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3 November 2020
Author: Spiff
Getting to Know Galea Bespoke

Today is September 2, 2020 and although the long confinement is behind us, the summer has not been a summer like any other. Getaways, Meharis, crystal clear waters, hidden coves, prawns at the beach bar, eating outside day in and day out, the sea breeze, the fried fish and many other things for which the summer season is really special, have been replaced, at least in the case of yours truly, by spiritual retreats at home and sports outside of it.

The time has come to leave my hiding place. It will not be a sudden outing out riding my bike or to the supermarket around the corner. It will take a long time for Mercadona's song to disappear from the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of a brain flooded with pandemic thoughts that were barely able to breathe for a few hours a day.

This time I decided to get jump right in and take a train to Atocha, and then do the same with an AVE to Barcelona. 

Do not think for a second that it is something relatively easy. For months we have been bombarded with information and news, some of it very complex to understand. The fear has been taking its toll day after day. And although flare-ups exist, and the devil is in charge, one must try to rebuild his life. With responsibility, though, that much is true.

The Ciudad Condal is famous for its artistic heritage. Much of this was due to the talent of Antonio Gaudí, who transformed several of the corners of the city, incorporating his majestic architectural creations.

Gaudí, a man with an exceptional and revolutionary sense of aesthetics, helped create a city like no other. A city where the tourist has an almost moral obligation to enjoy the legacy left by the architect. It would be sinful for me not to take advantage of the visit to look at some of his creations, but I honestly don't know if I will; I have always done so when I've come to Barcelona in the past; today I just want to continue with everything I had in mind before the health crisis, and one of those things was to go meet up again with the guys from Galea Bespoke and get to know their workshop once and for all.

I have known Fernando and Alfonso for about a year and a half. I believe I remember that the relationship was first forged with Fernando as a result of an article I did for Esquire where he talked about the shoe industry in Spain and the great shoemaker specialists that we have in the country.

Fernando is a bookworm, a guy at a very high level, culturally speaking. I have learned from him and argued with him so many times… He always wins.

Alfonso is more relaxed; golf and shoes are his passion. That and eating, my goodness the things he eats; funny thing is that he still maintains his figure. Of Alfonso I admire his sensitivity and care when talking about one of his shoes.

 I admit that before I met them I was more than profane in the care and manufacture, among any task in which shoes were involved. I recognize that it was not to invest too much in them; neither in time nor in money. Both Fernando and Alfonso have given added value to shoes that previously remained ostracized. Not so now.

 Barcelona welcomes us with a wonderful climate, as usual. Very close to the Gracia metro stop, on Calle Laforja number 16, is the Galea Bespoke workshop. Its elegant and minimalist entrance already provides an idea of what I sensed before coming. That feeling of when you walk into a place and smell the talent, the passion to do something, anything, but always with passion.

Galea bespoke crafts shoemakers Barcelona bespoke

Interior of Galea Bespoke

It is Wednesday, 1 in the afternoon, and Fernando and Alfonso are waiting for me with a bottle of Zarro in hand, which I myself recommended, and with a glass resting on the table. In that same table where a squad of shoes arranged by color scheme.

The vermouth, the thirst that has invaded my being for hours now and even the presence of two friends, vanish before those shoes; they are now those which get all my attention. Their brightness, their elegance ... I have a feeling that they are small works of art and that my parents or the security guard of a museum are behind them saying, "do not touch". I listen to them, put my glasses on and put my hands behind me, like an old man looking at something very valuable or a new work of art.

Apart from seeing their workshop and them, I am here to get answers. The first question is clear:

SPIFF: What are two lawyers, one from Bilbao and the other from Oviedo, doing making shoes in Barcelona?

Fernando: I came to Barcelona with my old law firm. I had worked at the Bilbao headquarters when I was still studying and I wanted a change to a less humid city.

Alfonso: When I finished my law degree, my now wife worked in Tarragona and I decided to look for work in Barcelona. The shoes thing would come later and it was something I couldn't imagine at the time.

SPIFF: What was that moment of revelation when you decided to hang up your suits and be shoemakers?

