Poppy Barley



Ethical Manufacturing

Poppy Barley screens all its factories for positive working conditions, including a living wage (Poppy Barley pays, on average, six times the the region’s minimum wage), full-time permanent employment with health care and pension benefits, fair working hours, paid vacation and sick leave, and ongoing training and opportunity. We work closely with our factory partners, and maintain ongoing and open communication with the people who make our products. Because we have such an active role in our production, we are able to get to know our skilled artisans, and closely monitor our factories to ensure that there are absolutely no human rights violations (e.g. child labour, discrimination for pregnancy, forced overtime etc.), which, unfortunately, is not an industry standard.

We build long-term relationships with all our factories and provide consistent work, rather than changing suppliers to find the cheapest contracts for manufacturing. This helps our factories provide permanent, secure employment and allows us to produce high quality products with longevity. Beginning in 2017, inspired by fair trade factories, we implemented a wage premium of 0.5% of sales that goes directly to the artisans at our footwear factories. (See our 2017/2018 Sustainability Report.)

As we continue to grow our operations, we have begun the process of looking for additional factories and artisans to produce our footwear and leather accessories. To maintain the quality of our products, while also ensuring that our workers are paid and treated fairly for their work, we established a checklist and questionnaire for vetting prospective factory partners.

Poppy Barley makes its footwear in Leon, Mexico.
Poppy Barley makes its footwear in Leon, Mexico.

How We Vet Prospective Factories

All Poppy Barley factories are screened with the following Code of Conduct tool.

Furthermore, we screen factories by visiting the factory, interviewing the factory owner and select employees, and by auditing a random selection of payroll and personnel files.

Factory Code of Conduct Tool

  1. Do the factories employ anyone younger than 16?
  2. What is the employment structure of their employees?
  3. What is the average wage paid to a shoemaker? Is this before or after tax?
  4. If a shoemaker is paid by piece, on average, how many hours per week does the shoemaker need to work to reach the average wage as provided above?
  5. Do employees receive any benefits other than wages (e.g. health, employment insurance etc. including benefits mandated by the government)? If yes, please detail.
  6. What hours and days of the week do shoemakers work? What is the minimum vacation provided?
  7. Is overtime voluntary or mandatory?
  8. Does the Factory use any forced or trafficked labour?
  9. Do all employees have the right to enter into and to terminate their employment agreements?
  10. Are employees subject to any of the following harassment, abuse and disciplinary practices?
    1. Physical violence
    2. Verbal violence
    3. Psychological abuse
    4. Sexual harassment
  1. How structurally sound is the building? Has it had any recent inspections?
  2. How often are the production machinery, equipment, and factory tools tested and maintained?
  3. Does the factory have clear fire exits and is it equipped to deal with a fire as required by law?
  4. Has there been any major accidents in the five years? (major being described as causing a non-trivial injury)
  5. Are any of their tanneries certified by the Leather Working Group? If yes, what is their level of certification (gold, silver or bronze)?
  6. Where do the cows come from to make the leather (country and region of origin)?
  7. Do any of the tanneries offer vegetable tanning?
  8. What happens to the by-products that result from making the leather (the chemicals leftover and the water)? Are the chemicals removed from the water? How are the chemicals stored? Is the water cleaned and recycled?
  9. Are you aware of any legislation in this area that guides the behaviour of tanneries (For example in Mexico by law tanneries must clean and recycle the water they use)?
  10. Please provide any other information about the environmental or sustainable practices of the tanneries.

The Poppy Barley Factory Code of Conduct Tool was developed based on the International Labour Organization core labour standards and the laws in the countries where we operate. These are the minimum requirements we seek from all factories.

Where It All Started

Poppy Barley began its manufacturing in León, a city of two million people located in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, approximately three hours north of Mexico City. While we have also expanded our production to ethical and sustainable factories in Brazil, many of our products are still made in León.

Often referred to as “The Shoe Capital of the World,” León has been making shoes since 1645, and it is this centuries-old history of craftsmanship that, after a global search—from Argentina to Italy and China— convinced us to set up production there.

León’s thriving footwear industry has attracted many immigrants from Italy, Spain and Argentina over the years, and the result is a vibrant fusion of food, culture, and the best practices in shoemaking.

Poppy Barley makes its footwear in Leon, Mexico.
Poppy Barley makes its footwear in Leon, Mexico.

a 36 km supply chain

León has one of the world’s leading footwear manufacturing clusters: all of the necessary production supplies are concentrated within a 36 km radius.

The city holds 3,394 shoe manufacturers, 388 leather goods manufacturers, 300 suppliers (machinery, outsoles, textiles, synthetic materials, glues, fittings, etc.), and 696 tanneries.

