“Our award is another milestone in our mission towards a sustainable future. For us, this award is a recognition and a sign that we are on the right track,” says Sandro Piroutz of the “woody” shoe manufacturer. The family business, founded together with father Gerhard and son Sandro Piroutz in Müllnern near Sittersdorf/Žitara vas, received the sustainability award from the Carinthian Economic Development Fund this year. Our 35 employees produce 40,000 pairs of shoes per year under the brand “woody”: slippers, sandals, boots, sneakers. Its feature is that the soles are made of flexible willow wood and the upper material is made of leather or calfskin. CO as the company generates its electricity from photovoltaics, heats the plant with production waste, uses its own groundwater and actively reforestation of willow forests in Burgenland2-The footprint of the shoe is not better.

Next generation

The wooden sole, made flexible using a special rubber, was developed by company boss Gerhard Piroutz, who took over the business from his father Johann in 1981. Meanwhile, his son Sandro Piroutz is following in his father’s footsteps. The mechanical engineering HTL graduate from Ferlach started working on new models and marketing strategies during the Corona epidemic. The result was the world’s first ultra-stylish sneakers with elastic wooden soles, which have now become popular. We are constantly working on new models and colors together with in-house designer Mateja. A featherweight Italian-style loafer will be available soon.

“We capture the spirit of the times with our shoes. “From cheap to high quality, towards durable models made of natural materials,” says Sandro Piroutz, explaining the trend, adding: “Our shoes are timeless and are worn by everyone, from young people to the elderly.” The leather comes as a waste product from Italy. Burgenland’, which is soft. Wood obtained from willow or poplar trees in. “No cows need to die because of our shoes,” says Sandro Piroutz.

Shoe factory in Müllnern

© Elisabeth Tschernitz-Berger

Although his philosophy is to stop producing shoes in Carinthia, the uppers are produced in two locations in Bosnia. Not because it is apparently cheaper, but because the people there still understand the old craft of cobbler, which is no longer valid in this country. Josef, Christoph and Anton staple the finished leather uppers onto soles produced in Müllnern.

Anton staples the finished leather uppers onto soles made in Müllnern

Anton staples the finished leather uppers onto soles made in Müllnern

© Elisabeth Tschernitz-Berger

Vivian Westwood and the Pope

In 2016, the company finally reached the top of the fashion industry when none other than fashionista Vivian Westwood became aware of Woody. Everything at London Fashion Week revolved around the theme of wood, so “woodies” came along at just the right time. Also on the catwalks of New York, Milan and Paris. Shoes with Westwood design can still be purchased from outlets today in the form of sneakers and boots. The Pope has been walking on cloud nine since receiving “woody” shoes as a gift in the audience of the Sittersdorf motorcycle club in the Vatican. By the way, the Pope wears number 43.

The success story of the family business began 101 years ago when Michael Piroutz produced pitchforks, rakes and wooden jugs for local farmers at his Müllnern plant. His successor, Johann Piroutz, expanded the production of functional wooden shoes from 1970 onwards. In 1989, shoes began to rise with the invention of the flexible sole, fashion elements, the establishment of the production store and new sales channels. In 2015, they invested in a stylish sales store where all models are carefully listed.

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