The Portuguese shoe industry faced its most severe crisis 30 years back, which led some of the industry experts to declare that the sector dead in that country. Countries like China and Bangladesh began marketing their products low coat products aggressively overseas, and Portugal was not in the situation to compete. In addition, the industry earned a negative reputation because of excessive use of child labor, poor working conditions and workers’ exploitation. Portugal’s shoe industry employed some 45,000 people, most at the minimum monthly wage of 650 Euros. Fortunato Frederico was the man who recognized as times were changing they need to move away from producing what he described as cheap junk. Instead, he noticed the potential for high-quality fashionable shoes with the “Made in Portugal” label, and he followed his instincts.
“The first collection that I designed was luxurious, valuable and pricey, and my father who himself is a shoe manufacturer, said that you will not sell any,” Luis Onofre, from the brand Oliveira de Azemeis, shared with Deutsche Welle. But the opposite occurred, and since then the company had established itself as a market leader in designer shoes market. They have their own company stores in the happening shopping districts of Lisbon and Porto. Their export share is over 90 percent.
Fortunato Frederico, one of the leading shoe manufacturer from Guimarães, was also a trendsetter. In the year 1994, he founded the brand “Fly London” that is famous worldwide. Presently he sells almost all of his shoes under his own labels. But he has no plans to rest on his laurels in the near future. His next ambitious dream is to set-up unit for custom-made shoes, which are ordered in one day and delivered the next. “We must constantly increase the value of our products,” he said.
This could become a turning point solve for the issue facing the Portuguese shoe industry: low wages. At around 650 Euros per month, the workers are barely able to meet the state-guaranteed minimum wage. This situation must transform, Frederico insists, even though many of his colleagues may not have the same opinion.