KUALA LUMPUR: The store is straightforward to stroll previous with no second look. Inside nonetheless, is a hive of exercise.
A number of staff are busy making footwear amid a hum of vigorous dialog and there’s upbeat Chinese language music taking part in on the radio.
You’re within the premises of Wendy 1 Enterprise, a shoemaking enterprise.
Talking with FMT Life-style, enterprise proprietor Wong Siew Wah, 75, mentioned his foray into shoemaking started over six many years in the past in Penang.
The fourth of eight siblings, he was in a position to full just one yr of faculty as a result of cash was tight. However when he was 11 years outdated, his shoemaker uncle steered he apprentice below a grasp shoemaker. And so he did.
The times had been lengthy – at occasions, he labored for greater than 12 hours – however the expertise was invaluable. Certainly one of his colleagues was the world-renowned, king of footwear Jimmy Choo himself.
Later, Wong moved to Kuala Lumpur and labored in a shoe manufacturing unit. His dream, nonetheless, was to open his personal enterprise, which he did in 1976.
“I managed to avoid wasting up some cash,” he mentioned. “With just a few thousand, I might open a shoemaking enterprise. I wanted solely two or three folks to work with me.”
He named his enterprise Boon Wah Footwear Buying and selling Firm. It was solely in 2022 and solely as a result of he needed to register a brand new enterprise that he modified it to Wendy 1 Enterprise.
He mentioned occasions had been good within the early days of his enterprise. “In 1976, there have been only a few procuring malls. Certainly one of these was Ampang Park. Enterprise was superb. There have been numerous shoemakers.”
As enterprise grew, Wong employed extra folks and at one level had greater than 70 staff. He additionally obtained married and had three youngsters.
Nevertheless, when low cost footwear from China penetrated the market, it took a toll on his enterprise. As did non-paying prospects who he had allowed to gather their footwear first.
Quickly, he needed to scale down his enterprise in an effort to survive and, in 2001, he moved to his current location.
Through the years, Wong discovered different methods to remain afloat. For instance, he opened a showroom to promote rejected inventory at decreased costs.
He additionally took orders for custom-made footwear. “Some prospects can’t discover appropriate sizes in the marketplace. So, if they need bigger and even smaller sizes, I’ll make them.” He additionally did alterations.
Then got here making footwear below his personal model, Wendy 1. Wong specialises in footwear for grownup girls, and makes quite a lot of footwear from glittering excessive heels to pumps, boots and dancing footwear.
In reality, in 2010, he received first prize in a footwear design competitors organised by the Perak Footwear Trade Affiliation.
Wong has educated greater than 100 staff over time. He at present has 15 staff and so they carry out separate duties, equivalent to reducing the supplies, stitching, attaching the outsole of footwear and becoming lasts – mechanical types formed like a human foot – inside footwear to mould them.
The standard workshop is definitely a far cry from the massive factories stuffed with machines, and one can’t assist however surprise about the way forward for the handmade shoe trade.
Based on Wong, there have been greater than 200 shoemakers within the Klang Valley 30 years in the past. However the quantity has dwindled considerably. He mentioned one of many causes could possibly be that fewer younger folks had been inquisitive about studying the craft.
Wong admitted that he didn’t encourage his personal youngsters to affix the enterprise. “Making footwear might be very taxing,” he mentioned. “When you discover, we don’t use machines. It’s all within the palms of a talented shoemaker.”
Wendy 1 Enterprise
15, Jalan Perdana 6/8A,
55300 Kuala Lumpur
Enterprise hours: 9am-6pm each day
Contact: 012-225 3366