I only started to appreciate, and I mean really appreciate locally-made shoes when I started working for a Pinoy brand that makes them. I'm writing this just to share my thoughts and what I've learned (and still keep learning) from the experience. :)
It was in the mid-90s when the influx of China footwear killed off a good chunk of the local shoe industry. Fact is, China shoes are cheaper and faster to make. Shoe factories in the Philippines simply can't keep up. It's economics, and everyone just dealt with it as best they could.
However, by mid-2000, things started looking up for local shoemakers. Consumers realized that buying mass-produced, imported shoes (usually) meant a reduction in product quality and an appalling tendency to have exactly the same thing as everyone else. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, if you pay dirt cheap for a pair of shoes, you really can't expect much.
But people wanted to expect much. They didn't mind paying more if it meant having something fairly special in terms of quality, comfort, and design. It was around that time when small local brands started popping up to make great shoes at nice prices. They're still more expensive compared to China/ Bangkok/ Korea re-branded shoes, but they are definitely more competitive.
What sets our local brands apart is their vision and true love for making good shoes. I have observed this several times in person. :) They take honest pride in what they do, eking out their small place in the world with shoes that are practically hand-made.
Design and sample room
I've had the opportunity to visit a Marikina shoe factory last year, and I've seen the workers make the shoes with basic tools and minimal machines. That's one way to know if a brand is local: the quantities are limited because it takes time and sometimes chance (rainy weather = slower production) to complete an order. That's the reason you won't often see a local brand go on big sales unless the stocks are very old or unsaleable.
Another thing to love about local brands is how honest and responsible they are (in general) about the shoes they make. They're not infallible so there's a bad shoe or two in every batch. You can easily call them to ask for a replacement/repair or give them a piece of your mind - they'll probably do as you ask or even go so far as to pull out that particular design from all their stores, if the situation calls for it. They are accountable.
If your shoes get broken or have a defect, you can go to the brand and have it fixed.
So please, do make it a point to support locally-made shoe brands! I'm not saying you should turn your nose up at trendy brands with imported shoes. They supply a need and I respect that. I even buy from them if I see something I like. I guess what I'm asking is to keep your eye out for local brands, regularly check out what they come up with. Keep them at the top of your preference list and buy fom others only when they don't have what you're looking for.
Here are some great brands to follow and buy from!
Anthology's prices are quite high, but their shoes are made from real leather, with a scientific approach to comfort. They're what you can call investment shoes!
Of course, I have to mention Ferretti. :P Our shoes are known for being super light and comfy. The designs are classic and office-safe, but we also have fun pieces. A small percentage of of our shoes used to be imported, but we're now moving to having all our footwear made here.
Gold Dot shoes are making a splash in the local and international fashion scene with high-fashion, couture shoes. They're the brand to go to when you want something that makes an unforgettable statement!
Posh Pocket Shoes make durable folding shoes at really great prices. I've had mine for two years and it's still alive and kicking!
Ylla Shoes have elegant, kinda vintage-y flats, sandals and heels that come in such pretty colors!
Suelas makes gorgeous flats that go from sweet to edgy. Very fashion-forward.
No one else will help the local shoe industry if we don't. Love your own - a motto that should not just apply to shoes, but to everything Filipino-made. :)