The legacy of the Maxeco boot from Lemaitre
Published: 25th Mar 2021
Pinetown, KZN, SA - The Lemaitre Maxeco - now part of the BBF Safety Group's footwear range - has shod generations of South African workers over the last 30 years, and almost 10 million pairs have been produced - a very rare achievement in this country.
Every legacy has to start somewhere. It’s a story based on the recollections of Cedric Novis, at that time innovation manager at Bolton Footwear, which included Bagshaw Footwear in Port Elizabeth:
“In the late 80s, Bagshaw Footwear successfully bid on an 18-station dual density direct injection machine at an auction in Babelegi, even though we had very little knowledge on dual density footwear. We had a very strong range of military footwear, but now had to consider how best to utilise this machine. After much consultation it was agreed to introduce dual density to the safety footwear market – a first in South Africa.
“We decided that we needed to manufacture under licence, and contacts at the SABS pointed us in the direction of a French company which had expressed interest in the South African market. It was during the first half of 1990 that we initially went to Lemaitre, in Strasbourg, and met with the MD and founder Jean-Michel Heckel. Our meetings culminated in a signed licensing agreement for Lemaitre safety footwear.
“We decided to position the brand as European styled, technologically advanced and comfortable; and went to market with the premise of ‘Why you deserve to wear a better safety boot.’ It was a great campaign and something that the industry had never done before. It worked and the workforce started to demand the Lemaitre Maxeco which was the only model we launched. You could have them in any colour you wanted, as long as it was black or tan!
“The focus on the people actually wearing the boots is still central to the Lemaitre brand in South Africa today. In hindsight, we introduced the right product at the right time at the right price and managed to launch possibly the most successful selling safety shoe of all time in the South African market.”
And hence the Lemaitre Maxeco was introduced towards the end of 1990 – the first ever locally produced direct injection dual density PU sole on a safety footwear style.
Historical interior and exterior views of Bagshaw in Port Elizabeth, one of the oldest footwear factories in South Africa, where the Maxeco boot was born. These photos were probably taken in the 1930s, LONG before the Maxeco.