Fernando: In my case there was no revelation. Rather, it was a series of coincidences that ended with, two days after leaving my office, me being offered to be part of a shoe store project. Up to that point I had always been more attracted to the needle and thread. There are countless hours that I have spent in the Blasi Tailor Shop in Barcelona.

Alfonso: I entered the world of shoemaking as a hobby. I would go once a week to learn at the workshop of an old teacher in Barcelona, ​​but without any kind of pretense other than learning. Like someone who goes to language class. Little by little, I liked what I was doing more and, seeing that I was progressing, I decided to go to Florence to Stefano Bemer's school to complete my training.

Galea Bespoke crafts bespoke shoes Barcelona

Fernando Nafria working

SPIFF: Please give me a time reference. How long have you been working as shoemakers?

Fernando: I would not call myself a shoemaker. I design shoes, I do patinas, I iron, I shine…, but, shoemaker; even though I've gone through the steps, I am not one. Besides, Alfonso has a much better hand than me. I started six years ago in another workshop, but dedicating myself more to management issues than to pure craftsmanship (although I did polish, I polished hundreds of shoes).

Alfonso: Late 2013 or early 2014.

SPIFF: Which is harder? Being a lawyer or a shoemaker?

Fernando: Being a lawyer, without a doubt. Despite the lower financial solvency, I sleep much better!

Alfonso: I would say the as long as you are someone responsible. But with shoes the suffereing is more beautiful.

SPIFF: Let's move on to the current situation. What do you think will be the scenario that will cause the guild to suffer the most after everything we have experienced in recent months?

Fernando: I think it will affect us like any other business. Some of the younger companies that were starting out may disappear. Luckily, we have endured well among other things thanks to a very loyal clientele.

GAlea Bespoke Handmade Bespoke Shoe Racks Barcelona

Alfonso Caicoya working

SPIFF: How much does your RTW service weigh into your business and how much does the bespoke?

Fernando: RTW beats bespoke by a landslide. Barcelona, ​​despite its great tradition of artisan shoemaking, does not demand custom footwear (and the truth is that our workshop is where most of the sales are made). When we do trunk shows in Madrid, Paris…, that's when bespoke orders appear. In addition to this, our shoe tree ends up being quite comfortable, so there is no small amount of customers who have been asking about bespoke and have ended up opting for the RTW. Being bespoke shoemakers has helped us to offer quality RTW.

SPIFF: Tell me a little about the whole bespokeprocess. Try to be as concise as possible.

Alfonso: In short, the process begins and ends with the customer, in the sense that we are the ones who make the shoe, but it is the customer who decides the style, shape, color ...

For each order we make two test shoes before delivering the final one. It all starts with taking measurements. Then, once we have the measurements and have discussed the design, we replicate those on a wooden stand.

The two test pairs serve us both to fit things on the model and to fit measurements.

The first of the tests is done in a very simple construction where the main purpose is to see if the measurements have been taken correctly. In the second, the customer takes the pair of shoes home to wear them, about a week, and see if everything is correct. Once we have the conformity, we start with the final pair.

SPIFF: What is the total time we are talking about? From the moment the customer enters the door until he leaves with them on.

Alfonso: Time is relative and depends a lot on the type of shoe. Let's say 150 hours of work as a reference. The delivery time depends, however, on being able to make appointments with clients, balancing schedules for fittings ...

SPIFF: I am very interested in the why of each one of the names chosen for your shoes and even in your brand. Galea, Deusto, Sueve, Plencia ... Please explain.

Fernando: We have always been surprised that Spain is linked abroad with Andalusia, Madrid, Catalonia ... The north of the country is very unknown. It seems hard to believe, but many people do not know that here we also have green, cliffs, seas with waves, rain, storms ... That we are also a country of raincoats and sturdy shoes, etc. ... That's why, from the beginning, we wanted to pay tribute to our respective lands, Euskadi and Asturias. Hence the name of our brand, of our models (Sueve for the Asturian mountains, Plencia for the people of Biscay; Terranova as a tribute to the fishermen of the Cantabrian Sea ...). Even the decoration of our workshop reminds us of our land: the train beams in the legs of the furniture, the rust orange of our industry ...

