Meet the Maker: Irene & Asier – Clap Shoes

Clap Shoes is a Spanish shoemaking brand that (remarkably enough) comprises of 14 entrepreneurs who are all between the ages of 20 to 22. Led by Irene Sierra (21) and Asier De Miguel (20), the brand largely produces shoes called ‘Espadrilles’ that are indigenous to Spain and France.

First things first: entrepreneurship isn’t a cinch. To back yourself and take a plunge into an abyss of uncertainty is courageous at any age. To start an international shoe business at the callow age of 21, though, requires balls of steel.

Clap Shoes is a Spanish shoemaking brand that (remarkably enough) comprises of 14 entrepreneurs who are all between the ages of 20 to 22. Led by Irene Sierra (21) and Asier De Miguel (20), the brand largely produces shoes called ‘Espadrilles’ that are indigenous to Spain and France.

Irene and Asier

The Beginnings

“We created this project while studying for a degree called LEINN (Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Innovation),” says Asier. “Since the degree involves 100% practical work, we decided in the first year of the course itself that we needed to create a company that serves the long-term purpose of working on real projects, for real customers, in the real world. The project ‘Clap’ was subsequently created which, to our pleasant surprise, saw tremendous success. We’re in our third year now and thankfully, it’s only getting better!”

Irene says that the idea came about after a mere glance at the shoe markets that exist today. “The artisans are slowly disappearing due to the monopoly of big brands and the resultant mass production,” she says. “The only way we could try to fight the situation was by creating Clap Shoes. Right from its inception, our aim has been to protect the artisans’ traditions, skills, and innovative drive. In fact, our shoes are 100% handmade by the artisans. We create the designs and travel around the world, buying all sorts of fabrics from the many talented artisans of various countries.”

Thus far, the brand has worked with artisans from Mexico, Mali, India, and the Basque country region in Spain.

The Shoes

‘Espadrilles’ are casual everyday shoes for both men and women, usually worn in the summers. Originating in the Pyrenees region which is situated on the border of Spain and France, espadrilles have been produced since the 14th century, although its most primitive forms can be traced back to as far as 4000 years ago. Clap’s espadrilles are made from 100% natural raw edge canvas that is hand-stitched onto a jute rope and a rubber soul. The techniques used to produce the shoes have been unchanged for centuries — which is exactly what makes the artisans indispensable.

“Our way of working is based on the ‘learning by doing’ method,” explains Asier. “We’ve made hundreds of mistakes through which we’ve learned the secrets of the trade — which include both managing the brand and understanding the needs of our customers. For example, when the brand was freshly launched, we only sold shoes in our area, which is the city of Bilbao in the north of Spain. We sold scores of beautiful espadrilles with ethnic fabric in the balmy summers… and then winter came. And in Bilbao, winters are almost always accompanied by rains. We received numerous complaints because the rainwater seemed to be destroying the fabric of the shoes — something we had failed to foresee. It was a critical stage for our brand, but we acted swiftly and fixed things. In a way, that might have just prepared us for India’s monsoon too!”

The Future

Irene says that today, as much as 95% of the sales are made online. “We already have a presence in countries like France, Great Britain, Germany, Israel and of course, Spain. We’re trying to introduce our product in Asia and have unanimously agreed that there’s no better place to start than India. Our shoes are custom made for countries with predominantly warm weather, which makes India pretty much the perfect fit.”

“We would also like to create our own workshop, thereby giving further impetus to a global network of artisans with the aim of connecting them all. This concept will ensure that the work of the artisans will never die. We hope they will all learn from each other, which will promote reinvention and innovation,” Asier adds. “But most importantly, we want to work with strong core values like GLOCAL (working with the mindset of expanding globally but staying true to our local and traditional roots), fair-trade, and using organic material. We want these values to be etched into our mindset and reflect in our products forever.”

To read stories about all our makers click here.

Rameez Shaikh

Rameez Shaikh is a twenty-three year old writer. With a degree in journalism to his name, he's an aspiring author with an absolutely astounding admiration for alliteration. Leisure propels him to read, dance, pen fiction and gloat about himself in third person. On weekdays, he works as a features writer. On weekends, he's a Manchester United fan.

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