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My kingdom for a pair of shoes!
Aida Gil Pérez, thinkSPAINtoday , Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spain leaves its footprints on the world’s catwalks

SHOES designed in Spain, particularly women’s footwear, strut their stuff in the most prestigious fashion shows on the planet, from Milan to New York.

In fact, in the popular TV show 'Sex and the City', the central character, Carrie Bradshaw, sharply warned a thief not to make off with her Manolos. Owning a pair of shoes by this prestigious designer from the Canary Islands is nothing to be sniffed at. Shoes are highly addictive.

Throughout Spain you can find brands and designs of shoes that appear in Vogue, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan. Fashion magazines and trend-setters choose Spanish shoes for their quality and design, which always perfectly complement the clothes in fashion at the time.

Spain is particularly well-known for the excellent materials it uses in its shoe-making, competing directly with Italy, generating prestige and pushing designers to make an even greater effort every year in a highly-competitive market which has numerous difficulties in terms of business migration.

Yet although some major brands move their factories to countries where the wage bill is lower, the actual design and management continues to take place in Spain since a good pair of shoes is not something that can be whipped up in a couple of days, and experience is indispensable when competing at the top end of the fashion industry.

Alicante abroad
The towns of Elda, Elche, Villena and Alcoi in the province of Alicante are internationally renowned as the centre of the shoe-production industry in Spain. These four municipalities are the birthplace of numerous international brands famous throughout the world of footwear, exporting boots, shoes and trainers of every type – from kids’ shoes to boots for drag queens.

You’ll even find some of the top makes of sports shoes in Elche, like Puma and Kelme – their Spanish factories produce the football boots that many top players wear on the pitch.

In Elche, you’ll also find Panamá Jack, an internationally-famous brand that is known for its intrepid explorer image and which sponsors many cultural programmes and expeditions such as the Ruta Quetzal. This make specialises in hard-wearing, highly resistant walking boots that can take the strain of long hikes and challenging terrains.

Elda is the main exporter of top-of-the-range women’s footwear. Shoes made in this area set the trend for many other accessories on the market, such as handbags and belts. If brands like Pedro García or Magrit produce a line of shoes with square heels, for example, the rest of the market follows suit and creates their own wares around this design – not just shoes, but other fashion items.

The city of Elda has been churning out quality footwear for centuries, which is why it has a museum that displays tools and models of shoes from numerous past seasons.

This awe-inspiring collection includes shoes donated by famous people from all over the world – among the most valuable exhibition pieces are footwear used by Pope John Paul II and the flamenco dancer Joaquín Cortés.

Shoe-makers who work in Elche have produced footwear for some of the greatest celebrities of our time – Queen Sofía of Spain wears Elche-branded shoes, as do models like Esther Cañadas, and the TV presenter Anne Igartiburu.

Heading inland, Villena is the cradle of children’s footwear. The brand Petit Shoes creates and studies modern designs, always bearing in mind the delicate process of development and growth of little feet.

Villena is also the home of Boreal. This make produces, almost exclusively, mountainwalking shoes, its speciality being its ‘cats’ feet’ trainers that are used by mountaineers seeking maximum grip on the rocks. Boreal boots are sold worldwide and countries like Australia and New Zealand are some of its biggest importers because of their well-known passion for mountain-climbing.

It never fails to surprise how small towns buried in the mountains miles from the coast have managed to leave their footprints in major shops and boutiques around the globe.

Only the best
The shoe industry generates a multitude of economic and social influence throughout the Vinalopó district of the Alicante province. Its largest brands even sponsor events and associations to promote themselves and take part in various local projects.

Elda town council offers an award each year to the woman with the best-dressed feet in Spain, a prize that is designed to promote shoes produced nationally. Cinema director Luis García Berlanga travels to the city every year in order to hand over the prize personally.

Since 1999, the award has gone to presenter Ana Rosa Quintana; actress, singer and presenter Concha Velasco; presenter Anne Igartiburu; model, actress and former Miss España Carmen Cervera; presenter Terelu Campos; actress Paz Vega (of Spanglish fame), and singer Marta Sánchez, in that order. Last year's winner was TV presenter Nuria Roca.

This event, which always occupies a few pages in glossy magazines, is sponsored by locally-produced brands of shoes, by the town council and by the Footwear Museum. Additionally, the museum holds regular art exhibitions related to the world of design, shoes, and the industry itself, and loans part of its collection to other national exhibitions. The museum, which started off as a collector’s display, is now not only a major tourist attraction but also a role model in terms of linking the history of small town industry and the social impact of its rocketing to fame.

New Trends
Shoe fanatics will be in their element if they gatecrash one of the many international fairs that are designed for professionals in the industry so they can see in advance the new trends for the forthcoming season. Alicante’s trade fair centre hosts the FuturModa every year, and the ModaCalzado fair is a not-to-be-missed annual event in Madrid. Both are a crucial date for the best designers who exhibit their wares to the thousands of business people who stroll amongst the stalls choosing the products they intend to put on display in their shops.

Shoes or boots?
In winter, we mainly seek warmth and comfort, which is why boots are always on the catwalk. But the make and model is also crucial – boots should be made of quality leather and the design should complement the clothing of the season. This winter, rounded toes with slightly forward-set insteps are indispensable – and for more choice, medium-length boots are the height of fashion at the moment.

Footwear outlets: buy your shoes at factory prices
In the towns and cities where shoes are manufactured you can find stores with the same product but at a  substantially lower price. Buying directly from the factory reduces the prices of transportation, customs and commerce.

P. Altos de la Condomina, 15
T. 96 580 05 89

PANAMA JACK (second photo)
C/Arquímedes 1-3. Elche.
T. 96 568 35 11

Puerto Portals. Local 085.
T. 971 65 76 44

C/ Príncipe de Asturias, 33.
T. 96 539 27 69

C/ Blasco Ibáñez, 103. Elda.
T. 96 538 12 73

SACHA LONDON (third photo)
Avd. de Chapí, 48.
T. 96 539 43 11

Avda. Libertad, 44.
T. 96 537 06 05

C/ Hnos. Pinzón, 6. Elda.
T. 96 539 65 70

C/ Alfonso, XIII, 57. Elda.
T. 96 698 07 08

C/ La Cruz, 23. Elda.
T. 96 538 37 46

C/ Camilo José Cela, 56. Elda.
T. 649 820 038

REBECA SANVER (fourth photo)
C/ Camilo José Cela, 50, Elda.
T. 96 538 65 64

C/ Camilo José Cela, 42. Elda.
T. 96 698 04 14

Pol. Urbanyecla II
T. 968 79 68 09

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