Galea Bespoke artisans shoemakers bespoke

Galea Bespoke's Oxford Gallery

SPIFF: Which RTW shoe is the best seller?           

Fernando: The podium is shared by two models, the Terranova II, a split-toe derby in grain leather with hand-sewn stitching and a Vibram sole, and the Plencia Superfeather, an extremely lightweight, unlined, unstructured loafer.

SPIFF: And your favorite child?

Fernando: It is impossible for me to decide on just one. The Sueve, the Terranova I, the Superfeather, the Deusto ...

Alfonso: For me it's the Deusto

SPIFF: In just a year or so you have achieved significant media coverage, collaborations with international brands… Tell us how all this is achieved, is it the result of managing social media very well, or is it because you are just that good?

Fernando: It's not that we move exceptionally well through media and there are many good shoemakers who are practically unknown. I guess it's more about word of mouth. We're local, we provide good service (also after-sales) and we interact a lot with people in the sector, who, in general, are very interesting people.

SPIFF: From the outside, what you see is that the market is somewhat saturated and it's difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. How do you distinguish yourself? What puts you a head above the rest?

Fernando: I suppose that making the styles we really like without paying too much attention to what the more general market demands at all times helps us. As a lawyer it was always difficult for me to “sell mergers”. How do you speak passionately about restructuring? On the other hand, selling what you have created completely by yourself to your liking is easier ...

Alfonso: It¡s true that, at first glance, the offering of shoes is very wide. However, once you start to sift through the types of constructions, quality of the leathers, finishes ... Naturally, you place yourself in a much smaller group. People who know about shoes appreciate it and, to those who are less in the know, we try to explain why we are comparable to some and how we differ from others. Being custom shoemakers also gives us another way of seeing and resolving things that is usually very useful.

Galea Bespoke shoemakers crafts Barcelona

Galea Bespoke's handwork detail

SPIFF: Where do you sell the most, in Spain or abroad?

Fernando: Nowadays, directly in our workshop in Barcelona. The truth is that, when we opened, we thought that the workshop would be that, a workshop. We did not think that the physical store would acquire such relevance. We are very surprised when a Korean or a Saudi comes to the store and tells us that they have taken a trip to visit us because they heard about us. In addition, as you can see, the workshop is open to the street and we are seen working from the outside, which encourages people to enter and browse.

SPIFF: All the acquaintances I have who own some of your shoes, praise the comfort of your lasts without losing aesthetics. This news for a little guy with high standards (speaking of owners) like me, is fantastic. How do you achieve this?

Fernando: With the lasts we use and lots of luck! It took us a lot to develop the last we wanted. We were looking for something that was neither too English nor too Italian. A last that will be wide and comfortable and, at the same time, elegant. That thing with your feet in particular gives for a treatise.

SPIFF: Tell me a little about that suede that makes your clients fall so in love, and those of us who are not yet; but every time we touch it, it sends shivers down our spine.

Fernando: Suede is essential in Galea Bespoke. It is the most requested type of leather and, in addition, I am a suede lover. As we enjoy it so much ourselves we couldn't help but look for a dense, unctuous and long-haired suede.

DEusto Oxford Galea Bespoke

Detail of the suede on the Deusto Oxford by Galea Bespoke

SPIFF: See, if I like your suede, out of all the styles you make, two of my favorites have that suede: the Plencia and the Sueve Chukka. The other is the Deusto, which is probably my favorite. We'll talk about that unlined Superfeather you have built some other time, but right now take me out to lunch, please.

Fernando: First, finish off the vermouth!

The +Related

Comentarios

  1. Luis

    Good article Fernando and congratulations on the success. I hope to one day become the uncle of a Giorgio Armani of shoe fashion.

  2. Spiff

    Thank you very much Luis for commenting on the entry. We are convinced that your wishes will come true sooner or later. Fernando and Alfonso have plenty of wood, to become whatever they want. A hug.

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