Part of Styleforum’s mission is to introduce our community to the “behind the scenes” of a brand, and connect makers with like-minded connoisseurs that appreciate their works.
Cobbler Union, based in Atlanta, is a men’s shoemaker that manufacturers high-quality Goodyear welted shoes in Spain; they produce shoes directly with artisans, creating products that capture their own ethos that are not rebranded makers.
Here’s Daniel Porcelli’s travel journal during his latest trip to Europe, where he visited Cobbler Union’s workshop and sourced the leather for Cobbler Union’s upcoming models.
Much more than a great craft
As I flew over the Italian Alps and prepared for landing at Malpensa Airport in Milan, I was quickly reminded of why I love and respect our craft so much. I started Cobbler Union partly to preserve and respect the artisanship of shoemaking. But, the more time I spend in the industry, the more I realize that what we’re doing is much bigger than that. Cobbler Union is a vehicle that promotes a respect for workmanship and quality, a more beautiful way of life, one which positively affects our extraordinary craft. I consider myself a fortunate man for having the opportunity to do so.
While at the airport, my first cappuccino of the trip reminds me that I have just entered a different world, one full of exquisite aromas, beautiful architecture, elegant men and women, a world that inspires. It reminds me that through the appreciation of life around us that beautiful products can be created.
As I started my eleven-day grand tour in Europe, I was certain of one thing: the cappuccino always comes before the shoes, not the other way around.
The artisans: the heroes in our industry
For me, it is always an honor to visit our artisans in Spain. Their dedication to the shoemaking craft is extraordinary. Put into context, a pair of our Goodyear-welted shoes has more than two hundred processes and tasks executed by twenty-five experienced artisans. These men and women labor on their feet for many hours a day. The art of making a shoe requires sweat and mental dedication as each step in production requires focus and attention to detail.
Today, there are few shoemaking clusters left in Europe. The majority of Goodyear-welted shoes are produced in a handful of towns spread across Spain, England, and, to a lesser extent, Italy. Other countries like Portugal, Hungary, or Romania all make beautiful shoes but, in general, with different methods. The growing scarcity of artisans and the increasing fragility of the industry is why we’ve made it our mission at Cobbler Union to do everything we can to promote our craft as much as we can.
I firmly believe that the more a man appreciates the labor of love behind his shoes, the more he will cherish and enjoy them.
A great product is the best offense
Most of my trip to Spain was devoted to quality refinement and product development. Cobbler Union’s aim is to produce shoes that compare to legendary brands that oftentimes have a 100-year head start on us. This means we have to be agile, to work resolutely and aim high before we can be recognized among the best classic shoemakers in the world.
On this trip, we started a two-year initiative to implement forty quality improvements spanning product design, fit & comfort, construction, and quality. The goal of this project is for our products to become a benchmark against which new entrants and legacy brands alike are measured.
In addition, I have begun the development process for over twenty-five new models. Many of these will be made on two new lasts that we’ll begin testing in the coming weeks.
There are few things more rewarding than bringing a new product to market.
In search of the best leather
While concluding my European tour, I was fortunate enough to attend Lineapelle in Milan. This is our industry’s major trade show where the world’s finest tanneries present their collections. I love attending the event to strengthen relationships with the creators of our industry’s main component. By far, this is my favorite event of the year. Many of these tanneries have been in business for generations and their proprietors are legends in the leather-goods industries.
This year, I found inspiration in the colors and textures of the hides, learning something new with each conversation.
As a maker, we use top grade calfskin, which is one of the ways we set ourselves apart from other shoemakers. All in all, we found some exquisite hides and new interesting colors which will be adding to our collection in the coming months.
Leaving this fantastic trade show was the toughest part of my trip!
You can connect with Cobbler Union on the Official Affiliate Thread on Styleforum.