Innovation has always been a fundamental part of ECCO. Since the late Karl Toosbuy started out with a small factory in Bredebro back in 1963, the focus has been on designing and creating the best shoes possible, in the most modern way.
One way has been to engage people, who at first glance might not seem as the typical employee in this business, as they are trained and taught in different areas than the classic shoemakers. Like 34-year-old Thomas Gøgsig.
As a Doctor of Science, Thomas Gøgsig joined ECCO Leather in the Netherlands in 2012 as a chemical engineer. According to him, it was quite a natural step as leather-making is a lot about chemistry.
Pushing the boundaries and driven by an insatiable appetite for progress, Thomas Gøgsig heads up the Applied Research department at ECCO today.
"My job is to ask questions and challenge the status quo," says Thomas Gøgsig. "It's not about predicting the future and looking into a crystal ball, exactly. It's about being proactive about what will come. Asking questions such as: How can we do it better? Can we utilise insights or technologies from other areas? How do we leverage and utilise our value chain to an even higher extent?," Gøgsig says. He notes that the things we take for granted, are precisely the things that he would like to question, and be a bit provocative about.
The new ECCO KINHIN shoes are one such example where chemistry has helped produce a new Alu-Silica Hybrid leather — HESTIA. It is an alternative to conventional chrome or vegetable tanning, and combines some of the earth’s oldest elements within an aluminum-silica mix, to produce a very fresh pre-tan hide that delivers purer colour tones, and a distinctive full-bodied touch, to the final product.
A COCKTAIL FOR INNOVATION
A great atmosphere and a go-getter boldness, coupled with financial security, control over the entire production chain, an entrepreneurial spirit, a high level of passion from employees, and a strong network — this is what Gøgsig sees as the potent and essential cocktail ECCO possesses to produce its innovation. ECCO has what Gøgsig refers to as “the innovation line process,” where the roles of the different departments come into play to bring a single idea to fruition.
First of all, he says It's not about some areas having ownership of creating ideas, because “everybody in ECCO is allowed and even encouraged to do that." He says that ideas pop up from different areas, and then the motion is set forward to transform them into something valuable. Gøgsig says there is a lot of synergising within ECCO’s internal networks. "That means that we have bridges between all the different ECCO departments and divisions. Moreover, we’re heavily reliant on our production teams and Research & Development teams, in both shoes and leathers. This collaboration is where we’re really able to implement new things," he explains.
According to Gøgsig, it’s not only internal networks that his team relies on but also external ones — not limited to suppliers and existing partners, but also research institutes and big brands. "We tap into their development teams, research facilities, and so on. We work directly with their product developers, technical staff, and scientists," Gøgsig explains. With one company he gives as an example, they work together with a pool of 500 scientists — directly. "Of course, that leverages our team by magnitudes, and boosts our capabilities," he says.
According to Gøgsig, working with their external networks is very powerful. He comments how ECCO has close partnerships with many select luxury brands. When ECCO develops a new leather, he says they can ship it straight to the company, and receive direct feedback to make any necessary changes to perfect it so the leather can be featured in the brand’s range. Gøgsig says these kinds of valuable relationships allow ECCO to benchmark all the time.
FROM PASSION COMES EXCELLENCE
Thomas Gøgsig believes that to continually advance and deliver excellence, it takes passion.
"If you're not passionate about projects you're driving…if you're not passionate about challenging the status quo or constantly questioning the way you do things, if you're not excited about how leathers are being produced or how shoes are being stitched, then you'll never be able to ask the right questions,” he concludes.
ECCO is one of the world’s leading shoe brands combining style and comfort. ECCO’s success is built on products with a great fit and top-quality leathers. ECCO owns and manages every aspect of the value chain from tanneries and shoe manufacturing to wholesale and retail activities. ECCO’s products are sold in 88 countries from over 2,000 ECCO shops and more than 14,000 sales points. ECCO is family-owned, founded in Denmark in 1963, and employs more than 20,000 people worldwide. www.ecco.com