About This Project

Shoe Factory Donguan

It all started with three machines in 1984.Today the company produces 16 million pairs of shoes per year.

As with many factory tours, we are first shown a promotional video recounting the history of the company. One of the striking things we found in China was how similar the paths taken by different company owners were. While visiting this shoe factory in Donguan, we learn Mr. Zhang Huarong’s story. He founded the company in 1984 after spending 4 years in the army. He started out with 18 employees and today, over 25,000 people work for him. In 2012, Mr. Zhang and Meles Zenawi, then prime minister of Ethiopia, inaugurated the first buildings of a future city of 200,000 inhabitants, the Huajian International Shoe City in Ethiopia. The city was imagined and planned in less than 2 years and, when finished, all its inhabitants will be employed by Mr. Zhang. On these images, engineers are seen producing 3D models of shoes and molds are made for soles and heels from designs created by western designers. The increasing pace of collection turnover (2 per year in the 1990’s compared to 4 per year today) means that these employees are working under constant pressure. The fast pace of our visit clearly highlighted the fact that, here, production leaves no time for distractions, we being one small distraction in the endless daily routine of the workers.