Thursday, September 1, 2011

Espadrilles, La Manual Alpargatera...

The words put me in a twitter {but not a tweet, yet}, "an espadrille factory", my friend mentioned on her list of ideas of things to see and do in Barcelona. I have been in love with espadrilles since I first laid eyes on them decades ago. I love the rustic, authentic look of the rope soles, the way they age so gracefully, the casual air they cast when worn in the evening, and the distinct reminder they provide of sunshine and sandy days on the beach...

So, the thought of going to a "factory" {or workshop, as they call it at La Manual Alpargatera}, in Spain, no less, completely pushed me off the edge. As we rushed to the workshop, {our second attempt, they were closed when we came by the day before} I felt a little panic, and then great joy ~ they were open, absolutely open, and as I walked in I found myself surrounded by the most amazing selection of espadrilles I had ever seen!

La Manual Alpargatera is the perfect combination of an espadrille museum and a fabulous shop wrapped into one. The shop opened just after the Spanish Civil War, in the 1940's. Over the years it has become a regular stop for the locals, they stop in every year to have their espadrilles custom made; and also for well informed travelers {including you, I hope}.

To the left of the shop is a wall of traditional flat espadrilles covered with canvas in all shades and sizes. But there was more, oh so much more...

They had a wide selection of espadrille with taller wedge heels topped with leather, linen and canvas, and many were embellished with embroidery and a variety of adornments.

This is the display at the cash register, a variety of espadrilles they've made over the years.

I must apologize, Splendid Readers, that I didn't take more photos of the selection in the shop to share with you.

I have to admit, I got into a bit of a frenzy. When we arrived it was nearly siesta time and the first girl "helping" me did not hide her irritation over our timing AT ALL. Then another, more patient clerk took over, but the other shop girls kept lowering the gate by the front door {making me worried they would make us leave at the crack of tapas}.  

Also, Mr. {not so} Splendid was there, trying to kill my joy and passion by mentioning international credit card limits, closet space, and sending smirky sneers my way nearly every time I tried on a pair {"never take a man shopping before lunch", that's my new motto.... or, better yet, just "never take a man shopping"}. 

Then, they only had one sample out for each shoe, so I had to ask them to check for my size {and each check took waaay toooo long}. On top of it all, the sizing seemed to vary a bit, so I had to try on a couple of different sizes for each style I liked. 

My heart rate is increasing as I just write about the whole affair!!

Well, I'm pleased to report, that despite all of the obstacles, I did make it out of there with a bag load and I adore every inch of them. The two on the left are tall wedges, the knotted flips are flat, and the green embroidered pair have about a 2" wedge {there's another pair made of a fabulous coarse chambray that didn't make it into the shoot}.

I also found this pair for Splendid Jr.

If you go to Barcelona, I hope you will stop into this amazing, historic shop.  It's truly a significant part of the culture of this country. Oh, and if you find anything darling in a 38 or 39, will you bring it back for me? I'll pay you back, I promise!

Here's a description from their brochure regarding the history of the shoe and also how to properly care for a pair {I would never have thought to put espadrilles in the washing machine!!}.

"The espadrille is an ecological light shoe made with natural materials: vegetable fiber (hemp, jute, esparto...) for the sole and cotton, linen... for the instep. It is a footwear with a very long tradition. In the Museo Arqueológico Nacional (National Archeological Museum) there is exposed an espadrille found in la cueva de los murciélagos (bat's cave) in Albuñol(Granada)that humans wore
approximately 4000 years ago. The tradition has survived all these centuries, suffering some
variations, but it has remained the same in the basics, that is why it still offers a comfortable footwear that fits any feet. In order to keep your espadrilles in good state, use them on dry ground as vegetable fiber soaks up the water -from the rain, for example-, the drenched sole becomes deformed due to the weight of the body. If this happens, wash them with soap and water as soon as possible, either by hand or in a washing machine (if they are hand sewn) If you wash them by hand, rinse them with a lot of water and dry them as soon and best as possible, to prevent rot. If you wash espadrilles in a washing machine, use a short program and cold water. White or cream colored espadrilles could sometimes acquire a yellow shade if the canvas dries before the sole does. In this case, when they dry up, clean the canvas with some bleach (chlorine) mixed in water to whiten color again."

C/. Avinyó, 7 - 08002 Barcelona
Tel. 93 3010172 -
Fax: 93 3011829 - Fax: 93 2111743 (24H)

Working hours: 9,30h-13,30h 16,30h-20,00h


Barbara@HausDesign said...

Lucky you - espadrille heaven! I laughed out loud about your shopping motto. :) I am really enjoying this virtual trip through Spain - thanks so much for sharing!

Karen A said...

It's been a while since you wrote this... Travel & Leisure mag had it listed I the Dec 12 issue. I was looking it up on-line and came across your blog.
I'll Be THERE Saturday (June 15, 13)!!!! I am very curious to know the price range of the espadrilles. Were they fairly inexpensive? I'd love it if you could give me an idea.
BTW..I wear the same size as you. Your 'finds' were wonderful and still stylish though a couple years old. Have they worn well for you?
Wish me luck cause my BF doesn't like shopping either!
Karen A

Splendid Market said...

Hi Karen - I'm so excited for your trip! The espadrilles were not terribly expensive as I recall. I bought quite a few pairs and I think it was under $300 for 5 pairs...
YES, they are wearing beautifully, I wore the little black pair last night and they are so comfortable. I have worn the flats with the canvas tie, I don't know if they will make it through the summer. The leather topped pair is perfect with white jeans and summer dresses. I don't wear the more colorful pairs much.
I love them and am so happy to have them for summer.