Gear Junkie: Full-custom Chaco sandals making waves
The Gear Junkie
Sandals bake in pressurized heat. Ink moves from a transfer sheet to straps and soles. I’m in Michigan, onsite at Chaco’s factory, and the shoes materialize before my eyes.
PrintShop by MyChacos is a program years in the making. It gives full license to anyone motivated to create sandals with a full-custom touch.
Chaco’s iconic Z/Sandal is the canvas. You upload graphics — photos, art, personal sketches — online at the PrintShop webpage. Once you complete the design, a worker on the Rockford, Michigan, factory floor will bring your one-of-a-kind sandal to life.
Chaco launched the program last week. Cost is minimal; the company upcharges just $10 for the PrintShop build.
For that, you can craft sandals on-screen. Ink-sublimation machines then create footwear unlike anything on the market.
I came to Michigan to witness the first set of sandals roll off the PrintShop line. A customer from Kentucky was PrintShop’s very first, and their uploaded design was unknowingly serendipitous. Party-inspired graphics with a streamers-and-confetti motif bedazzled the first pair of custom Chacos off the line.
Soon, the webbing was on a tray with a metallic sheet clamped on top. A touchscreen initiated the process. Then, the machine hummed to life, pulling blank straps inside for a vacuum treatment that permanently infused the nylon with ink.
Two minutes in the machine and a cheer rose from the gathered group. Straps came off the tray, full of cartoon streamers and confetti dots.
A festive mood continued through lunch. Seth Cobb, president of Chaco, stood up at an all-staff meal to congratulate the group.
It was a big day for the brand and, Cobb said, a peek at the future for a company that has long been bullish on personal expression from the feet on up.
“All of our research tells us that our customers are incredibly creative,” Cobb said. “They paint, sculpt, build, cook — and PrintShop will let them express that creativity by applying their uploaded artwork or photos to the custom sandals we build for them.”
Cobb described PrintShop as more than just a fun feature. Sure, you can put your dog’s face on your footbed. But PrintShop points toward a macro trend, seen at Chaco and beyond, of empowering consumers to engage deeper with a brand.
“Yes, it will generate revenue, but we just love the potential PrintShop gives for Chaco overall,” he said. “I think it will put Chaco on the map as the leader of customization in the footwear space.”
Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at http://www.gearjunkie.com.
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