“Exclusive is not just paying expensive, it is having something that was especially made for you.”-Luis Moreno
This team of social entrepreneurs has been creating positive impact in Colombia since 2010. That was the time when the founder, Luis Moreno, first started making leather, handmade shoes with one artisan. The first pair of shoes were created in a hole-in-the-wall workshop that he personally financed using a surprising business model.
He did not hire the artisans, instead he built workshops for them to own. Back in 2010, this business model made a lot of sense in Colombia (and probably in many other developing countries). The reason is because there were many artisans out of resources to create their crafts and due to the massive impact of Asian low-cost imports, there was a lack of jobs for them in companies. Empowering these artisans to become their own bosses and owners of their own production lines would both alleviate unemployment and also protect and reinforce the local manufacturing sector.
Their social work was quickly recognized by many organizations and got featured in important magazines such as Forbes, Revista Dinero, Under30CEO, Vogue, BuiltWithShopify, FashInvest among others. With such a great start, and with several challenges along the way, they grew the business to more than 50,000 pairs a year, with over 100 artisans impacted in impoverished areas of Bogota. Although, things weren’t always so great for them, once they even got robbed, the thieves stole everything from their shop, they were forced to sell on the streets in order to cover their costs. Instead of hiring them directly, this brand created the concept of “giving the man the fish rod, not the fish” in the shoe industry. This way they created 12 workshops with over 150 artisans, also led by previously unemployed artisans, who became the owners of these little factories that nowadays produce for many different fashion brands, even internationally.
After being successful in Colombia with 7 shops, in 2015 they started with the new challenge of creating luxury shoes at an affordable price. The amazing hand-polished shoes would go directly from the hands of the artisan from Colombia to the hands of the customer. All this for less than $120, each pair custom-made with the feet measurements of each client. An interesting thing is that the shoes were not branded, as they defended the idea of paying for the quality of the work and materials, not the brand. With such a goal in mind, they were able to open 4 more shops in Spain and started working with artisans in several areas of this country, also well known in the past for their high-quality leather. They managed to create again a successful Kickstarter campaign with this concept of affordable luxury shoes.
For the year of 2019 they have a new challenge in mind. They want to redefine THE ESSENCE OF EXCLUSIVE products. They didn’t tell anybody else about it before and we wanted to share this idea with you. They want customers (not just the ethically conscious) to understand and to experience that something exclusive does not only represent something you pay more for, instead it’s more about having something that nobody has, because it was made especially for you. With this goal in mind, they are now making hand-painted avarcas (an artisanal sandal from Menorca Island).
The customers get to choose the color of the leather from which the sandals are crafted and their size, then they suggest a theme for the hand-painted art. After all this information is collected by them, one attendant from their shop will start painting the sandals in real time. The artisans use acrylic-based inks so that it is totally waterproof and resistant to the normal use of the sandal. The leather used on the upper is preferably nobuck, because it is very soft and will absorb very well the strokes. It is fully painted with a brush, and it can take an artisan up to 4 hours to paint it, and that’s the kind of exclusivity they want to transmit to their customers, the fact that someone took the time and effort to make something special, something authentic. In fact, the artisans don’t have templates for the painting, each time is a unique process of creation, something they have not made before. The customer can either suggest a specific drawing or a theme, but the artisan’s art and mood will always be imprinted on these pieces of art.
It seems like they have already captured the attention of people in the Gothic Quarter neighborhood in Barcelona, where they have the workshop. Just look at the amazing reviews they have been getting in the first month of experimentation. They also plan to offer this service online as well, starting from next February, with free worldwide shipping.
We will keep you updated with the work of this young team and the progress of this mix of art and shoemaking, all with a great social background which is what made them start in the first place.