A common notion when it comes to footwear is “No pain, no gain” — if you want a pair that looks beautiful, you’ve got to endure some kind of pain for them.
Well, one brand has been debunking that myth for decades.
Spanish footwear label Pedro García has, since 1925, been known for creating flats, heels, sandals and more, that are as functional as they are sleek and chic. The brand’s focus on quality and design has not watered down over the years, despite it being passed down from generation to generation.
Now, helmed by third-generation brother-and-sister duo Mila and Pedro García — who act as the company’s CEO and creative director respectively — the brand is finally making its debut in Singapore. Before you go shopping, get a deeper look into the brand — we talk to creative director Pedro García about his design process and dedication to create great shoes.
What was it like, growing up in a family of shoemakers? Are you all “obsessed” with shoes?
PEDRO GARCIA In our family, we were all completely free to make our own decisions about our future, and I think the fact that we actively chose to become part of the company has made it stronger and more resilient. Each one of us has taken on a personal commitment to become part of the brand, because we believe in it and its philosophy. It’s an individual dream that we all share.
Joining the family business was a very natural process for me and although I remember rather begrudgingly accepting those first summer internships at the factory, I later realised they were a necessary experience to help me decide whether or not I wanted to continue with the company. Then came my academic training in Milan and the FIT, and after that, in 1991, our father invited us – his children – to join the company as it entered its next big phase. Building a business on the scale we wanted required a huge effort and investment from all of us, but we agreed to embark on the venture together.
Personally, does coming from such a storied line of shoemakers impact you when you go shoe-shopping? How so?
PG I am passionate about design, but I’m interested in many other areas too. I’m particularly attracted to industrial design, as well as to manufactured products, and I like to know the details of their construction. So when I’m buying shoes, or anything else, I like to examine the way thing are made. I inspect the lining of jackets, the materials used to make a sound system, how the stitching of a shoe is finished. This attitude is related to my interest in the quality of the materials, and the pleasure I take in a job done well, but it’s not restricted to shoes.
Having spent so many years surrounded by shoes, what are three things you have learnt about footwear that you always keep in mind?
PG The first relates to materials, which for us can be the spark that inspires a new style, or part of a collection. You need to understand the material in order to use it in a particular way. The material won’t function correctly if it doesn’t have the right characteristics to do the job it has been assigned. Every material has a specific range of uses.
A valuable lesson, which we have put into practice many times, is that you should never try to bite off more than you can chew. You need to be aware of your own possibilities, your real potential. You have to accept your limits, just as you need to know your own capacity to make up for them and multiply its effect. It’s an essential lesson, especially in manufacturing, and it allows you to chart the path you should follow.
Another important lesson drawn from years of experience is that the best results, especially in design, take place along the way, as you head towards your goal. Sometimes you start a design project without a clear objective. You’re trying to create a certain type of shoe, or you want to use a certain type of material: you may even have an ambiguous intuition about where you want to go. You start work, and it’s during the process, along the way, that you start to fine-tune your approach and achieve what you wanted.
Do you have a favourite inspirational quote?
PG In our design process, materials are fundamental, because they tend to be what triggers everything else, and on which all subsequent developments are based. It’s essential to know them inside out. You have to choose the material according to the function it’s going to fulfil, and when you work with it, you have to respect the rules dictated by its characteristics. That’s why “Let the material do the talking” is a saying we often repeat.
Once we’ve chosen the material, our working method is totally practical. We start out from our years of experience with materials, silhouettes, colours, finishes, components and so on, and we experiment on the work bench to evolve from the results we have already obtained. It’s a hands-on approach to design in which we break all our own rules, working with materials and combining them to arrive at something new, surprising and unexpected. This explains why “You have to know the rules to break them” is another of our favourite sayings.
What is Alicante like, from the perspective of a shoemaker? Why is it a good place to produce shoes?
PG For three generations, our family has been producing footwear in the place where we were born, Elda, a small town with a long history of shoemaking, in the province of Alicante, Spain. Historically, Elda’s economy is related to jute production in the Vega Baja del Segura, an area to the south of Alicante.
