Fitting Use of Digital Imagery - Shoes
Digitoe Builds on Customizing Feat
by Constance Sommer PI Reporter
What would you give for the perfect
pair of shoes?
Shoes that won't pinch won't
Shoes that fit your foot like
skin itself, in the style you want paired with the color you've
Sounds absurd, perhaps, but a
Port Townsend company named Digitoe has a plan to mix computers
with foot leather that it promises will turn the absurd into
In the future, "Nike will
have it's place, but so will little guys like us," says
Alan Zerobnick, Digitoe's unabashedly ambitious Chairman, owner
and creative guru. "We are going to rise."
This is how it works: Digitoe
uses computers to take digital pictures of a customer's feet;
those images are translated into virtual models of the feet on
the computer; then the computer spits data to one machine that
creates plastic models of the feet, into another machine that
cuts the leather pattern for the shoe; finally, a shoemaker sews
the cut leather together and, fitting it on the model, attaches
the top to the bottom to create a shoe.
Once the customers feet are on
file in the computer, however, Digitoe can craft more refined
footwear- from golf shoes, to work boots and wing tips- at prices
ranging from $395 to $1,800.
OK, so it's not cheap. It's also
not widely available yet. The company currently offers it's product
in two locations- the Port Townsend headquarters and Shane's
Foot Comfort Center in North Seattle.
What makes Digitoe a serious
player is it's pedigree and a considerable investment in research.
Zerobnick got his shoemaking
start manufacturing Clown Footwear. Apparently, Clown Shoes are
the ultimate in tricky footwear.
"It's like a shoe within
a shoe," Zerobnick said. "Those people stand on their
feet 5-6 even 10 hours a day. They need to look good and be comfortable.
They need to be able to run. These are active people."
Zerobnick could understand the
Clowns' need for the right shoes because he also has a hard time
finding shoes that fit. A dozen years ago, he discovered a new
machine that he realized could hold the possibility of delivering
the ultimate shoes. I was called a computer.
By 1990, Zerobnick had committed
himself to a new kind of shoe production. He began pouring his
savings into computer purchases, fiddling around with new technology
until he could create a virtual 3 dimensional "shoe last"
on the screen. A shoe last is the shoe business term for the
solid model over which a shoe is constructed.
He figures that by this point
he's spent several million dollars researching his product.
Shane Hayes, owner of Shane's
Foot Comfort Center and a specialist in fitting hard-to-fit feet,
only agreed to offer Digitoe shoes to his customers after having
a pair made for himself.
"I wasn't willing to get
behind this project until my foot had been run through the entire
system and (I could) see whether the shoes fit or not,"
he said. "And they fit like a glove.... It surprised me.
I suspected there would be something that wasn't correct about
it, but it was great the first time out."
Waiting on patents, Digitoe could
not offer it's shoes for sale until this fall. But a website
(www.Digitoe.com) has resulted in a waiting list of 600 customers,
off which the company plucked 8 for its first batch of commercial
orders, Zerobnick said.
Of the 8 customers, 2 are from
Seattle, one is from Bellingham, 2 are from California, one if
from Florida, one if from Colorado and one is from Virginia,
'He says he plans to open 2 Digitoe
stores next year, one on New York's Long Island and the other
in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Both are near major golf courses.
Apparently golf enthusiasts particularly appreciate Digitoe shoes.
But Zerobnick's plans are bigger
than golf. He sees computer customization as a force that eventually
will transform the shoe industry.
"We're emerging right now,"
he said, " because this is our time."