Crafts & skills
Labour and machines
Leather and leather products don’t grow on trees (not yet). A lot of work needs to be done before we can put on those beautiful shoes or place that lovely couch in our living room.
For instance, producing the upper part of a shoe takes about 35 actions before it can be connected to the sole. Nowadays we use machines to perform all those actions. Nevertheless labour costs still make up the largest part of the overall product cost.
From the start of the Industrial Revolution the leather- and shoe industry at ‘De Langstraat’ (a region in the Dutch province of Brabant) had been very prosperous. Numerous leather manufacturing companies, big and small, offered steady employment to thousands.
After a slump in the manufacture of leather products that started in the pre war years and lasted through World War II, the industry enjoyed a brief period of recovery until the foundation of the European Economic Community (EEC) in the 1950’s. As a result of the free movement of goods more and more cheap shoes were imported, mainly from Italy. The Dutch shoe factories struggled for survival. Between 1960 and 1980 over 150 out of 227 factories (each employing an average of 200 employees) were forced to close down. Today only a handful of shoe factories and tanneries are still operating in the Netherlands.
Miniature machinery ©Schoenenmuseum.nl
The dire state of the industry also had significant implications for the Dutch Leather and Shoe Museum. In 1973 the museum board decided to include the fast disappearing historic tanning and shoe fabrication technology into the museum's collecting policy, and in so doing strive to preserve these vanishing trades for generations to come.
As a result of this foresight the museum now combines a unique collection of artifacts ranging from design and production to finished products and has thus become a important part of the Netherland's industrial heritage.
Video production by Ben Smit Multimediaprodukties
No clue what to expect at the Dutch Leather and Shoe Museum? Just watch this introductory video. Not only will you get acquainted with some of our top items but you may also see a professional demonstration of the tannery and shoe factory!