The girl is standing beside a bench strewn with leather, knives and paper. Her brow is furrowed with concentration, lips pursed, as she deftly follows the thin lines that dance their way across the dyed hide in her hand. The light is dim and the air is musty, tainted by an odor that harkens back to a time before shopping malls, a time when each store´s bounty was not churned out by an unknown´s hands but instead painstakingly created, borne of passion, time and skill. The girl is making shoes, art.
Shoe making today is a heavily manufactured process where the various stages of production are divided in a factory and shared by a multitude of workers; more often than not, the shoes we buy in mega stores are the result of industrial sweatshops in countries such as China. Originally, however, this process was undertaken by just one – known as a cordwainer – who would oversee the entire production and perform the various 68 to 390 steps themselves, along with some 15 different techniques.
Enter Padre Nuestro, a tiny store in Ñuñoa that is outfitted by just one man and his apprentice, a design alumni now pursuing shoemaking. She has been training for four months but the apprenticeship will take her several years.
A pair of shoes is the result of an arduous process. First shoes are designed, followed by the preparation of lasts and the cutting and stamping of the leather. The pieces are then dyed, sewn, fitted to the last to form for several weeks, and finally assembled. The process doesn´t end here, as the sole has to be hammered into shape and the shoe then has to be ´finished´ which may include burnishing, rasping, smoothing, and other techniques.
At Padre Nuestro, your feet are measured and a mold is found that best matches your foot. Over the course of around one month, your shoes are handmade by this two-person team, with the end result a pair of shoes that have been made for no-one else but you.
There is currently a waiting list of around two months at Padre Nuestro. The store sells shoes for men only.
Photos reproduced with permission from Padre Nuestro
The Nitty Gritty
Address: Tegualda 1517, local 1, Factoria Tegualda, Ñuñoa. Metro Santa Isabel
Phone: +56 9 8314 0448
Tip: while you are here, pop next door to Silvestre Bistro to take advantage of the Wild Food Movement that has come to Santiago! Great prices, ambiance, service and delicious food!! Barrio Italia is a fantastic place to go shopping, plus you are supporting local small businesses and keeping traditions – just like at Padre Nustro – – alive.