The city of León, and the partnerships with our factories, makes it possible for Poppy Barley to bring our customers the highest quality materials and what we believe to be the most comfortable footwear in the world.

Our Team in Mexico

We have a small office and team based in León. Working closely with our shoemakers, we make regular visits to each factory multiple times per month, if not per week. Our Mexico team oversees our production and product development, ensuring every pair of shoes and all leather goods we produce meet strict standards of quality control before shipping to Canada and the US.

Follow our Mexico Operations Manager, Laura, on a typical day in the business of shoemaking.

Mexico Operations Manager, Laura

Our Mexico Operations Manager, Laura.

Poppy Barley footwear.

Mexico factory artisans, Don Rogelio and Alfonso.

Factory owner, Fernando.

Our Canadian team, Jane and Esther, visiting Fernando’s factory in Mexico.


Our Factory - Custom Shoes - Poppy Barley

Lupita’s Footwear Factory

Number of employees: 22
Year established: 1996

The Owner
This factory was founded twenty years ago by Lupita. Poppy Barley co-founders Kendall and Justine Barber serendipitously met Lupita when their shoe broker Laura’s 12-year old daughter came home and reported her best friend’s mom (Lupita) could make custom footwear (did you catch all that?). This was the beginning of the Poppy Barley partnership (and became the original Poppy Barley factory) formed by four women: Kendall, Justine, Lupita and Laura.

The Factory
Lupita recruited all of her shoemakers from the sample rooms of León’s top manufacturers. (It is in the sample rooms of larger factories where the first prototype of every new shoe style is handcrafted before it is mass-produced by an assembly line.) The artisans have decades of experience in shoemaking, having launched their careers when it was still the norm to make shoes entirely by hand.

Our Factory - Custom Shoes - Poppy Barley

Fernando’s Footwear Factory

Number of employees: 100
Year established: 2006

The Owner
This factory was established by Fernando ten years ago as an extension to his family’s business. While Fernando’s factory is large and capable of producing 8,000 pairs of shoes per week for outside clients, his lifelong dream has been to own a small, high-end factory that focuses on top quality materials, small-batch manufacturing and the art of shoemaking. This is where Poppy Barley comes in…

The Factory
Fernando and Poppy Barley have developed a small cell of highly skilled artisans dedicated to the development and manufacturing of Poppy Barley’s custom and ready-to-wear footwear. More specifically, Fernando’s factory makes Poppy Barley’s line-up of Ankle Boots and Slip-on Oxfords.

Our Leather Bag Factory - Poppy Barley

José and Maria’s Leather Bag Factory

Number of employees: 55
Year established: 1989

The Owner
Husband-and-wife-team José and Maria moved from Spain to Mexico in 1989 to create a better life for their family. Making handbags in their kitchen, they invested $2000 USD to buy a leather-cutting table, a used sewing machine and a trip to L.A. to purchase sheepskin imported from Europe.

The Factory
The vision was (and continues to be) to make the highest quality products. Today, this factory is recognized as the top handbag producer in Mexico. Together with Poppy Barley, they developed The Perfect Handbag, which launched in December 2015.

Our Accessories Factory- Poppy Barley

Mario’s Leather Accessories Factory

Number of employees: 35
Year established: 2001

The Owner
Mario’s family has been making leather goods for three generations, but it wasn’t until his mid-twenties, during an inspiring trip to the Prada factories in Italy, that he decided to devote his life to the industry. While there, he was surprised to learn that the luxury cars in the parking lot were not driven by the factory owners, but by the artisans. He decided to bring this model of thought to shoemaking in México, to teach people to work with care, to instil love, passion and pride in their products, and to elevate the status of the makers.

The Factory
This factory manufactures the Poppy Barley Wristlet, which launched in November 2015. Still inspired by a higher mission to develop craftspeople, Mario’s factory hosts regular training sessions for their employees to further develop their manufacturing skills, but also on subjects like psychology, art, and business.

Our Sandals Factory - Poppy Barley

Luciano + Helio’s Sandals Factory

Number of employees: 43
Year established: 1979

Founded in 1979, the Pampa Footwear factory was founded by two brothers, Luciano and Helio Nantal in the Brazilian city of Igrejinha. Calling on the knowledge and expertise they amassed over the years working in large-scale shoe factories, the brothers chose to start their own footwear factory in the region. Since opening its doors, the factory has grown in size and capability, currently employing 43 workers to create their own private label, in addition to producing goods for other international brands, including Poppy Barley.

Igrejinha is part of an expansive and established footwear industry in the South of Brazil, dating back to German shoemakers settling in the region as early as 1824.

If you have any other questions regarding our shoemaking practices, or the story behind Poppy Barley,
please do not hesitate to contact our founders at justine@poppybarley.com and kendall@poppybarley.com.