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MartiNianO on the humAnity of Handmade FootwEar

Words by Rosie Dalton
Photography by Vanessa Beecroft

Inspired by freedom of movement and designed to fit like a glove, Martiniano shoes are grounded in comfort and timelessness. With all the ease of a ballet slipper and the elegance of a mid-heel, these handcrafted leather shoes represent a rebellion against the old stiletto mentality of ‘no pain, no gain’. Because when it comes to Martiniano, you can enjoy both style and practicality all at once.

To celebrate the handcrafted nature of these covetable shoes, On the Collar spoke with designer Martiniano Lopez Crozet about the brand’s menswear roots, the art of hand-making shoes and how finding the perfect pair not only completes an outfit, but can also become a cornerstone of your personal style. For me, a pair of Martiniano red leather High Glove Heels is like all my Wizard of Oz dreams come true.

ROSIE DALTON: What initially inspired you to pursue shoemaking and how did you go about learning the craft?

MARTINIANO LOPEZ CROZET: After a long career in performance art in Los Angeles, I decided that it was time to leave the art world and return to my first creative outlet: Fashion. I wanted to set aside art concepts and statements, in order to work on utilitarian but high quality objects and I was excited to start a business. I did not consider this move an absolute break, as my art practice involved the mixing of many genres: music, acting, action paintings, costume, writing and stage set. When I attended the San Francisco Art Institute I was part of the New Genres department and I realised my art education could be applied to any field. So I moved to Buenos Aires, my hometown, and took a two-month course on how to make shoes by hand.

RD: Can you tell us a bit about the label’s journey so far?

MLC: The ultimate journey was the evolution of my signature style, the glove shoe in 2012. I spent an entire year designing this model. I went to libraries in LA, researched online and went to museums looking at shoes in medieval paintings. I was very attracted to the rusticity of the shoes depicted in these paintings, especially the utilitarian footwear of workers, nuns, horseback riders and 17th century French and English courtiers. My main inspiration was a sock shoe from the middle ages.

 

Inspired by freedom of movement and designed to fit like a glove, Martiniano shoes are grounded in comfort and timelessness. With all the ease of a ballet slipper and the elegance of a mid-heel, these handcrafted leather shoes represent a rebellion against the old stiletto mentality of ‘no pain, no gain’. Because when it comes to Martiniano, you can enjoy both style and practicality all at once.

To celebrate the handcrafted nature of these covetable shoes, On the Collar spoke with designer Martiniano Lopez Crozet about the brand’s menswear roots, the art of hand-making shoes and how finding the perfect pair not only completes an outfit, but can also become a cornerstone of your personal style. For me, a pair of Martiniano red leather High Glove Heels is like all my Wizard of Oz dreams come true.

ROSIE DALTON: What initially inspired you to pursue shoemaking and how did you go about learning the craft?

MARTINIANO LOPEZ CROZET: After a long career in performance art in Los Angeles, I decided that it was time to leave the art world and return to my first creative outlet: Fashion. I wanted to set aside art concepts and statements, in order to work on utilitarian but high quality objects and I was excited to start a business. I did not consider this move an absolute break, as my art practice involved the mixing of many genres: music, acting, action paintings, costume, writing and stage set. When I attended the San Francisco Art Institute I was part of the New Genres department and I realised my art education could be applied to any field. So I moved to Buenos Aires, my hometown, and took a two-month course on how to make shoes by hand.

RD: Can you tell us a bit about the label’s journey so far?

MLC: The ultimate journey was the evolution of my signature style, the glove shoe in 2012. I spent an entire year designing this model. I went to libraries in LA, researched online and went to museums looking at shoes in medieval paintings. I was very attracted to the rusticity of the shoes depicted in these paintings, especially the utilitarian footwear of workers, nuns, horseback riders and 17th century French and English courtiers. My main inspiration was a sock shoe from the middle ages.

“I believe elegance is boring when it is perfect, so I created shoes that are slightly off. That human quality is important to me.”

RD: As fashion today becomes increasingly fast-paced, why do you think it is important for us to continue celebrating traditional craftsmanship such as handmade shoemaking?

MLC: Hand made shoes are completely antithetical to the notion of fast-paced fashion and that is why my Limited Edition collection of handmade shoes from Argentina has a cap of 2,000 pairs per season. I want my consumer to experience the difference between the industrial and the handmade and that is why it is vital that 100% artisanal products exist. I am not sure every client is aware of this difference, but I know some are. In Buenos Aires, the shoe industry has not evolved that much, so shoes there are made now the same way they were made in Italy during the 1950’s. This is something I consider an absolute luxury.

