ZVONIMIR CIPELE, NATAŠA TRINAJSTIĆ

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The Zvonimir shoe-making business has a long tradition in Zagreb. For 40 years now, your family has been making handmade women’s shoes. What does the shoe-making business mean to you?

Both of my grandfathers, my grandmother, mother and father were educated shoemakers, so I grew up in the family workshop. I remember using the workshop as a playground, where I would cut out, glue and saw my own visions out of leather. Through this, under the supervision and guidance of my family, I have learned all there is to know about the craft of shoe-making. 15 years ago my father passed the business down to me and I cannot imagine doing anything else.

Making shoes by hand is hard and laborious work. What is the process and how long does it take for you to manipulate the material into a shoe?

Shoe-making is a very complex craft. There are four basic operations. The first is obviously taking measurements, creating the design and the model, after which comes the cutting and tailoring. The third step is the technological process of preparation, merging and sewing. In the end you have to put all pieces of the puzzle together in a pre-designed mold that the customer has envisioned. This simplified explanation can give you just a peek at what it takes to make just one shoe. So to make a pair of shoes by hand takes at least 3 days.

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Who are your customers and how do you manage to keep the tradition of handcrafted shoes alive?

We use the personal approach. Each shoe we make has the signature of its owner and is made just for them. We do produce pre-designed shoes, but in a limited series only. Most of our work is for individual customers who are not your typical buyers. Our customers value the hard work that we put into the production and the quality of handcrafted unique items. We have generations of loyal clients – mothers and daughters, and their daughters and so on. We can certainly say that we are their families’ shoemakers. Lately, the demand for handmade ladies shoes has expended because there is a shortage of good quality shoes in today’s market.

Transmuting visions into a product – how can a customer order custom-made shoes?

A customer comes into the workshop with their design/vision or chooses one of ours; decides on the material – the type and the color of the leather, the shape of the mold and the height of the heel. Then we take all the necessary measurements and get to work. Depending on the workload, it can take 7 to 14 days for the finished product. We have the option for customers that are not able to come pick them up, to be sent to their address.

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