Your passion for shoes is known in pain , but in Romania unfortunately, there are not many gentlemen who have experienced the wearing Norman Vilalta shoes. For the start let’s clarify your story. Who are you and why choosing shoemaking?
I was born and raised in Patagonia, Argentina. I moved to Buenos Aires when I was 18, where I studied and practiced law for a number of years. When I was 30 I had to decide between pursuing a master degree in international law or doing what really motivates me: creating beauty.
I had discovered the shoemaking craft a couple of years and once I made the decision to change career paths it was a very logical decision for me at a personal level. I make shoes for their beauty. They allow me to express myself. Ultimately, the same criteria apply to law and bespoke shoemaking. Justice and beauty are technical the same universal principles. My goal as a shoemaker is to add something meaningful to the world.
I know that you are Argentinian and that you have learn your craft from Stefano Bemer. Why Italy and not England and how did this affect your style ?
I didn’t know it at first but I don’t believe that choosing Italy lover England is that significant. When you work in the best workshops in Europe you end up learning French, Italian and English shoemaking Technics. Learning all these diverse techniques and processes is clearly one of the greatest benefits of apprenticing in Florence. As a shoemaker I have never and will never stop learning, and not just from shoemakers. My challenge is to find ways to contribute new points of view, “steal” techniques from other disciplines and metiers to, ultimately, enrich the wonderful traditional of craftsmanship.
At the start of my career, I was influenced by by existing styles. However, I quickly realized that my path was very personal in terms of style and, most importantly, regarding why I dedicated my life to making bespoke shoes. This allowed me to differentiate myself, designing unique collections for each of my clients.
I pay close attention to my clients’ style. Each of them contributes to the final product in one form or another. I’m not fixed on a specific aesthetic. Instead, I create unique pieces for them. My goal is to define my clients’ style through the shoes they wear. It is not uncommon for my clients to have sneakers, formal shoes and anything in between. Shoes that didn’t exist for my clients before working with me.
You live in Barcelona an extraordinary city with many influences. What are the main preferences of Barcelona gentlemen?
My clients come from all over the world. Barcelona inspires me in very natural ways. However, so does the country side where I spend a lot of time to create new concepts and ideas.
How long does it take to have a pair of Vilalta shoes from order day until I can walk on Barcelona street wearing your shoes? Please detail the manufacturing process?
Up until now, I’ve only made bespoke shoes in my own personal ways. That is, by designing a collection for each of my clients. Each collection is different in terms of concepts and number of pairs. In terms of delivery time, it will take about 6 months to have the first couple of pairs ready. The manufacturing process for the most part follows the bespoke shoemaking tradition. I’ve made a few changes over the year but, in general, the process is already comprehensive. In my workshop, however, the focus is not on the hours because we are obsessed with introducing new condiments, developing new concepts, solving technical challenges and trying new materials. This allows us to create shoes that didn’t exist before.
What are the prices an option n of a Vilalta Shoe?
Every project is different. I give myself no limit to the price or type of project I do for a client.
In what stage of the process do you use machine?
We don’t use machines in my workshop. However, I believe that machines, tools and hands all need to be used when they yield the best results. The ultimate mix is determined by the craftsman’s heart who’s ultimately trying to solve both a technical and aesthetic challenge. At the center of it is innovation, change, creation.
Do you work alone?
No. I have a team of incredible artisans and I’m surrounded by people who inspire me.
Do you make your own last?
I create one or several lasts for each client representing his/her own style.
Where do you get your leather from? Please tell me more about the selection of the materials used in the process of shoemaking?
We constantly search for the best materials, we modify them and adapt them, but we work with materials other than leather. I don’t limit myself in terms of traditional materials, techniques and how to use them.
What are your future plans for he business?
We are currently growing the business, expanding outside of Spain, extending our product offerings. There will be some great news about Norman Vilalta in the very near future.