The question of handmade versus industrialised shoes isn’t so black and white and, in the shoe industry, you can find every possible combination of the two. Even something that is handmade doesn’t necessarily guarantee a beautiful final product. Craftsmanship brings something else to the shoe: when the shoe is made by hand, the workers do not adhere to standardisation and can fix problems along the way — ultimately each pair ends up being unique. For me, these slight variations give the shoe its character. I also believe in the final product regardless of the process. For example, a rubber boot made through the process of rubber injection may be as noble as a hand made shoe because the process has a heritage, and there is beauty in that heritage.

RD: How does your label Martiniano seek to uphold craftsmanship like this?

MLC: I think it is a miracle that I am still a profitable company, but it is not by mere chance either. The overall journey has proved fruitful for me, as 90% of my production for the last 5 years has consisted of those three styles designed in 2012 — the glove, the bootie and the high glove. I think the success of these styles can be attributed to a beauty and comfort that cannot be replicated industrially and clients are also attracted to this otherness, which is particular to the handmade.

From the early beginnings of my career I have had an inherent obsession with quality. For me, quality goes beyond the classic concept as understood in the contemporary luxury market. My shoes look clean and they have a comfortable fit, yet there must also be a raw and rustic quality to the final product. I have from day one done quality control on every single pair produced. This is essential for me to understand this concept of quality as an ongoing process.

RD: What do you think has been integral to the success of the Martiniano brand to date?

MLC: A combination of elegant styles, the rusticity of the manufacturing, 100% quality control, high quality materials and something that is not so easy to find: comfort. The shoes pretty much go with everything and have become classics. I think it is important to own a simple and beautiful pair of shoes that will elevate either a casual or formal look. I believe elegance is boring when it is perfect, so I created shoes that are slightly off, and that human quality is important to me.

 

 

RD: As fashion today becomes increasingly fast-paced, why do you think it is important for us to continue celebrating traditional craftsmanship such as handmade shoemaking?

MLC: Hand made shoes are completely antithetical to the notion of fast-paced fashion and that is why my Limited Edition collection of handmade shoes from Argentina has a cap of 2,000 pairs per season. I want my consumer to experience the difference between the industrial and the handmade and that is why it is vital that 100% artisanal products exist. I am not sure every client is aware of this difference, but I know some are. In Buenos Aires, the shoe industry has not evolved that much, so shoes there are made now the same way they were made in Italy during the 1950’s. This is something I consider an absolute luxury.

The question of handmade versus industrialised shoes isn’t so black and white and, in the shoe industry, you can find every possible combination of the two. Even something that is handmade doesn’t necessarily guarantee a beautiful final product. Craftsmanship brings something else to the shoe: when the shoe is made by hand, the workers do not adhere to standardisation and can fix problems along the way — ultimately each pair ends up being unique. For me, these slight variations give the shoe its character. I also believe in the final product regardless of the process. For example, a rubber boot made through the process of rubber injection may be as noble as a hand made shoe because the process has a heritage, and there is beauty in that heritage.

RD: How does your label Martiniano seek to uphold craftsmanship like this?

MLC: I think it is a miracle that I am still a profitable company, but it is not by mere chance either. The overall journey has proved fruitful for me, as 90% of my production for the last 5 years has consisted of those three styles designed in 2012 — the glove, the bootie and the high glove. I think the success of these styles can be attributed to a beauty and comfort that cannot be replicated industrially and clients are also attracted to this otherness, which is particular to the handmade.

From the early beginnings of my career I have had an inherent obsession with quality. For me, quality goes beyond the classic concept as understood in the contemporary luxury market. My shoes look clean and they have a comfortable fit, yet there must also be a raw and rustic quality to the final product. I have from day one done quality control on every single pair produced. This is essential for me to understand this concept of quality as an ongoing process.

RD: What do you think has been integral to the success of the Martiniano brand to date?

MLC: A combination of elegant styles, the rusticity of the manufacturing, 100% quality control, high quality materials and something that is not so easy to find: comfort. The shoes pretty much go with everything and have become classics. I think it is important to own a simple and beautiful pair of shoes that will elevate either a casual or formal look. I believe elegance is boring when it is perfect, so I created shoes that are slightly off, and that human quality is important to me.

RD: I have read that you originally designed your glove shoes for men, can you describe how your approach to this particular style has evolved over time?

