This decade has been much kinder to the footwear manufacturing sector in Marikina in the Philippines than the previous ones. Marikina, which is around 25 kilometres from the centre of Manila, was once home to an estimated 3,000 shoe manufacturing businesses, including informal operations that people ran from their homes. Its greatest ambassador, former first lady Imelda Marcos, promoted Marikina-made shoes among the 3,000 pairs she is estimated to have owned at one time.
However in the first decade of this century, when cheaper shoes imported from China began to arrive in shops in the Philippines, manufacturers in Marikina began to suffer and, unable to compete on price, many closed down. By 2010, only only 126 footwear producing companies remained on the town’s register. With a new generation of entrepreneurs keen to preserve and prosper from the skills of Marikina’s community of footwear artisans, the industry has begun to grow again and there are now more than 200 shoe companies working in the town. In 2017, their combined sales revenues were more than $40 million, an increase of 85% on the figure for 2010.
Now, young, entrepreneurial brands such as Marquina and Black Wing Shoes are using social media to present new designs and colours and encouraging fashion-conscious consumers, at home and overseas, to place orders for the styles they like the best before commissioning Marikina artisans to make the shoes.
A consultant for the Marikina Shoe Industry Development Office, Clarissa Badong, recently told the Nikkei Asian Review that these younger business people have saved Marikina’s shoe industry at the same time as helping consumers recognise that, even if they cost a bit more and you have to wait a few weeks for your order to be ready, well made shoes are worth it.