be his favourite character Mr Messy, followed closely by Mr Bump.

We read Mr Men books ALL DAY, we draw Mr Men characters ALL DAY and he drags around a stack of Mr Men books wherever he goes. He can identify 30 of all the Mr Men listed on the back of each book.

None of my other two kids were particularly interested in the Mr Men series. But I really like them… they’re hilarious!

Liam 23 Months

Turns out that he’s remarkable at identifying shapes. My other kids never did this at such an early age.

He loves his pointing and shouting “SQUARE! SQUARE! RECTANGLE! RECTANGLE! RECTANGLE!” at every single brick on a paved pathway. It takes us forever to walk anywhere.

So I’ve started teaching him shapes, numbers and letters of the alphabet.

He can now point to letters on the street and on signs boards, he can recognise numbers on food packaging, and he can identify his own name. It’s kinda scary if I think about it too much (argh he’s growing up so fast!), but most of the time I’m very nonchalant about it.

Liam is very, very, very talkative. It surprises a lot of people. And he’s like a little parrot – mostly repeating the last three words of everything anyone says.

His older brothers have taught him to say words like “Stupid” and “Disgusting”. Which really annoys me. But I don’t turn it into a big deal, so he doesn’t say it around me. He just says those words (and others!) around his brothers, who respond with laughter and lots of new words.

Sometimes Liam will say something that will totally floor me, like…

“Mummy! Liam watch TV. Despicable me! On TV.”

or “Mummy, play scissor, paper, rock with me!”

The kid’s not even 2 yet!

A few months ago, I wrote a post called, The Relentless Rollercoaster about how Liam’s development was driving me totally batshitcrazy. Well, I can’t believe that was the same kid! Things are peachy at the moment. It is a rollercoaster indeed.

And lastly, here are some interesting photos. They are of Sean (my second born boy) looking exactly the same as Liam does now. Scary!
Me and Sean (1 year old)
Sean at 22 Months
Sean at 23 Months

14 Hours at Bangkok Airport

Early this month, I went on a media press trip to Denmark to attend Copenhagen Fashion Week and to check out the Ecco Shoes Headquarters.

It turned out that my flights went from Perth / Bangkok / Copenhagen. With a 7 hour wait at Bangkok. Both ways!

At first I thought, I’ve never been to Bangkok! I wonder what it’s like there?

I guess I toyed with the idea of zipping out to check out the city. But since I wasn’t a frequent [read: confident] traveller, I had a movie-styled scene playing in my head that involved me being in a road side traffic accident, then me being stuck in the waiting room of a police station with creaking ceiling fans, and then me arguing with the local police “I NEED TO CATCH MY PLANE IN ONE HOUR!!!”

So I decided to stay in Bangkok Airport for the whole 7 hours.

I don’t know how many of you can appreciate this – but as a parent of 3 young kids, I hardly ever get 7 day light hours to myself.

I literally didn’t have any where to go. Anything to do. Meetings to attend. Appointments to keep. Chores to do. Food to make. Kids to pick up. I had no time schedule to constantly check.

All I had to do was to pass time and enjoy the experience.

And believe me, when an opportunity like this comes around, simple things can make me very happy indeed.

14 Hours at Bangkok Airport

When I stepped off the 7 hour flight from Perth to Bangkok, I took a long stroll through the whole airport to stretch my legs. It felt great to walk. It was as if the simple motion was re-setting all my muscles and bones back into place. It felt good.

14 Hours at Bangkok Airport

I watched the sun set, from behind glass. I know, it’s a brilliant photo.

14 Hours at Bangkok Airport

Then I decided, since I was in Thailand, I’m going to look for some Thai food for dinner. First thing I thought of was, Tom Yum soup.

But it occurred to me that I probably SHOULD NOT eat spicy, seafood, Tom Yum soup in a different country, just before an 11 hour flight.

I certainly didn’t want to be running down the plane aisle to get to the toilet all night long.

So I cancelled my meal order and changed it to something less potentially lethal – roast duck noodle soup. Yum.

I sat there and ate my meal slowly and leisurely. I read a magazine from cover to cover. I read a bit of my novel. I enjoyed the busy hum of the restaurant. And most of all I enjoyed the sheer quiet of my personal space – no one nagging at me, no complaining, no rush.

Just me and my own thoughts.

It was divine.

14 Hours at Bangkok Airport

Later I found a little cafe, which looked very low key and homey. It had dodgy looking food, and weird Asian spelling for their dishes. But it was quiet, and it had free WIFI.

I sat down and did some work.

So quiet! It was so amazing. I got so much work done. I felt incredible!

14 Hours at Bangkok Airport

Lastly, I found this massage place.

Before my trip, someone told me about the “famous massage place at Bangkok Airport” and I swore I would go check it out.

It was so soooo goood. I had a 1 hour feet and neck massage for AUD$25.

I was lying back on the lounge chair, with this lovely Thai woman rubbing oil on my feet, and I was thinking – I could go home right now and I would have had the best holiday.

Ahhh. Simple things. Karen happy.

It was all so satisfying, that on the way BACK home from Copenhagen, for my other 7 hours at Bangkok Airport, I planned to re-do every experience, exactly the same as before.

14 Hours at Bangkok Airport

But of course, it didn’t turn out like that.

Before I got on the return flight in Copenhagen, I went on a shopping spree to buy presents for my family. I bought my kids Denmark T-shirts and key rings – and I bought my husband a bottle of his favourite whiskey.

Then 12 hours later, at Bangkok Airport, I got stopped at security and the guards pulled me aside and said, “You seem to have more than 100ml of liquids in your bag.”

And I was all, “Omg I totally forgot about the whiskey! I’m so sorry! It’s a gift to my husband! I just crammed it into my bag and it was 12 hours ago, and I completely forgot to take it out before the xray…”

But they were apologising to me. And why were they apologising to me?

Because they were going to confiscate my bottle of whiskey!

Apparently, back in Copenhagen, the Danish woman at the alcohol check-out didn’t put the whiskey bottle in a sealed Duty Free bag for me. So according to the Bangkok Airport Security Guards, I was carrying “illegal substances”.

I was devastated. But I was more devastated for my husband, who is a big fan of whiskey. He is originaly Scottish, and in Scotland, whiskey is more precious than gold.

Of course, you don’t get into an arguement with airport security guards – not even if your Scottish-born, whiskey-loving, stayed-at-home-with-three-kids-while-you-went-on-holiday-for-a-week husband will be devastated.

So I said, “OK I’ll give you guys the bottle, but first let me take a photo of the bottle in the bin.”

This threw them off a little, and they gave me this strange look like, who is this crazy woman and why does she need a photo? (I get it all the time).

I was almost going to retract my proposal, I mean, should I really be messing with the minds of Airport Security Guards?? So I just told them the truth – I needed the photo to prove to hubby that I really did buy the bottle for him.

Then they lightened up and had a bit of a chuckle when they saw me place the whiskey bottle ceremoniously in the bin, nestled next to the discarded half-empty water bottles.

Thankfully it was just a “gift size” whiskey bottle. And I got a replacement one at Perth Airport.

And I still wonder – do Airport Security Guards really just throw a full bottle of whiskey in the rubbish – or do full bottles of whiskey find their way to a happy home?

I hope so!