Like the shoes he designed, Paul Kasdan’s insoles are created with an earth-friendly vision
A Saint John local shoemaker could give Dr. Scholl’s a run for its money. Down the road, anyway.
Paul Kasdan, who was last in the news for his kung-fu-inspired shoes, is back at it with matching, eco-friendly insoles.
The bright colours might pop out at potential buyers, but the soles represent Kasdan’s mission to help bring industry back to the province.
“We’ve just seen manufacturing shut down,” said Kasdan, who is producing the insoles in a small north end studio. “And nobody really talks about it.”
In his lifetime, Kasdan watched the T.S. Simms brush factory, the Lantic Sugar refinery site and the Scotsburn Frozen Novelty Plant — commonly known as the Popsicle Factory — shut down and the buildings demolished.
With the loss of these jobs, Kasdan believes the province’s ability to create has diminished.
He finds beauty in the repetitive work of manufacturing. Some people may turn their noses up at the blue-collar jobs, but Kasdan looked down to his feet and tried to innovate.
Wants to bring jobs to province
Although he wants to support manufacturing in the province, Kasdan’s shoes are made in a factory in China.
His footwear was inspired by two shoes traditionally worn in China and designed to offer maximum flexibility and the feeling that one “can’t get any closer to the ground.”
He began selling the shoes last spring.
Researching the two styles, the New Brunswicker studied Mandarin. He then hiked the Chinese mountainside to find a suitable factory.
But Kasdan laments that his shoes are produced abroad.
“I get really passionate about that,” he said. “I think that’s actually where we should be focused in New Brunswick — manufacturing.”
That’s why his insoles, which he hopes to start selling online next week, are made in his studio on Adelaide Street.
“If someone looks at how many people are working here, they’re not going to be very impressed,” he said. “It starts here. It starts small.”
Like his shoes, the soles are designed with an earth-friendly vision. Made out of jute and multiple levels of felt, they contain no plastic.
Kasdan imports the Canadian and German wool he uses from Ontario. He then binds the material together with rubber.
“I’m trying to meet the need for people who are hiking, running, so on, and want to be active in a much more natural environment,” he said.
What’s different about his wool insoles, he said, is they will naturally mould to the user’s foot over time.
He’s also designing what he calls the world’s simplest vacuum former.
The primitive system pushes a sheet of plastic over an insole onto a mould of the human foot to give it shape.
“They’re typically $500,” he said of the machine. “If you’re going up in scale, that’s going to be a huge investment.”
While his insoles are just about to hit the market, he’s already found joy from the research and development stages of his product.
He’s learned a lot about what still exists across Canada.
“I want to source as locally as possible,” he said.
“You actually get to find out what other industries there are in your local area.”