Oliver Sweeney shoes have been made in the same family-run factory in Italy for more than 20 years. The factory is in the region of Le Marche, on the Adriatic east coast of Italy, which is renowned for its shoe-making tradition. No wonder Oliver Sweeney is at home here.
Every Oliver Sweeney shoe and boot begins with the pattern, the two-dimensional plan of the finished item. Each Italian one is cut by Gianni who has 25 years experience. His knife cuts out the shape of the upper of the shoe, as well as defining any patterning or decoration (for example, broguing). In English, he would be called a clicker.
It is the clickers skill to cut the pattern out to maximise the natural grain of the leather. On the animal the hide stretches from the spine down towards the front shoulders and the rear haunches; the pattern must be positioned carefully to ensure that the shoes upper benefits from this natural quality.
Decorative punching is taken care of at an early stage in the production process. After the pieces of the upper have been precisely cut, decorative touches like the O and the S on the heel are stamped.
Once the upper parts are cut, they must be secured to the lining, which is also mainly cut by hand. Considerable skill is needed to ensure that the inner and outer leathers are sewn neatly and smoothly. The desire is to have comfort, strength and good looks combined in the shoe or boot.
Any decorative piping is sewn to the uppers by skilled machinists who are trained to manipulate the very narrow strips of kangaroo leather that make up the piping.
The last is the shape that makes a 2-D idea a 3-D reality. Oliver Sweeney is renowned for its Anatomical Last, which was developed to mimic as closely as possible the natural contours of the foot.
Using precision presses, the sewn uppers are shaped around the Anatomical Last. Skilled hands ensure that the uppers are carefully moulded around the Anatomical Last. Different nuances must be applied for different styles, and qualities of leather or suede. Skilled hands are essential.
Carefully programmed hydraulic presses precisely and consistently shape the leather uppers around the Anatomical Lasts.
In one of the few operations that does not involve human hands, the uppers briefly pass through a hot oven to harden the adhesive used so far in the process.
Each shoe will remain on the last for at least 24 hours, to ensure the form is properly developed. During this time, individual elements are shared including the toe puff and heel counter.
On some Oliver Sweeney styles the sole is coloured an intense black, which forms a bold contrast to the lime green flash at the sole waist. The sole is scored with an outline to guide the machinist, but it is his or her experience and flair that guides the shoe smoothly round the needle to ensure a consistently firm fixing.
When the sole has been secured, the heel unit is attached. A high-pressure hammer is used to provide a secure fixing every time.
Oliver Sweeneys unmistakeable lime green inner soles / footbeds are embossed with the silver logo on-site at the factory
Although the shoes look almost finished, there are still several stages to be completed before the factory is happy to see them leave. The patina on so many Oliver Sweeney styles is achieved by the skilful application, by hand, of layer upon layer of polish. Our factory is especially noted for the tamponato finish that cannot be replicated by a machine.
These shoes are awaiting lacing, final quality control checks, packing and despatching, all part of the processes that go in to the making of Oliver Sweeney footwear.