Cobbler Union was launched in 2014 by two life-long friends, Daniel Porcelli and Santiago Pereiro, who wanted men to have access to bespoke-inspired luxury shoes, rather than let that privilege be enjoyed by a select few. This is accomplished by limiting production to small batches, and having the overall process overseen carefully by their master shoemaker and Santiago himself. Using a direct-to-consumer model, Cobbler Union has kept pricing very accessible and offers craftsmanship very close to that of a bespoke shoe.
Beautiful top-grade Italian and French calfskin leather, beveled waists, Goodyear welting are just some of the features Cobbler Union offers and I for one have truly grown to love their various styles. For those wanting to try them in person, Cobbler Union has recently opened a store-front in Atlanta so do pay a visit if you’re in the area.
I reached out to them to ask a few questions and showcase some of their shoes here on Casa di Sartoria.
CDS: A lot of brands create their lasts in-house whereas others will have pre-made lasts provided by outside manufacturers. What does Cobbler Union use for their lasts?
CU: One of the advantages of working in one of the world’s greatest shoemaking clusters is that one has access to over one hundred years of know-how and expertise. Our approach with lasts is that we prefer to work with proven lasts – lasts that have been successfully tested in the market and then tweak them to fit our needs. For us, when it comes to lasts it’s not just about aesthetics, but also functionality. For instance, for our original collection, since the U.S. is our main market, we picked a set of slightly wider lasts that we thought would work better for the American consumer. And of course, based on feedback we receive from customers, we’re always adjusting our lasts and testing new ones as well.
CDS: A lot of the styles are very traditional and classic and some are more modern. Please tell us a bit about how the design of the shoe is realized from concept to production.
CU: Cobbler Union’s aesthetic is classic with a contemporary twist. Being a company born in 2014, we can be versatile. We’re not married or forced to make one specific aesthetic or shoe. Instead, we are free to make what we like. For us, whether we make a Goodyear-welted shoe or summer drivers, our focus is on making shoes the right way, with the right materials and handcrafted following world-class standards.
When designing a shoe, we think about our customers and our entire collection. For instance, when we started working on drivers six months ago, we knew we wanted to make a driver that was just as good in quality and comfort as a Tod’s driver but with a rounder, more elegant, toe. We developed a last to reflect our design goals and ended up very happy with the results. We also added an engineered insole to slightly increase rigidity and maintain shape. Once we had the shoe we wanted, we went ahead and picked six colors of Italian suede that are elegant and fun at the same time.
CDS: Although it is still a bit early for a complete bespoke shoe offering, will Cobbler Union consider going down this path in the near future?
CU: We’ve been there, done that. Bespoke shoes are amazing, but we won’t get back into that world any time soon. My business partner and I left bespoke, and formed Cobbler Union to give more men around the world the chance to wear phenomenally well made, beautiful shoes. We took all our bespoke knowledge and use it to create a ready-to-wear “bespoke-inspired” line.
CDS: Between all the models on offer, the leather and suede used looks fantastic. Where does Cobbler Union source these materials from?
CU: About 80% of our leather comes from some of the best tanneries in France, 15% from Italy and the rest from England. Finding great leather is becoming a big challenge in our industry, thus, we work closely with our manufacturing partners to find tanneries that are willing and able to supply top grade calfskin of the highest quality.
CDS: The MTO program offered by Cobbler Union currently allows for up to four customizations. As far as the leather, sole and patina are concerned, these have no bearing on the fit (perhaps leather if it is a bit stiff). What should a customer consider when picking a last to ensure the best possible fit? Do the styles go hand-in-hand with the last or can a specific last be married with an alternative style?
CU: Our MTO program has been great for many of our customers. We’re extremely flexible as long as our customers understand that more changes require a slightly higher investment and, often, a longer development timeline. We do allow customers to pick any of the lasts in our collection.
And to make sure we get the size and fit right, we send our customers try-on pairs as soon as they place an MTO order.
CDS: The fine details on the shoes are quite extraordinary. How much handwork is involved? Is the welting done by hand or machine?
CU: Our Goodyear-welted shoes require over 220 processes to complete and are touched by over 20 artisans. Classic shoemaking is all about the artisans. That’s why we call them the real superheroes in our industry. Classic shoe making machinery is used throughout the entire process, but this machinery would be useless without the expertise and love of these artisans. As with any of the top shoemakers in the world, welting is done using a welting machine as the artisan holds and guides the shoe along the process.
CDS: Rubber soles are available with many of the styles in the current collection. Will there be a model made with a Norwegian welt?
CU: In the future, we want to offer more rubber-soled shoes and more types of construction, including Norwegian-welted shoes. However, we’re now focusing on what we know and do best – Goodyear-welted shoes and, now, drivers.
CDS: Most customers are hesitant to order shoes online partly because of the risk of the fit not being correct. Especially with international customers, this represents a challenge when trying to exchange shoes for a different size. Will Cobbler Union be part of any Trunk Shows in the near future in countries where most of the shoes are sold?
CU: Trunk shows are possible in the near future. However, we’re already working on other priorities, like opening our first store in the States. Having said this, we’ve sold shoes in over 25 countries and work very close with our international members to make sure we understand what size fits them best given the brands they wear. So far, we’ve been pretty accurate with our advice.
CDS: Cobbler Union offers a truly ‘bespoke inspired’ shoe among their collection. What can we expect from the Union in the future?
CU: We’ve just celebrated our first anniversary and are very excited about the future. For instance, we’re now set to introduce at least one new model every month and to give our customers more MTO options than ever before. We’re also opening our first-ever store in the States, launching the drivers collection and working on bringing back a 1950s true driving shoe in collaboration with a really great watchmaker. Before too long, we’ll be launching our first sneakers and a collection of accessories as well. Busy times at the Union, to say the least!
Photos: Cobbler Union