Western & English Today

FALL 2014

W&E Today provides retailers and manufacturers with education and ideas that provoke innovation in the Western and English markets.

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FALL 2014 Western & English Today 35 I n addition to the iconic Rios line, the business offers four other boot brands appealing to all segments of the market. Like Rios, the more moderately priced Anderson Bean and Olathe lines are made in America. Their designs appeal to everyone from downtown city bankers to cowboys riding fence to the coolest students at Texas A&M. Macie Bean features fashion boots for women, while the well-crafted Horse Power offers people style, function and comfort at a lower price point. The companies operate out of a comfy cluster of offices, factories and warehouses in Mercedes, Texas, 20 miles east of McAllen in deep South Texas. Above all, the story of Rios tells of family and friendship. The people who run the companies are either related or have known each other so long that they feel like family. When the owners and managers talk about their business — connecting thoughts, adding insights — their conversations feel as supple and familiar as that pair of long-worn boots. "There's cachet to having a boot made in Texas — where the cowboy was invented," says Pat Moody, the president and a partner in the business since 1983. (He's also dubbed "the Elvis of Fit" for his skill at fine-tuning footwear.) "We're all hands-on. We buy the leather, the thread, we turn lights on in the factory in the morning," says Ryan Vaughan, the general manager and a partner in the companies. His wife, Jode (who is Trainor's daughter), helps design the boot lines. "We're not braggado- cios … we just do what we do," says Michael Dvorak, head of brand development. "Money can't buy the heritage we have." The most important part of that heritage: making handmade boots in America. "We can change designs or stitch up a sample immediately. Retailers don't have to wait for a sample," Ryan says. The companies buy from American suppliers whenever possible. Leathers are tanned in Milwaukee, leather piping is manufactured in Fort Worth and leather heels come from Massachusetts. "There are a number of different ways to make a boot — but just one correct way," Trainor says. Moody agrees: "It's in our DNA: We don't know how to cut corners. Do you need a leather heel counter on a fashion boot? Double stitching? Cow-leather lining? Probably not, but we do it. Twenty years later, the boot is still being worn and not on a shelf in a thrift shop." About 25 people work — by hand — on each pair of boots. Only the decorative stitching is done by a computerized machine — the sole skill a machine performs better than adept human workmanship. While it's easy to admire shiny ostrich vamps or jaunty flower inlays, the most painstaking details hide deep within the boot. The leather heel counter molds itself to the foot. Linings are not glued to the vamp, allowing materials to breathe. Because of the channel welting, boots can be resoled, allowing them to live on for decades. Rios recently rebuilt a python boot made in 1972. In the showroom, 1,000 pairs of boots dazzle visitors with their kaleidoscopic colors and designs such as butterflies, stars and howling coyotes. Exotic pelts pile up on tables — hornback caiman, teju lizard, kangaroo, shark and pirarucu (the largest fish from the Amazon) HANDMADE IN AMERICA: The companies use more than 300 types of hides, from teju lizard to calf, and about 25 craftspeople work by hand on each pair of boots, including Maria Reyes (bottom left) and Silvestre Garcia (bottom right) who have been with Rios of Mercedes 10 years and one year, respectively.

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