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As most of you may know I just recently came back from Spain, of which the factory that is making my shoes is located, specifically in the town of Almansa, where there are rumored to be between 30-50 factories (depending on who you ask) making footwear. Think of it as the Spanish equivalent to Northampton, where mostly everything relating to shoes is present within one little town. This means however, that as I was brought into this connection through the vouching of another, that I find myself at the mercy of other business that he needs to attend to whilst we are there. As the very first time that I went, and took pictures of the boot factory, Sendra, for all of you to see how it works (and looks), I found myself again at this factory in their ever-so-big showroom, alone with my imagination and loads of time to kill. As showrooms can be a fantastic place to see how the minds of other designers work, I decided this time to truly open my mind to the details in cowboy boots that might be able to be transferred to normal shoes.

Color combinations: always good to see on something else, to get an idea before attempting yourself
Interesting skin, might look good on a wholecut?
Interesting strap, different than your average monk

Green leather – lovely!
Jean material – very interesting….

What most people may or may not realize is that cowboy boots tend to be among the best footwear (in terms of construction, durability and quality) out there. At Sendra, everything is goodyear welted and made to the standard of your typical high end shoe, such as the likes of Carmina, Magnanni (GY line), Enrile as well as the many other Spanish factories that produce goodyear welted shoes. Believe it or not, legendary Riccardo Bestetti even got his start in western boot making, in America, before going back to Italy to become one of the best known shoemakers around. And while cowboy boots certainly aren’t my thing I found myself appreciating them more and more the longer that I spent looking at them and dissecting their design and construction. And because of this time spent in the showroom, some of the things you will see in these pictures will translate into small details used in my own collection. This is the beauty of inspiration and I find myself, more often than not, finding inspiration to my designs from footwear that is not at all in relation to my own, such as cowboy boots, sneakers and women’s shoes.

Black on Tan: Love it!
What looks like sheep’s wool: interesting…
Interesting fabric and buckles
In case I ever want to use bright yellow???
Just for laughs….
Stitching on upper….could be interesting if done classicly

Infinite inspiration….

Because it has been so long since I had gone to Spain to work on my collection, we worked very fast this time, knocking out everything that needed to be done. That means I: modified my medallion (only slightly), secured the insignia that goes inside of the shoe, finalized my lasts to their final width/length proportions, and picked all of the colorways for my 14 different models (32 SKU’s in total). And now these will all hopefully be done by some time in September. But as prior experience would have me say, this is not official. I managed to create some colorways that I had not previously thought of, that I am very excited about and think that many of you will be too, at least I hope so. One thing that I did find and hope to use, is that red piece of pebble grain that you see in the picture below, paired with black (my favorite shoe color combination – as the logo would have you believe). So, as you can see, while there have been several hiccups in the process, I am progressing as quick as I can….

Fringe galore
Interesting strap….

7 thoughts on “Gaining Inspiration For Shoe Design”

  1. I’ve noticed the quality of “proper” cowboy boots too – a friend of mine wears his constantly, even with a suit, and has done so for about ten years. Sturdy stuff, although frequently hideous too…

    I was meaning to ask, Justin: why did you settle on Spain as the manufacturing location for your shoes? Was it simply a matter of cost?

    Give your tastes otherwise, I’m surprised that you didn’t end up with either blake-stitched from Italy, or welted from Northampton, especially as most of the larger factories there already manufacture happily for other labels: Loake, Barker, Cheaney, Tricker, to name a few of which I’m aware.

  2. Alex B – Okay, this might be a little long, so be prepared. There are several reasons why I did pick Italy or England:

    1. First off, I had originally thought of those two, like you would have guessed. I had connections and had met with a few factories in both countries. I had called one, of whom I won’t name, and spoke with the owner. They gave me some invaluable advice of which I still need to thank them for and that was, that I should forget about manufacturing my shoes in England, as many of the factories are a. Too expensive and b. won’t make shoes that they don’t like themselves, and c. can be quite fussy too. On top of that, they told me that they currently weren’t accepting any more private labels as they were at capacity. I thought about, and after hearing a few more stories about factories just blatantly telling someone that they wouldn’t make their style of shoe, I decided that this was not what I wanted. I wanted to make things that were unique, most likely the type of things that an English factory would turn their nose up at. I couldn’t have this, not if I wanted to be me….

    b. Yes, the cost was a big factor too. Because I want to get the best price for you, the customer. To make the same quality of shoe that I am making now, but in England or Italy, would mean that I would have to retail them at nearly 400 if not more. At that point, I would be in the handgrade level, but would be selling benchgrade shoes. This means that you the customer would just be paying for the that extra charge from wholesale to retail. This did not make sense to me and I feared that if I tried this, I would fail. Therefore, I was extremely lucky to have found a factory, that for me makes just as good as your entry level good shoes here in England, say Cheaney, C&J, Churces etc. but also does things like closed channel soles and fiddleback pegged waists, something that you don’t see on English benchgrade shoes….

    c. Because my factory will try anything that I tell them to. They don’t care about what they like or what they don’t like. They make what I want, so long as I pay for it. That means, I am not governed by them, or their lack of depth for designing outside of the box.

    d. And also because my factory treats me like a friend, not just client and this is important if I am going to build a lasting relationship.

    And because of all of these reason, I decided to make my shoes in Spain. And for one more. Because I like to break stereotypes in shoes and I believe that Spanish made shoes are undervalued, yet I believe that factories like Carmina, make just as good as shoes as the likes of Edward Green or C&J Handgrade. Yet no one seems to know this, because they are stuck on the idea of Made in England or Made in Italy.


  3. That is very informative, and interesting about the factory “attitude”. You’d think that for a business that’s shrunk over the years, they’d be glad to have a new customer!

    I have often wondered why the “made for” shoes at some retailers deviate so little from the manufacturers’ own lines in terms of style and construction. Most I’ve seen use the manufacturers’ lasts and are barely more than a colour option or model mix from the existing lines.

    Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that such an industry is conservative, and in a way it’s what keeps it great. But at the same time it’s a little depressing.

    As for the quality you mention, I have to say I’m surprised that you’d go as far as saying “Edward Green standard” – which is pretty special in my view. But if that’s true, then no wonder you are going to way you are, and good luck to you. Viva Espana!

  4. I stopped in Almansa just three weeks ago I missed finding out whether Sendra has an open outlet as other brands have. I’m thinking about getting close to Almansa around September I love this jean blucher…Could you give me a clue?

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