A new wave of cutting edge craftsmanship breathes new life into age-old trades and defends authentic and enduring quality while celebrating one of the more intangible design attributes: creativity.
Snapchat made the classic saying “time flies” a modern reality. The empire of immediacy has made us impatient. Everything is within our reach in a click and we can’t even avoid having ‘déjà vu’ when we travel. How do we escape this awkward ennui when the main commercial arteries of the world have become so uniform? A growing interest in local and independent goods has prompted the recovery of traditional trades that had been in danger of extinction. In Spain, the knowhow of small leather goods craftsmen, shoemakers, potters or jewelers is inspiring renewed passions and vocations.
Craftsmen of the 21st century
The Technological Foundation Center for Leather in Andalusia, known as Movex
, located in Ubrique, the international epicenter of leather, works with Design Schools and local artists to facilitate communication between the two. “We’re interested in promoting a new designer that is closer to the industry and an artisan that is more sensitive to design as a pillar of innovation. We additionally promote the artisan of the 21st century through the use of new technologies, such as digitally assisted cutting, lasers, digital printing on leather, the treatment and dying of leather,” manager Javier Gallego explained.
has specifically relied on the pool of young talent in Ubrique to produce their bags inspired by the golden ratio. “In Ubrique, artisanal tradition has been handed down generation to generation for over 150 years and it’s become a leading center of craftsmanship that’s recognized worldwide,” officials at this young brand assure us. The company is a staunch defender of the ‘made near’ movement and gives it a more contemporary spin, ensuring that their products are exportable. Their first collection is already available in Paris, Dubai, New York and Rio.
‘Hand stitched’ is the motto proudly brandished by Jessica Tena, the designer for leather accessories brand Iala Díez
. “Craftsmanship goes hand in hand with the word ‘time.’ The consumer needs to be taught why the product we offer is artisanal. That’s why we specify that it’s “sewn stitch by stitch” and shy away from empty labels like ‘handmade’”.
representatives harbor the same opinion. “We’ve always preferred to speak of craftsmanship and tradition. We’ve relied on the knowledge of the artisans we work with and on the traditional techniques from the regions where they work in order to “debase” them with our contemporary vision and create quality products, with a touch of added value mixed into the production process.”
Roberto Vercelloti at Lautem
also advocates this necessary evolution. “Craftsmanship is a part of our production process, but the marketing has to be 21st century.”
“The hand-made purity of the shoemaker creating everything by hand is unproductive. Yet we care after every last detail and the shoe passes through many sets of hands until it is completed,” Chie Mihara
explained. “Plus there’s an added value and an element of integrity in products that firmly uphold their creativity.”
fully agrees with this stance. “An artisanal product must have an authentic original design, a selection of top-tier materials and assurance quality throughout the entire preparation and manufacturing process. Our project entails the evolution needed to recover that craftsmanship, but we inject it with a cutting edge image.”
also spoke to us about the need for adding extra ingredients in the formula. “We take the definition of craftsmanship one step further. Our products are made with love. The experience of the artisans we work with allows us to offer a product for every segment in the luxury market.”
proposes artisanal luxury. “When it comes to jewelry, we have a Mediterranean identity that sets us apart,” Enric Majoral explains. This identity has assured its continuity with his son, Roc. “Contemporary craftsmanship will at some point become artisanal cultural heritage. It’s the basic evolution for its survival. New technologies are just additional tools that will join more traditional approaches.”
Luis Méndez Artesanos
, the label that won the 2015 National Craftsmanship Award
, agrees with this observation. The company reinvigorated the filigree trade for use in contemporary jewelry. “Innovating means including new techniques that allow us to develop other concepts. We occasionally substitute manual processes that decrease our competitiveness, but don’t interfere with the artistic aspect of our creations. However, care and skill are essential to the equation and of course the designer needs to leave his mark on the product.”
Pedro Monge, of Monge Shoes
, also places artisanal skills above all else. “Technology can be a part of the process, but it will never rival the imprint left by the hand of a master craftsman. We include innovation in our manufacturing process when selecting the most advanced materials available: leather finished with new techniques, pieces developed using the latest technology or buckles made of unique alloys.”
The people at Naguisa
, a brand that was founded on the reinvention of a classic, are more than familiar with the concept of innovation. “Espadrilles are a product of our cultural identity,” Claudia Polo asserts. “The production of jute soles is still done by hand, which you can hear more about by viewing our Shoe Stories
. However, the cuts are then sewn together using a machine and the espadrilles are then shaped using plastic lasts and heated ovens. But we innovate by giving traditional elements new uses, like we did with the Nuna bag, where we inverted the position of the jute tapestry, or when we add EVA rubber to our soles.”
“Experience and keeping up-to-date are a perfect mix for guaranteed success,” Tiziana Fanelli, Marketing and Communication Manager of Paloma Barceló
tells us. “We like to surprise our customer with new aesthetics but we invest a lot so that younger generations can learn the craft.”
The future of a tradition
We asked Gabriel Segura, Director of the Footwear Museum
in Elda about how to best preserve a creative ecosystem while still ensuring that these particular skills survive. “By implementing a multifaceted, strategic approach in which the production of artisanal goods is protected by official designation of origin and an incentivized tax system. This strategy should be supplemented with national and international public awareness campaigns.”
Giovanna Tagliavía, director of the Spanish Association of Jewelers, Silversmiths and Watchmakers
informed us about how they “are sponsoring IBERJOYA, Spain’s leading trade fair in this sector, which is now known as IBERJOYA FOREVER. We’ve reserved a space specifically allocated for craftsman, in order to showcase their work and give them a space where they belong, but we’re also subsidizing a portion of their expenses involved in the actual exhibiting and promotion process. That’s the way you preserve craftsmanship.”