History

Q: How to start?

Norbert: What a question. With the beginning

Q: And when did it start and how?

Norbert: It happend end of the 1970s. Used to be student in Berlin. There was demand for pointed shoes from the 1950s. You couldn't get them in ordinary stores. I travelled to the smaller places in Western Germany and bought what has been left.

Q: And that did work?

Norbert: That worked very well. But not for long.

Q: Nobody wanted them anymore?

Norbert: No, that hasn't been the problem. I haven't been the only one who used to do it. On one travel I just finished to fill up my R4 car when the next buyer from Holland arrived. Bad luck for him. A couple of months later Western Germany was almost empty for shoes left from the 1950s. Driving did make no sense anymore.

Q: What happened next?

Norbert: Replacement was needed. I just opened a shop in Berlin, Oranienstr. That store didn't even have his own name. For rent I paid 430 DM only. And it's not a small shop. But the salesroom had a hole in the floor. Without a cover you had a good chance to find yourself hurt in the basement below..

Q: That's a joke, or not?

Norbert: No, that hole was real. We got a new floor in that Kreuzberg restoration. But back to your query regarding the replacement. Doc Martens were next. You couldn't buy them in ordinary shops.

Q: And where did they come from?

Norbert: In these days they were made in England. And the English makers weren't allowed to export them to Germany for licence reason. I did drive to England and bought them there. The lisencer was located in Munich and wouldn't allow competition for his Dr Maertens air cushion shoes.

Q: But they are very different.

Norbert: I wouldn't say so. But they looked completely different. And the customers didn't have anything in common. It seemed like 10 years until the lisencer noticed about that. And then he took over distribution for Germany

Q: And they were available all over the place.

Norbert: Correct. Distribution got adopted and prices got adapted. After that you could get them almost everywhere.

Q: Let me guess. There was need for something new?

Norbert: Yeah. In these days a few smaller shoe makers still used to work in the UK. That opend chances for wholesale. In the meantime the store and the company got the name >yellowgelb<. (gelb means yellow in German language). And the Berlin wall was torn down

Q: That must be 1989.

Norbert: The smaller English factories did close down. And Eastern Europe opened up. That was the time of absolute madness. We got our boots from a company employing roundabout 1400 workers. If I remember right >yellowgelb< used to work by 3 people in these days. The turnover of the 3 of us was bigger as the factory with those 1400 workers. But the overthrow in Rumania happend very fast. The state owned factories got dissolved and small factories were not existend.

Q: Where did you buy your boot from?

Norbert: My dream did come true and I founded a shoe factory.

Q: This is not a question. This sounds like nightmare.

Norbert: Even for me it's hard to understand when looking back. The factory did work for 5 years. But it was much too complicated. Maybe leather is from Portugal, eyelets + units from Germany, some PU­foil needs to be shipped from the UK to Czech Republic for coating some split leathers. Lasts and midsoles are from Hungary etc. etc. Assembling takes place in Romania and you can't finish a shoe if one single component is missing. Same if a machine fucks up or power is off. And many more things, as finance, motivated workers, taxes, duties etc Just a short story: We had a truck going from Romania to Germany. The truck passed Romanian customs. Hungarian customs complained about the papers. It took us a week to sort it out. The truck driver spent a week between Romanian and Hungarian borders. No joke.

Q: Let's finish to talk about Eastern Europe, ok?

Norbert: Ok, let's go ahead with inamagura and we're in China now.

Q: Didn't inamagura exist before?

Norbert: Inamagura was born in that Romanian factory. Ina, name of my former wife and Magura the location of that factory. But in these days we just made heavy boots with heavy buckles and fat soles. With China lady boots got added. We couldn't make those with our rough machines in Romania. And beside I took over the T.u.k. distribution for Germany.

Q: Wasn't it a bit too much?

Norbert: It got too much. I had to decide myself and I decided again for the more complicated.

Q: To do the T.u.k. distribution would have been less complicated?

Norbert: A lot more simple. But I would have been just a little part of a big machine. Anyway it was a pleasant cooperation with T.u.k

Q: How did inamagura move on in China?

Norbert: Start wasn't that easy. Very different world over there. Without my older daughter, who used to study some time in Beijing, I probably would have gone lost.

Q: Back to my query

Norbert: China developed breathtaking fast in these days. After coming back in 6 months time new skyscrapers did rise up on places where waste land or meadows used to be before. At least I imagined like that. I had a production in a very small factory, a real rat­shop. Coming back for next visit I got picked up from the owner by Mercedes. The factory had moved to a huge hall with a couple of production lines. Unbelieveable.

Q: That doesn't sound bad or not?

Norbert: The factory grew that fast, in short time my orders became too small for them. They didn't

Q: Did you have alternatives?

Norbert: Yes. But small factories come and go. That's as it is. That's a big risk.

Q: In 2009 your company got broke.

Norbert: Ja, this didn't has anything to do with the smaller factories.

Q: But?

Norbert: We had 4 containers on order for spring. And with that first one something went wrong. A part of the returns was required for the next container. Without that everything got busted.

Q: This sounds like chain letter.

Norbert: Maybe not exact. Anyway, the financing went out of control.

Q: But how do I understand? This sounds like the end.

Norbert: No. That was the end of Yellowgelb GmbH & Co KG. Exact one dozen customers gave orders and paid ahead

Q: Hard to believe

Norbert: Happend that way. Things went on seamless.

Q: And what's the situation now in early 2016?

Norbert: As you can see inamagura still exist. They are now made in India.

(self made interview 14 Februar 2016)