The shoe industry started with the production of traditional jute sandals, or alpargatas, and then evolved to include children’s and men’s footwear, and later specialised in women’s shoes. This tradition means that in Elda itself, or very close by, we can find an incredible amount of industries related to shoemaking, which is essential to our production process. The fact that we’re located in the same area has a positive impact on the quality of the finished product, and also makes our work much easier.
At Pedro García we have never considered outsourcing production to countries where labour costs are lower. We believe in products with the Made in Spain guarantee; in our raw materials and in our craftspeople — it’s one of the founding values of our company. That’s why we’re committed to ensuring that our business has a direct impact on the local economy.
What is Pedro Garcia’s defining aesthetic, if you could pinpoint one that has travelled across all the seasons your label has been around?
PG Recently, our style has been described as edgy and playful. We think there’s a lot of truth in that, but our collections are also very understated. Even when we use ornamentation like crystals or studs, it’s as rational decoration, almost always linear and emphatic. This simplifies the design and at the same time makes it extremely powerful, two factors that contribute to this understated feel. We're looking for a new, more contemporary decorative language. On the other hand, because of our origins, we also identity with the Mediterranean character, “the art of living well,” - there’s something chic about it that comes to the fore in our Vacchetta sandals.
We usually define ourselves by describing our product’s design in five words, to which we append a final statement that is very important to us: Our products are unique, modern, bold, easy, sincere and made in Spain since 1925.
Pedro Garcia shoes have been around for 91 years. That’s longer than a lot of people! What innovations has the brand come up with over the years that you are most proud of?
PG Our design isn’t a one-time, unchanging occurrence that begins and ends with a single collection. It’s an organic process of development that transcends any one season and continues to evolve with the next.
When we design, we draw on our previous experience, on the materials, styles and finishes that we are still interested in, and we do a lot of hands-on experiments to make them evolve. In this process of research and testing, we have ended up fusing elements from different worlds, taking them out of their usual context and making them meet up on our work bench.
That’s how we arrived at a surprisingly simple solution that nevertheless has a very contemporary aesthetic: High heels that take the rubber cork anatomical footbeds from flat sandals to raise them up on a high heel. Anatomical bottoms on heels. An innovation that we first introduced in raw edge suede shoes, without a lining or seams, which, for the first time with this kind of shoes, featured Velcro fasteners.
By combining these three elements — anatomical footbeds, raw edges and Velcro fasteners — we were able to make heels that were really edgy, and at the same time so comfortable that, for many women, they have become go-to shoes for everyday wear. This is something we feel particularly satisfied about.
What’s the story behind this season’s designs?
PG When we think about the designs for a new season we are never looking at a totally blank page. We have the whole of our own materials as a starting point, whether they come from the most recent collection, or is something from the past that still attracts us. There are certain materials and types of shoes that we have been working with intensely for decades, for which we are recognised around the world, and which identity us as a brand. Castoro suede on high heel styles with anatomical bottoms is one of them. Flat sandals with Swarovski crystals, or in vegetable-tanned Vacchetta, and the use of frayed satin complete what we consider to be our signature materials and styles. We continue to experiment with them in every collection, making them evolve to achieve new results.
The Pedro García Albany
2016 is the tenth anniversary of our Albany style, a ruffled skimmer flat in frayed silk satin and one of our most identifiable silhouettes. We wanted to commemorate it and also celebrate the success of the innovative use of a frayed finish in silk satin, which frees the material from its exclusive association with evening wear, redefining and updating it. We have reissued the style, and continued its logical development, expanding the range of styles with a d’Orsay version and a mule, our Adila and Alia styles.
Why do you feel it’s important to continually innovate and experiment with your product?
PG Innovation is part of fashion. It’s one of its key ingredients and it’s what makes a collection attractive and exciting. At Pedro García we want to surprise our customers every season, offering them something unexpected and seductive, which they can identify with, which is comfortable and can be worn during the day and in the evening. Every brand has to establish its own goals and philosophy, and one of our design objectives is innovation, and to achieve that, our work process is one of continuous experimentation.
Pedro García is now available at Pedder On Scotts, L2 Scotts Square.
For more on Fashion, head here. Or check out NYFW Microtrend Alert: Frilled Cropped Flares Are Coming or 8 Questions With… Nicola Formichetti.