We take a closer look at some of the Spanish footwear brands - including Camper, Paloma Barceló and Pedro Mirales - which are leading the way with a balance of traditional know-how and modern innovations
For many, Italy is the first country that springs to mind when it comes to European shoe-manufacturing traditions. Spain, however, also boasts a long-standing record of footwear production that goes hand-in-hand with the country’s long history of leather. The past few decades have seen a renaissance in the industry, with Spanish footwear brands seeking to merge tradition with a modern approach and applying this to everything from classic espadrilles to modern trainers.
Offering a diverse range of styles, Spain’s shoemakers are united by a deep-felt loyalty to their roots that spans both location and technique. Established by Lorenzo Fluxa in 1975, Camper is headquartered on Mallorca, the Spanish island where Fluxa’s grandfather first began making shoes in the 1870s. The brand’s creative team is quick to highlight how influential Mallorca continues to be, explaining that the ‘location plays an important part in driving the inspiration and passion for what we do. Mallorca was once a centre for shoemaking in Europe and it is where our roots stem from, more than 140 years ago. This heritage gives us the confidence to deliver a high-quality product and work with a team of technicians who have skills passed down from previous generations.’ As brands such as Camper choose to stay true to their places of origin, the art of shoemaking can be passed down from one generation to the next.
Paloma Barceló was established in the traditional shoe manufacturing town of Elche. Like Camper, it is a classic example of a modern brand that has evolved from a family business and illustrates how artisanal techniques have been handed down. The son of a footwear manufacturer, founder Manuel Martinez grew up immersed in the world of shoemaking: his father was an expert craftsman of espadrilles and rope-soled wedges, and his business was contracted by some of the biggest fashion houses of the time.
Keen to build on his father’s legacy, Manuel Martinez decided to start his own footwear business and founded Paloma Barceló in 2010. Less than a decade later, the brand is now internationally renowned for its luxury handmade shoes, with craftsmanship one of its founding principles.
Thanks to their promotion of artisanal skills and heritage, shoe specialists such as Paloma Barceló can take pride in the Made in Spain label. Another prime example of Spanish shoemaking expertise is Pedro Miralles, which was founded in 1959, also in Elche. Almost six decades later, the town is still the base for the company’s shoe and bag production. In an era where this is often outsourced to other countries to keep costs down, it was of importance to Pedro Miralles to continue to create high-quality products locally.
While respect for tradition is a crucial factor for many of Spain’s footwear brands, innovation is instrumental in staying relevant to contemporary consumers and maintaining a position at the forefront of the industry. At Pedro Miralles this is realised through the use of modern techniques, with robotic machinery incorporated into an artisanal approach to achieve the perfect finish.
Camper is able to draw on an archive of 2,500 shoe designs for inspiration and also looks to collaborations to enhance its contemporary outlook. The brand regularly works with designers on special collections and its aim is to ‘surprise and progress the idea of what makes a shoe,’ the team explains. ‘To achieve this, we have often enlisted the help of other creatives to see where they can take us. We’ve done this since day one and we’ve loved the result. Our collaborators come from all sorts of creative disciplines – make-up artists, architects, artists and fashion designers. New ideas can come from anywhere.’ The result is a range of covetable products that offer Camper’s signature aesthetic with an exciting twist. Collaborations in the past have involved talented creatives such as Eckhaus Latta and Isamaya Ffrench.
Artfully balancing the country’s artisanal history with a forward-thinking approach, these Spanish labels are carving out strong identities for themselves.