Sustainable Fashion in Barcelona: La Manual Alpargatera

La Manual Alpargatera is definitely one of Barcelona’s most iconic shops. For decades they have been a pioneer as to making handmade espadrilles, and still all those years later they haven’t given in on working in an artisan way. Hence we had a talk with them, to get to know a bit more about this inspiring place.

Hello! How did La Manual Alpargatera start?

We’re an artisan workshop of espadrilles in Carrer d’Avinyó 7. It started in 1940 with the acquisition of a espadrille workshop in the Ribera neighbourhood of Barcelona, which was then used as a base to transform the standard espadrille into something compatible with the concept of “fashion”, something unthinkable at that time.

From its start, the concept of La Manual Alpargatera has been to combine tradition and innovation, with strong roots to its artisan concept, yet always on the lookout for innovation. Craftsmanship, creativity and quality work, without forgetting our artisan roots. We keep being an artisan workshop that makes traditional espadrilles, as well as new models, without forgetting about our own models that have become classics and have been copied by many over the years.

We don’t only want to distinguish ourselves by the quality of our products, our fidelity to the classic models and creativity of new collections, but also to how we deal with our customers, making the visit a memorable experience.

How did the idea of this arise? And why in Barcelona?

The founders of “La Manual” considered that an accessible and comfortable shoe, as the espadrille is, could be elevated a level in the perception of the public. This way entering in the world of fashion, which nobody thought about till then. So they started making espadrilles with interesting designs, combining it with the fashion of the moment. They introduced high heels and other elements that were still unthinkable back then.

Barcelona has always been an ideal city for such projects, and a store like this, has to be housed in the heart of the city.

Who’s running the store? And how do you focus on sustainability?

We’re a family enterprise. I’m in charge of the store, my wife of the workshop, and most of the people working with us are family or friends.

We use local resources wherever possible. What we make is also a biodegradable product, and we don’t use animal-derived materials in our products. We do have some models with skin, from other producers, but we aim to reduce and eventually eliminate these.

How is the artisan scene going in Barcelona? What are some of your major challenges?

In fact we go a bit our own way. We’re running for more than 70 years and keep making artisan fashion. We maintain our traditions, yet keep innovating. We follow our own path, not disconnected, but a personal road yes.

Our main challenge is the confusion of clients that search us, and find a bunch of other espadrille shops that have opened in recent times. We have to explain them who we are, and who is not like us even though aiming to make it look like it. We also have to create a new website that is at the level of our name, and expand our workshop to meet the demand for the unique artisan espadrille of Barcelona.

How do you think Barcelona is doing as to sustainability? Are more people into artisan work?

There is still a lot of work as to sustainability in Barcelona, although there are good intentions. The first that should be done is to create a higher awareness of the theme, in general terms, and implement it as a concept of the city.

People might be more into artisan work, quite probably. But during the years we have seen various brands coming and going. Although it’s not constant, we might notice a certain upward trend of artisan shops in recent times.

What are some of your favourite places in the city?

The Museum of the City. I love to descend 3000 years to walk in the streets of Barcino, to go slowly up to the middle ages and leave in the appropriate time at the Plaça del Rei.

Thanks a lot for sharing your story and for your innovative work!!

For more info about La Manual Alpargatera, check our review.

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Good Goal is an independent guide to sustainable fashion stores and other sustainable places in Barcelona and various other European cities. We visit every place ourselves and only list the most innovative ones. Our guide is made so that everyone can easily find the sustainable options, those that benefit local people, sustainable innovators and that show you the real and local side of the city. To keep yourself updated, please like our Facebookpage