MLC: The original idea was to create a collection of men’s clothing and accessories. My first step was, literally, with shoes since there is a big tradition of footwear in Buenos Aires. This is due to the influx of Italian immigration during the 19th and 20th century. There are three Argentinian staples: the classic loafer, the espadrille and the riding boot. Growing up I wore all three: loafers for school, espadrilles for the beach, and boots for my horseback riding and jumping classes. Part of my idea was to re-work products that already follow a long Argentinian tradition and thus bring to the client beautiful and tested craftsmanship.

The first 2 styles that I designed were for men the Manon and the Flaneur. I flew to New York to show them around, but my only interview was with Maryam Nassir Zadeh at her showroom. Maryam loved them and asked me to start making shoes for women, as her clients buy and sell primarily women’s fashion. Since then I have been too busy to start the men’s line.

RD: Why is unisex design something that’s so important to you?

MLC: It’s not so much that I am interested in androgyny, but more that I am interested in shapes that look interesting and unusual. I also like aesthetics that appear to be poor or naïve. I consider the Brutalist aesthetic in architecture to be very sophisticated, and I like the idea of brutalising a creation. This is not a brutality as novelty however. I find elegance in the utilitarian or functionality of a thing that appears to be “ugly”. Perhaps this can be interpreted as androgynous looking, but these days I don’t think sex is as relevant as it once was. But uncovered identity is.

RD: What is your own go-to pair of shoes and why?

MLC: Before I started making shoes I wore Argentinian handmade loafers for seven years straight. Today I still do, but now they are my own designs. It’s almost impossible to find anything else on the market that I like, but I still like finding vintage shoes as well.

RD: Can you share your favourite fact or anecdote about the history of shoemaking?

MLC: I find inspiration in Salvatore Ferragamo’s story, especially knowing that when Salvatore was alive, his brand was on the brink of going bankrupt. Another fact I like has to do with a movement in Italian shoemaking history called the Autarchic Era. This was after World War II, when Italy was depleted of leather because it had all been used up by the army and also due to embargos on leather. As a result, the shoe industry had to become resourceful and starting using any material but leather. Ferragamo exemplifies this era and stands out among so many others because he used cork, woven raffia, Manila canvas, fish skin, felt, woven grass, natural hemp, polychrome cotton, plaited bark, nylon threads, and even crocheted cellophane.

RD: I have read that you originally designed your glove shoes for men, can you describe how your approach to this particular style has evolved over time?

MLC: The original idea was to create a collection of men’s clothing and accessories. My first step was, literally, with shoes since there is a big tradition of footwear in Buenos Aires. This is due to the influx of Italian immigration during the 19th and 20th century. There are three Argentinian staples: the classic loafer, the espadrille and the riding boot. Growing up I wore all three: loafers for school, espadrilles for the beach, and boots for my horseback riding and jumping classes. Part of my idea was to re-work products that already follow a long Argentinian tradition and thus bring to the client beautiful and tested craftsmanship.

The first 2 styles that I designed were for men the Manon and the Flaneur. I flew to New York to show them around, but my only interview was with Maryam Nassir Zadeh at her showroom. Maryam loved them and asked me to start making shoes for women, as her clients buy and sell primarily women’s fashion. Since then I have been too busy to start the men’s line.

RD: Why is unisex design something that’s so important to you?

MLC: It’s not so much that I am interested in androgyny, but more that I am interested in shapes that look interesting and unusual. I also like aesthetics that appear to be poor or naïve. I consider the Brutalist aesthetic in architecture to be very sophisticated, and I like the idea of brutalising a creation. This is not a brutality as novelty however. I find elegance in the utilitarian or functionality of a thing that appears to be “ugly”. Perhaps this can be interpreted as androgynous looking, but these days I don’t think sex is as relevant as it once was. But uncovered identity is.

RD: What is your own go-to pair of shoes and why?

MLC: Before I started making shoes I wore Argentinian handmade loafers for seven years straight. Today I still do, but now they are my own designs. It’s almost impossible to find anything else on the market that I like, but I still like finding vintage shoes as well.

RD: Can you share your favourite fact or anecdote about the history of shoemaking?

MLC: I find inspiration in Salvatore Ferragamo’s story, especially knowing that when Salvatore was alive, his brand was on the brink of going bankrupt. Another fact I like has to do with a movement in Italian shoemaking history called the Autarchic Era. This was after World War II, when Italy was depleted of leather because it had all been used up by the army and also due to embargos on leather. As a result, the shoe industry had to become resourceful and starting using any material but leather. Ferragamo exemplifies this era and stands out among so many others because he used cork, woven raffia, Manila canvas, fish skin, felt, woven grass, natural hemp, polychrome cotton, plaited bark, nylon threads, and even crocheted cellophane.

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