Just last month in late February, 2019 I had the opportunity to tour the infamous Vibram factory located outside of Gaungzhou, China. Why do I say infamous you ask?… As an outsider in the shoe business you would always hear about this facility in China that featured everything from a grocery store, to a Sauna, and even its own hotel suites. It almost didn’t sound real and for me, it all sounded mythical. However, during my visit I learned that many of these myths are true and that the infamous Vibram factory is as good as advertised.
This enormously large facility is fully equipped to design, develop and produce a wide range of soles in addition to the occasional shoe or sneaker in their on-site sample room. This facility has it all and as a result it gives Vibram the ability to have complete control over their development and most importantly, protect all of their in-house designs and intellectual property for themselves and their clients.
Just walking through the facility you quickly realize this is something special and very unique to China. It’s not everyday you see facilities with their own sample room, development center and moulding factory all on the same site. It was clear that a tremendous amount of thought went into building this place, with the intention of making it a corner stone for the Vibram brand.
Based on my observations, it was obvious that the crown jewel of this entire facility was the Vibram performance center. This is where Vibram is able to test all of their products in manufactured environments meant to replicate extreme weather conditions so they can collect data on the products they create and improve them throughout development.
Inside this testing facility they have a ice room which simulates temperatures well below freezing. On this day the room was being used to test vibrams arctic grip technology, which allows you to walk on ice as if you were walking on a sidewalk. We tested it ourselves and to no ones surprise, it worked extremley well. Very impressive.
As you walk through this facility and learn about each testing station, I realized why Vibram continues to lead the way in outsole technology and innovation. They put in the time, resources, and energy into developing their products and testing them in the most extreme conditions possible over and over, and again and again which allows them to stand behind their products with confidence and guarantee that you are getting their very best every time.
For as long as I can remember I have always recognized that bright yellow rectangle with the slanted corners, but on this day I learned what’s actually behind that iconic trademark. Quality, tradition, innovation and hard work are just a few of the words that come to mind when I think of Vibram and as the footwear industry continues to grow and brands come and go, that yellow rectangle will remain constant for years and years to come.
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