I like my shoes… They are ankle-high boots with floral embroidery: white, red, pink and blue flowers against the tanned suede. They look like a summer meadow this year nourished by urgent storms and vibrant sun rays. Their simple beauty has a calming effect against the chaos of the world ridden by the COVID-19 pandemic and ambitions of corporate gains. I just put them on and rule the sidewalk, attracting admiration and interest. But as a clothes writer I am always on the lookout for a good story. So what about my shoes?
They are by Venezia, which, contrary to the name, is a Polish brand. It is unclear who the owners are except that they are market leaders with over 100 stores all over Poland. There is no story available, how the brand was set up, what kind of values there are behind it, but, apparently, there is no need for a story as long as you offer good products with competitive prices.
The Italian element is the “made in Italy” sign on the under sole – Venezia’s business model is based on an import. This is always a bonus as Italy exudes fashion and style. China, on the other hand, with 63% of shoe production, doesn’t have this kind of fancy connotation… I wish, however, I knew who made my shoes specifically. If the process was ethical? What the inspiration was? I wish I was not detached from the maker… Craftmanship should not be anonymous. It deserves recognition.
They are made of suede – the most delicate end-product of processing animal skin. Suede sounds so smooth and luxurious but making it is far from simple. In fact, tanning leather, which is all about making it durable and flexible, feels like the alchemy of fashion. It is preceded by a number activities such as liming, deliming, hair removal, degreasing, bleaching, pickling only to be followed by crusting, surface coating, oiling, brushing, buffing, coating, polishing, embossing, glazing, tumbling… I wish I knew more about these processes and people who participate in them. It would be easier for me to appreciate rather than solely consume.
In the past, tanning happened with the use of natural substances called tannins which, for example occur, in tree bark. Although it was much safer, the demands of the industry called for something more efficient. Nowadays, tanning is conducted with chemicals such as chromium sulfate or potassium chrome alum. They might be effective, but they are also highly toxic and pose a threat to people and environment. I wish I knew safety was not compromised.
Products are never just beautiful items we grab from a shop shelf or click online. They are people who had put hours of work and expertise into making them. Is it ok for us to casually browse through their existence? Is it ok for companies to retain the information about their processes? What do you think? Do you know the story behind your shoes?
Photos by Weronika Binduga