When the average person thinks of the origins of well-made shoes, there are two places that they probably think of: England and Italy. I know this because I used to be one of those people, and have met many more like that. But after having spent ample time in the shoe industry, not only in America but also all over Europe (having lived now in both Italy and England), I can say that these two places (while still good) are not the only places that produce GREAT shoes. In fact, I would say that the best shoe factories in Spain would compete (quality-wise) with the best factories in both Italy and England. This may come as a shock to you, as both England and Italy have done a great job at creating a brand starting with “Made In” that has resonated in the minds of men across the world with being synonymous to the highest quality, but I can tell you from first-hand knowledge that Spain should be sitting atop that pedestal too. And the factory (as well as brand) that comes to mind, when actually thinking about the best in Spain, is none other than the legendary Carmina.
For those that don’t know, the history of Carmina is a vast one, dating all the way back to 1866, which is just as old as the world renowned John Lobb. The only difference is that the family that founded this factory has not always carried the same name. It was essentially adopted by the Albaladejo family, who were the great-grandchildren of the Pujadas family, and they (the Pujadas) were the original shoemakers whom set up a small workshop long before there ever was a factory. In 1905, after nearly 40 years of making shoes by hand, the Pujadas family opened up one of the first goodyear welted shoe factories in Spain, specifically in the Balearic islands. They carried on for nearly 60 years before Jose Albaladejo Pujadas created the brand Albaladejo in 1961. This brand then went on to become on the biggest names in all of Spain, producing around 1 million pairs of shoes in the 1980s. However, the luxury shoe market took a downturn in the late 90s and the Albaladejo family decided to transfer their location to their native Majorca and set up a new company and factory, and named it Carmina. And since that time, Carmina has been making some of the finest goodyear welted shoes that the world has known…
After stating all of these opinions, I feel that it is now time to state the facts, such as what makes a good shoe actually good? Well, let me tell you….There are a few things that separate quality shoes from their inferior counterparts. One of them is construction, i.e. the way in which the shoe was put together. Typically, the most highly regarded construction is one that is called Goodyear Welted. Now what this means, is that the shoe was created using an extra piece of leather (called the welt) to create a dual hold between the sole and the upper leather. That being, once fastening the upper leather to the last (the form on which the shoe was made), a welt is sewn onto a channel that is embedded into the insole of which at the same time is holding the upper leather in permanent place. Once this welt is sewn onto the insole/upper leather, it is then sewn to the sole to create a far superior hold than any other construction. This hold not only allows for the shoe to be re-soled, but also makes it relatively waterproof. The only downside is that the shoe is relatively stiff upon the first wears. However, due to its corked insole, once broken in, it creates a mold to your foot that makes you feel as if the foot-bed was custom.
The other things that make a good shoe is leather quality (which is easy for anyone to get right so long as they are willing to fork over the money) and the ability to create a pattern that sits beautifully on its respective last shape. The latter of these two is something that truly separates the kings from the jesters and is something that Carmina has mastered. When you look at one of their shoes, it instantly grabs you and commands respect. And what most people don’t know is that the shoes that create this feeling of awe and respect, versus the shoes that do not are generally separated by the fact that the shoemaker was able to create a pattern (the style of the upper) that sits perfectly atop the last (form) of the shoe, to create something that is visually appealing. That same pattern and last, put together by a different (and bad) pattern maker could look miles different, even though in theory, it should be the same shoe. That being, the marriage between good quality construction, good leather and great pattern/last makers, is what makes a great shoe brand and Carmina just happens to be one of the brands that does it best and does it at a price that creates the absolute best bang for your buck!!