Act Series/ Fashion / Act Series, Espadrilles Image : Silvia Conde
Think an espadrille is merely a comfortable shoe associated with warm weather and beautiful waterfronts? Think again. Great attention to detail, creative design and artisanal processes are key to creating the perfect one, according to the Mediterranean brand Act. Read on to find out more.
“We aim for the return of spontaneity… the return of being more intrepid. We want to work in a natural way, without overthinking too much.”
Please tell us a little more about Act and your own design experience.
In 2012 I visited Berlin and simply decided to stay. Here is where I met Alex, CEO of Label Agent, who was also working in the fashion industry and suggested I join his team.
Act is an impulsive project. One Friday afternoon we came up with the idea of starting our own brand, and the following week we were already looking for manufacturers – this is why the name of the brand rings true to us.
Act is looking to bring back this often-overlooked type of footwear back to its deserved popularity. We stand for attention to detail, combining the espadrilles traditional materials (esparto and canvas) with high-grade suede and leather in a series of models where the typical form of the shoe is revamped.
I had never seen myself building a brand on this scale until it happened. With regards to getting into design, it didn’t happen overnight. It has been (and still is) a process – the truth is that I’ve always been drawn to it, so I naturally took every opportunity at hand to get closer to it. It allows me to keep evolving my style and move forward.
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Where did the inspiration come from and why focus on accessories and espadrilles?
I believe creating something that you’re somehow related to, I’m from Mallorca, so espadrilles have always been an essential item during the summers I spent on the island.
Espadrilles are centuries old, and while their exact origins remain unclear, it is widely known they were originally a type of footwear traditionally worn by peasants, both in leisure and work (namely in the fields), because of their lightness and comfort. It wasn’t until the 1940’s that they grew in popularity and became fashionable.
Are you ever caught out and about in a pair of killer heels?
Certain styles of shoes are better suited to specific occasions; I do wear heels, especially at night.
Spontaneous and simple are characteristics inherent to the Act series, is this a reflection of how you work?
Espadrilles are an eminently Mediterranean product, and we Spaniards are well aware of the fact that many European countries hold our weather and lifestyle in high esteem.
Our climatic and geographical conditions, the fact that we can spend our free time outdoors during most of the year enables us to be spontaneous; to put it simply, whenever our plans fail us there is always something else to do.
From our perspective, this is, more than anything else, what needs to be appreciated from our culture. It is something many European countries lack, that’s why we believe it makes sense for us to work from Berlin: because the mindset here is in tune with our lifestyle, and we firmly believe we can contribute.
Our philosophy is linked to this spirit; we aim for the return of spontaneity or in other words, the return of being more intrepid. We want to work in a natural way, without overthinking too much.
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Where do you find inspiration for new designs?
Berlin and the German aesthetic have undoubtedly influenced me, and I will retain and explore links and working relationships here. But I consider myself as a quite nomadic person, I’m a bit of a gadabout. I’ve lived in seven different cities in the past sixteen years.
My design work is a response to my daily life: every detail, trips, people that surround me, visual impacts, art, the space where I work, the clothes that I wear… anything could be part of my inspiration.
Staying true to the artisanal processes must be difficult in such a commercial market. Please elaborate on your decision to favour this route and any challenges you face.
As with any brand, it’s all a matter of positioning. When you begin a project like this, at some point you find yourself with the need to determine what kind of product you are going to make and that’s a decision with consequences you have to take with thorough consideration.
Making a cheaper product all too often entails having to renounce to a certain quality standard, but not just that: you have to sell a lot more in order to make a livelihood from it, and in this particular scenario, enter in competition with giants that have all the resources (in terms of manufacturing, staff, distribution, etc.) to take you out of it.
In light of this, I think it’s only natural that small brands try to reach a more conscientious audience. An audience that is willing to spend more for a product that is made locally by artisans with higher production values, and with the certainty that a great deal of care has been invested in doing it.Can you tell us more about the process involved?
Our espadrilles are hand made in a small village in the north of Spain, but the whole design process takes place in our showroom. The first steps of the concept are inspiration and the creation of a board that tells the design story, a general direction. We then travel to different fairs where an essential part of our job takes place – the careful selection of leathers.
Once the material has been selected, we fly to the factory where, a hand in glove work with the manufacturers takes place. Here, technical specifications, construction and details are worked out. The main part of the manufacturing process is manual and made by highly skilled craftsman, paying special attention to the details and finish.
You have some forthcoming exciting releases and collaborations – are you able to share plans with us?
After having spent some time organizing cultural events, the spirit of the brand, naturally relates to artistic projects. At the moment we are working on a small project with ten artists from different countries that will be shown in an exhibition that will take place in Berlin.
We will be uploading the finished works on our web on a monthly basis.
“I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.”