Ariadna Guirado and Ernest Vidal are two young designers in Barcelona who have figured out how to beautifully combine the traditional shoe making skills of Spain with contemporary design. Recently our friend Scott Hayashida sat down with the About Arianne duo to learn more about their shoes.
Scott: How did you meet and get started?
Ariadna: I’m originally from Barcelona and I studied fashion design. Shoes have always been an important aspect of design for me.
Ernest: I’m originally from Alicante, and I came to Barcelona to study graphic design and art direction. I planned to be in Barcelona just to focus on studies and work, but Ariadna made an effort to break the ice with me. When she started the brand, I worked on the graphic design of the site and created the logo. She would also call me to help with the photoshoots.
A: The truth is I liked Ernest for over 1 year (smiles). One day I asked for his phone number to grab coffee or beer, but Ernest was shy. I had to keep pushing. Finally, after our first tea together, we both realized that we connected well and that we were both on the same wave length in terms of design. To this day, there are times when I’m thinking of an idea for a photoshoot, and it’ll turn out that he has the same exact idea in mind.
S: Working in fashion design for me has been a fun experience, but learning on my own without the experience of working for a major label has also been a challenge. What are the most challenging aspects of the design and production process for you?
E: What’s challenging is when you design a product but you aren’t in total control of production. As with most brands, since we don’t produce the shoes by hand, we need to work with manufacturers to produce them for us. Since the factories we work with are more traditional, they are used to working with classic style shoes. When they see our designs, they’ll tell us, “this is not what we are used to,” and it’s often hard for them to understand what we want. This means we have to push and insist with our designs. This has been challenging, but it has also been very beneficial for us because it is a complementary relationship. We have the designs, and they understand how the manufacturing process works to make very good, high quality products.
A: Yes, the production process is the most difficult challenge. When we start a design, we create the last, the platform, and the sole, and all these elements of the shoe need to connect properly. Then, when trying the shoes, there is often a need to change things. Therefore, you need to have to have an open mind and you need to be able to balance the design with usability for the customer. With a t-shirt you can survive without it fitting perfectly, but for a shoe it’s a different story. For example, for a sandal to work properly, the heel needs to be softer, and the sole needs additional cushioning. Without factoring this in, you could have a nice looking shoe, but one that is not comfortable enough to wear.
E: And this means we need to maintain our high standards of design, comfort, and quality. For us it’s very important for us to have repeat customers who come back to see the next collection, season after season.
S: What part of the design process do you enjoy the most?
A: The presentation of the final collection. When the boxes of shoes from the manufacturers arrive, it’s like Christmas.
E: For me it’s like having a baby. It takes a lot of time. And when it takes a lot of time and effort, you get more emotional when you have the final product. It’s very rewarding.
S: Often when people think Barcelona fashion, they think Custo or Desigual. For you, what does it mean to be a designer based in Barcelona?
E: One of the benefits of Barcelona is that it’s like a village and it’s easy to meet new people, while at the same time there are a lot of creative people that come here. Sure it’s not NYC or London, but Barcelona still has its own thing, and it will only get better in the future. The new generation of people here have traveled and experienced more, and have tried and seen new things. It’s only a matter of time for the design scene to grow and there is a lot of potential here in Barcelona for fashion design.
A: Yes, there are a lot of creative people here who want to do projects here. When we first started, we knew two photographers, now we know twelve. The city is relatively small and you meet people and have your own design community. Another thing is that people here do know a lot about shoes and, often times, know more about the brand than we think. Last week was a presentation of another designer, and a friend of a friend who I was introduced got very excited when she found out who we were.
E: As for the association of Barcelona with Custo and Desigual, we are from completely different genres of fashion. Here in Barcelona, or Spain in general, the fashion is either very classic or hippie. Therefore, similar to the production process, the challenge is that since things here are classic, you have to insist a lot. You have to push people to understand our brand and what we have in mind.
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About Scott Hayashida
Scott Hayashida was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. After graduating from UC Berkeley, he made his way east through New York, London, and Barcelona, working in the world of online advertising for over 10 years. In 2012, Scott made the bold decision to follow his passion for fashion design. Since then, he has been perfecting the craft from his studio in Barcelona. When Scott is not working on clothing, he can be found cruising the streets on his bicycle, in search of new cafes, bars, restaurants, boutiques, city life, and inspiration.