Part of complete coverage on
Holey soles: Italy's breathable shoe brand looks east
August 22, 2012 -- Updated 1556 GMT (2356 HKT)
- Italian shoemaker Geox specializes in creating "breathable" shoes and fabrics
- The company employs 30,000 people around the world and has nearly 1,200 stores
- Economic downturn means Geox is planning to invest in Asia
(CNN) -- Since 1995 the Italian shoe manufacturer Geox has worked hard to ensure consumers are spared the inconvenience and embarrassment of sweaty feet.
Its patented "breathable shoe" technology -- a combination of a membrane insole that absorbs sweat and lets it out through an outer sole filled with holes -- has turned the company into a multi-million dollar shoe empire.
The idea of a sole filled with holes came to the company's founder, Mario Moretti Polegato, when he was on a business trip to Reno, Nevada, to promote his family's wine products. After the meeting Polegato decided to go for a wander in the hot Nevada Desert, and necessity turned out to be the mother of invention.
As his feat quickly began to overheat Polegato decided to make holes in the bottom of his shoes. "With my pocket knife I cut holes in the right and left part of the soles and I realized the ventilation in my shoes," he said.
When Polegato returned to Italy he started to develop a shoe with holes in the sole that let air in and perspiration out. The design was patented and in 1995 Geox was founded with five employees; today it employs 30,000 people around the world.
Scientific and technological innovation has been key to Geox's success, and the company has patented numerous new materials in rubber, leather and fabric. Each prototype is designed in Italy but to shorten delivery times the company outsources much of its manufacturing to Asia.
"We invest a lot in quality control. In every factory where we produce there is an Italian technician, a shoemaker, that controls shoe by shoe," said Polegato.
Despite being Italy's number one shoe brand, the economic crisis has affected sales in Geox's core market. The company's distribution network is clogged up with last year's stock and orders for next season are down.
Read more: Unlocking China's business potential
Polegato says the solution is to look further afield than Italy and its neighboring countries: "Our strategy now is to invest more in some countries with economic growth, like the Asia Pacific area, Eastern Europe, India and Turkey," he said.
Nearly seven years after Geox opened a megastore on Madison Avenue in New York City, the company is looking east to expand its empire. "Our program now is to open 300 Geox stores in China," he added.
Part of complete coverage on
November 14, 2013 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Peer at the windows and you'll spot big colorful chairs, plastic plants and a huge bed, but this is no department store.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1006 GMT (1806 HKT)
There once was a time, many years ago, when the sounds of bagpipes struck fear into the stomachs of Englishmen.
November 11, 2013 -- Updated 1116 GMT (1916 HKT)
Greece is on the way to economic recovery as investor faith returns to the recession-ridden eurozone nation, an executive at Greece's largest bank has told CNN.
November 8, 2013 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Could Greece's famous spice help the country's farmers through a four-year long economic crisis.
November 1, 2013 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
One of the masterminds behind the euro says Europe would have suffered a far worse fate if the single currency had never been created.
October 31, 2013 -- Updated 1741 GMT (0141 HKT)
Nina Dos Santos visits the Dutch city where the European treaty carrying the city's name came into force 20 years ago.
October 25, 2013 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.
October 24, 2013 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
The high commissioner of Brand Spain talks about getting the country back on its fee and attracting business.
October 17, 2013 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
Jim Boulden looks at countries that have come to the brink, and even defaulted on their debt in the past.
October 17, 2013 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
The head of the International Monetary Fund is warning European governments against complacency after growth returns to region.
November 7, 2013 -- Updated 1659 GMT (0059 HKT)
Portugal will avoid a second bailout when its current financial aid program expires in the spring of 2014, according to the boss of the country's largest energy provider.
October 11, 2013 -- Updated 1122 GMT (1922 HKT)
Could the Portuguese staple of sardines become one of the hooks which would lift the Iberian nation out of recession?
September 26, 2013 -- Updated 1720 GMT (0120 HKT)
Isa Soares sits down with the CEO of Henkel Kasper Rorsted for his take on what Merkel's win means for German businesses.
September 28, 2013 -- Updated 1406 GMT (2206 HKT)
As Germany's switchover from nuclear power gathers pace, concerns are mounting over the cost to the country's already squeezed consumers.
September 20, 2013 -- Updated 1655 GMT (0055 HKT)
The financial crisis has driven a wedge through Europe, with two economies emerging and -- more dangerously -- a psychological split between the north and the south, European leaders have told CNN.
September 26, 2013 -- Updated 1224 GMT (2024 HKT)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel seems the antithesis of a modern-day politician. Nina dos Santos explains why this works.
September 9, 2013 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
The use of chemical weapons in Syria is a "tragic mistake" but Italy will only participate in military action with the approval of the United Nations Security Council, according to the country's finance minister.
September 13, 2013 -- Updated 1018 GMT (1818 HKT)
What a difference a year makes. Last year, delegates at the Ambrosetti Forum in Italy had a lot to contend with. The air feels a little different now.
Today's five most popular stories