Daniel Porcelli (Cobbler Union) I

"What if we can give true shoe aficionados the opportunity to buy bespoke-inspired luxury shoes at an affordable price?"

Daniel Porcelli (Cobbler Union) I

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“ Cobbler Union is the story of two friends and a cobbler“. Who are the friends, who is the cobbler and what brought them together?

Well, I’m happy to say that Miquel, the cobbler in the story, has also become a great friend. Santiago and I (the two friends and co-founders) conceived Cobbler Union after deciding to exit a bespoke venture we had invested in back in 2011. Miquel was one of our bespoke shoemakers in that company. We are thrilled to have him on our team at Cobbler Union.

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Together, we decided to embark on a journey to change the way men buy luxury shoes. Bespoke shoes are absolutely amazing. However, at over 3K+ euro / pair, very few men can afford to experience them. So, we asked ourselves: “what if we can give true shoe aficionados the opportunity to buy bespoke-inspired luxury shoes at an affordable price?”

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That’s the challenge that brought the three of us together. To execute our vision we needed complementary skills. Miquel has done an amazing job working closely with our manufacturing partners to combine key elements of bespoke shoemaking with best practices in ready-to-wear shoe manufacturing. This combination has allowed us to develop a product that’s very very close in quality and attention to detail to shoes that retail for 650+ euros (our shoes start at just under 300 euros). Santiago and I oversee all areas of the business and are responsible for effectively executing our direct-to-consumer business model to be able to offer clients a great product at an exceptional price.

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Who had the greatest influence on choosing your career? Why shoes?

Unlike most people in the shoe industry, I’m a complete outsider. I actually grew up in Argentina’s remote Patagonian region, very far away from the world of luxury shoes. However, when I turned 18 my dad made the brave decision to relocate our family to New York City. The City, as it’s done to so many people, changed my life. A new world opened up for me. I was mainly intrigued by the success of business people – specially the many entrepreneurs I met during those early years. They inspired me to work hard and, most importantly, to dream about one day creating a company of my own. And that’s how I got into shoes!
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I had enjoyed good success in the corporate world but in 2011 I had an opportunity to invest in a small Spanish bespoke company. I took it and parachuted right into the thick of things. I had always loved shoes more than any other item so, not surprisingly, I rapidly fell in love with the craft and the people involved in it. I’m now a very proud shoemaker.
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In what other projects have you been involved before Cobbler Union?

I’ve been very fortunate to work in many different industries and sectors throughout my business career. I’ve worked with some of the biggest companies in the world and with inspiring small entrepreneurs. Every project taught me important lessons I try to apply to our business today.

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What are the most difficult problems in terms of selling shoes today? Are people willing to pay for quality?

The McDonaldization of society (as described by sociologist George Ritzer) had a very negative impact in our industry during the 1900s. However, we are now seeing a strong revival and a huge paradigm shift in terms of the level of craftsmanship and quality customers expect to see when buying a luxury item – not only their shoes. The internet (i.e. journalists, bloggers, etc) is mainly responsible for leading this shift, allowing men, specially outside of Europe, the opportunity to learn about great products, craftsmanship, quality and the value of savoir vivre (knowing how to live well).

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Now that quality is back in the spotlight and our sector is thriving again, all of us involved in this wonderful craft share a huge responsibility to do everything in our power to grow our firms honestly (i.e. no shortcuts, no marketing gimmicks, as often seen in the fashion industry). If we do so, customers will continue to pay for quality.

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What shoemakers do you admire and why?

First and foremost, I admire all the wonderful crafts men and women who make our shoes. Shoemaking is a physically demanding job, a very tough job. Many of these people have dedicated 30, 40, 50 years of their lives to perfecting their craft. They’re the true heroes and the ones we wanted to celebrate by creating our company. Thus, the name: Cobbler Union.

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I also admire four great shoe entrepreneurs I’d hope, one day, to collaborate with in some capacity: Pierre Corthay, Tony Gaziano & Dean Girling and Philip Carr (Saint Crispin’s owner). Mr. Corthay epitomizes bespoke shoemaking at its best. His level of artistry is second to none in our industry. Mr. Gaziano, Mr. Girling and Mr. Carr do a phenomenal job at advancing the craft. They are true professionals and even better people.

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The shoes these four gentlemen make are simply exquisite. While the Cobbler Union business model is quite different from that of each of these three companies, we all share a common goal: to preserve and promote the art of shoemaking and to help our customers express themselves by wearing beautifully handcrafted shoes.

To be continued …