Chaco launched a made-in-the-USA sandal customizer called PrintShop this week. We traveled to the brand’s Michigan factory to learn more.
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. Up to now, the MyChacos program invited users to create one-of-a-kind sandals by choosing unique strap patterns from a design library. PrintShop takes that ethos to a whole new level.
Chaco’s iconic Z/Sandal is the canvas. You upload graphics — photos, art, personal sketches — online at the PrintShop page. Once you complete the design, project lead Bianca Vasovski or another worker on the Rockford, Mich., factory floor will bring your one-of-a-kind sandal to life.
Chaco launched PrintShop this week. It adds significant new options within the brand’s existing custom tool. Cost is minimal; Chaco 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.
First Custom Sandals: On the Chaco Factory Floor
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 then a cheer rose from the gathered group. Straps came off the tray, full of cartoon streamers and confetti dots.
PrintShop was live, official, and open for sandal artists anywhere to get busy and make their mark.
Expression on Your Feet: Custom Chacos
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.”
By now, the party-theme sandals from the Kentucky customer were rolling further on the line.
Custom Footbed, Custom Straps
The Z/Sandal is composed of only eight total parts — a footbed, two webbing straps, thread, outsole, heel riser, a single buckle, and logo badge — and workers at the Michigan factory can assemble one in less than an hour.
And in Kentucky, a customer will unbox the shoe they envisioned just days earlier. It will grace their feet for years to come, a personalized, unique piece of footwear unlike any other on Earth.
Collections and Images
Not feeling quite that creative? Beyond the DIY option, customers can also choose from a collection of images and customize them with color-selection tools.
In addition, Chaco has partnered with landscape artist Rachel Pohl for a limited-edition collection of printed Z/Sandals.
See the full program at the MyChacos page. Sandals start at $130 for the made-in-the-USA Z/Sandal model. An additional $10 unlocks the PrintShop options, letting you conceive and create a sandal of your very own.