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The beauty of handmade shoes

When Spanish shoe designer and founder of Vialis, Jaime Serramalera, speaks of the business he founded 19 years ago it is clear that shoes are not just shoes to him, but objects of beauty that are carefully designed and handmade with the sole purpose of finding a woman to love them. It sounds like every woman’s dream come true – a Spanish love affair not for the faint hearted – and while Vialis shoes have certainly warmed the hearts of many women around the globe, it was humble beginnings for the shoemaker.Vialis was born from the illusion to create my own business and dedicate myself completely to the product,” Serramalera says. “To my designer vocation, was added a passionate entrepreneur awakening. It all started with a four sandals collection, where I did everything from the shoe design to the box where they were delivered. We opened a store-showroom, selling even the samples. It was a total success with people lining up at the nearest ATM. I realized that we should open our own stores.”It was this access to first hand information about his customer’s needs and tastes that Serramalera attributes to the success of Vialis, which now has a presence in over 12 countries. To Serramalera however, success is not just about selling more shoes, it is about providing a quality handmade product, without ever compromising what Vialis stands for.Our shoes are hand stitched one by one with sewing machines; this is maybe the most complicated job of the entire process, because it requires abilities and work skills which are very attached to the place where we produce,” Serramalera says.The handmade process at Vialis is not unique, but genuine, because the people that take part in its production are people that have gone through the apprenticeship, in many cases transmitted from fathers to children.”It’s a trade that’s been around for centuries, but today nearly all the shoes worldwide are made in China; that’s around 10 billion shoes exported from China each year, thanks to the demand for cheaper shoes and copycat designs. Over the years Serramalera says he has seen the industry become a crowd-pleasing machine that no longer looks at good ideas or quality with the value it deserves, but that Vialis is different.Vialis believes in its own style, as a brand we don’t feel the need to follow major trends; we are ‘true to ourselves’.As shoemakers, we consider our trade to be one of the Vialis values, jointly with our concern for innovation, and our belief that there are still things to be created.The Vialis customer is critical and discerning; is a free individual, with little commitment to established canons; has a creative heart, appreciates design and is open to improvisation.”
It was the lack of work in the industrial design sector in the 80s that led Serramalera to follow what he really enjoyed doing. He trained as a shoemaker in Menorca and after 12 years working for a shoe company, pursued his own business where he could make the product that he wanted and liked the most. After all these years he says one of the things he is most proud of is creating a product that is capable of living with any trend.Vialis is inspired by the nature that surrounds the world,” Serramalera says. “This very inspiration reflects itself in the choice of natural prestigious materials, which are molded to create innovative yet simplistic designs, to accommodate an audience seeking a true reflection of the nature that is often missing in the urban centers around the world.The leather we use is from Europe. European leather as a raw material, is without any doubt the one with the highest quality. Vialis leather is vegetable tanned in Italy and Spain to provide a more natural look and tact, and we use small tanners where it is easier to control the desired quality standard.”It may simply be the poetic nature of his native tongue, but the illustrative way in which Serramalera speaks leaves me thinking that if the shoes he creates could talk, this is the precise way in which they would express themselves, imbued with Serramalera’s love and passion for his craft.As for the future, Serramalera has no plans of slowing down. He continues to lead the company he began almost two decades ago with the same ambition.The greatest satisfaction is discovering that every day there is something new that I can learn from my job, it’s an evolutionary process that has taken me on a journey, and well, there are plenty of storms, hurricane and ‘engine failures’. It is a great satisfaction for any captain to safely steer his boat through the ocean and arrive at the desired destination. At times the trip can be rough, but that’s what I like most about it.”

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