Walking into the Modern Vice shoe factory was like walking into an all you can eat restaurant--you can have whatever you like. You want a sneaker wedge for the afternoon? Theyve got you covered. You want an ankle boot for the evening? Take a pair in black, brown, red, or blue. You want a color that isn't available? Okay they'll make it for you in-house. Heck, they'll make 100 pairs by 6:00 PM.Okay I actually don't know about special orders, but to make my point clear, the brothers behind Modern Vice shoe collection have it going on. I discovered the brand via Instagram and fell in love with the Jett boot. It was love at first sight as I proceeded to take the lead and reach out to the brains behind the brand. Fortunately I was given the warm shoulder and met brothers, Jensen and Jordan, in the Manhattan based shoe factory. Although the brothers were born and raised in New York, the story really goes back to their father, Jay Adoni."Our father came here in the 70s from Israel for the American Dream. He left Israel at age 16 or 17 before he had to go to the military. Right off the boat he did a lot of manual labor and odd end jobs like painting and what not. He had very little money in his pocket and not much experience speaking English.""Back in Israel, at age 12 or 13, our father would drive to the city of Israel and buy popular fashions. He would bring them back to his town and resell them for a higher price. So fashion was always in his blood...After living in the U.S. for a bit he and his uncle decided to open up a small factory on W 25th street. It started as a room with 4 or 5 people sewing and making shoes. Over the course of 10 years it grew to a 100,000 sq. foot factory in Brooklyn with 1,000 employees."The boys remember running around the factory when they were kids."I honestly don't know how he did it. It's pretty crazy that we have people who work in our factory now that worked for him back then,"said Jensen. After mentoring and shaping the careers of shoe mavens such as Steve Madden, their father sold and left the business altogether, heading into real estate. The boys followed their father's footsteps and when Jay decided to re-enter the shoe business about five years later (with imported brands like Pour la Victoire and Kelsi Dagger) Jordan and Jensen were conceptualizing their own start in the industry."We grew up in a house full of shoes. As he was building these companies we were right by his side. One thing led to another and we had these crazy concepts for our own shoe brands. This is when we decided to start Modern Vice. It's been about a year and a half.""Modern Vice started as an import business that we wanted to launch like any other shoe company. It actually originated as a sneaker company. We had no idea we would end up with a shoe factory. We did know we wanted to be close to the process and work with pattern makers hands on. We suggested the idea of a factory to our father and he thought we were crazy. After all he had sold his factory and resources, like man power and machinery, that were available back in the day, were not as available anymore."But Jensen and Jordan persisted. They saw a hole in the market and an opportunity to quickly produce trends right in the heart of NYC. They wanted to curate the shoes themselves, not just outsource. At the Modern Vice factory, shoes are improved throughout the production chain, from design to manufacturing to finished product. It's truly an art and craft that calls for much appreciation, especially after hearing about the trouble it took to establish the factory in the first place."The first challenge was finding a space. We thought it would be easy because there was a huge vacancy rate in the city. It is crazy how many landlords take advantage of the system. They get incentives and tax breaks from the city and government to market the building as a manufacturing space but the truth of the matter is, the landlords don't end up using it for that purpose. You can apply all day long and landlords will deny you. We applied for 10 spaces before we got this one. That's because a landlord's goal is to turn everything into a condo building that will make lots of money. The last thing they want is glue and factory workers and freight. They say, 'No problem you can have a shoe factory, but you can't have glue.' How can you have a shoe factory with no glue?! Its nonsense."Luckily Jordan and Jensen found a great landlord and signed the lease. The next step was finding man power and machinery.
"Finding machinery was a whole other process that ended up being very difficult. We thought we would put a couple ads in the paper and shoemakers would come out from everywhere. That just wasn't the case. We ended up meeting a guy named Don Klingbeil who had a ski manufacturing business in Queens producing ice skating boots. We fell in love with his craftsmanship and workers and finally convinced him to bring his workers and machinery to our space in the Garment District. We now have an amazing crew of 28 guys who have been doing this for 10 to 50 years. We are a big family, literally. We have husbands and wives and fathers and sons, most of which all work at the same tables."While most brands in the factory are imported, the Modern Vice Collection is completely manufactured in-house from start to finish. Modern Vice Collection differentiates itself from the Modern Vice line in that they are higher quality, more exclusive, and a little more expensive. Most everything is imported from Italy from the shoe lasts (pictured above) to their python and ostrich skins, among others. It is a very well run engine that is not far off from producing almost 500 pairs of shoes a day."We want to have this space forever. Our father has an interesting challenge to all of corporate America. He challenges that 3% of all products be made in the US from start to finish, from cars to electronics, etc. It is an interesting tipping point to what is going on in the economy right now. This factory creates so many jobs. If we are going to import some shoes, why not make as much as we can here? Ultimately we would like to have the whole building with a different factory on each floor, maybe even producing different products like handbags, etc. First we have to master this though, and that's what we will do."And they are right on track to becoming masters of their trade. I walked out of the Modern Vice factory with a newfound respect for local manufacturing, a history and economy lesson, and even more of an obsession for the "Modern Vice girl.""The Modern Vice girl is not dictated to as to what she is going to wear and what her style is. It's about being edgy and funky. It's all about the attitude of the individual. By being worldly and in tune with whats going on in fashion and society she puts it together in an iconic way that other people want to emulate. She is the leader, not the follower."And as Jordan Adoni would say... Shes "fucking...sexy...bitch."