Our shoes are perhaps the most important item of our wardrobe if we consider how much we rely on them for support and for getting us through our day from work to nightlife or even for travel. Our outfits can be dressed to the nines and our shoes could equally be as complimentary but if they are not comfortable then our whole mindset is off.
And when we consider shoes, we think they are made in some factory far away… and sadly, they typically are. Shoe making is perhaps one of the oldest crafts and true shoemakers can still be found today, they can even be found more locally than we realize.
Enter Zapato Sanchez from my city of Edmonton, Alberta designed and made by Rodrigo Sanchez and his father Julio. What began as a shoe repair store that opened in 1985 at West Edmonton Mall, owned by Julio and his wife Estrella, was where Rodrigo and his sister Romina would spend much of their time at the family business. Shoe making was in his blood passed on from many generations in Chile and Spain and it wasn’t until he was laid off from his job that Rodrigo had a chance meeting that changed his career from working in the Alberta oil sands to pursuing shoe design.
LP: What did you do before Zapato Sanchez?
ZS: I worked in oil and gas for five years before I was laid off. I had never really considered shoe making before. My mom had a family friend visiting who was a pattern maker in Santiago for over 50 years. I fell in love with what he was showing me but it was my mom who planted the seed to study it. I then enrolled in a six month institute in Milan, Italy in 2014.
LP: What made you want to become a shoe designer versus carrying on the family shoe repair business?
ZS: I just knew that I wanted to do design and my dad has now said that he has been training his whole life for these moments. We are now using all sides of shoe making process equally because we need each others skills to contribute to each piece.
LP: What is the best piece of advice from the Institute that you still use today?
ZS: Consistency and always put your soul into it. There is so much to learn, so if I’m struggling with an issue, I put it down for the day and go back to it the next day where it works itself out.
LP: How has your work transpired through the evolution of Zapato Sanchez?
ZS: I’ve welcomed better infrastructure such as new molds and new leather. My prototype from Milan was with a zipper and I was really into zippers at the time. Currently I am designing a classic men’s style and eventually I would like to work with a sneaker next.
LP: Where in the world has the best inspiration/resources for shoemakers?
LP: Who do you admire in the shoe making world?
ZS: My father and the professors I had in Milan.
LP: What is the best compliment you’ve received?
ZS: ‘These are the most beautiful and comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned in my life.’
LP: What is your best tip for maintaining the life cycle of shoes?
ZS: Moisturize the leather with polish. Our environment is a factor where in our dry climate we should be polishing at least twice a week, no matter the season.
LP: What should we look for when buying a quality shoe?
ZS: Where it’s made. Countries that have been making shoes for generations don’t change the machinery and are still using the same type of machines from centuries ago. The new countries that are making shoes are all about speed versus process.
LP: What is a fun shoe fact?
ZS: Most people don’t know how to tie their shoe laces. I learned in Italy that you have to go under the bow when most people go over. By going under, the bow becomes straight, won’t come undone and displays properly.
LP: How do you evoke the art of slow?
ZS: I make sure to make personal connections with friends, spend limited time on social media and I still use the phone to communicate.
LP: What do you want people to know about your work?
ZS: I want people to know how much work goes into shoes, why buying quality shoes is important and I want them to know what they are buying.
Rodrigo can attest to the quality of his shoes, that are each named after a friend or family member, he works in them all day while at the shop, making shoes and helping clients. He then wears them out at night for a drink with friends after a long day. This is due to the leather that he sources himself and the support of the shoe through quality workmanship – some clients even prefer to wear their shoes barefoot. No matter where life takes him, he can be sure to always be supported through his work by establishing a solid grounding base in his handcrafted shoes.
Zapato Sanchez can be found at West Ed Shoe Repair in West Edmonton Mall, Phase I upper level.