Export was one of the company’s strategic keys. “My parents clearly saw 60 years ago that the future was in export,” explains Antonio Castañer, CEO. We have strictly applied this concept ever since and at this time 80% of our production is sold abroad“.
It was the 1950s when the industry and the company began to decline. Then it was directed by Lluís Castañer. A new product that vulcanized, that is, injected rubber into the sole to make the shoe more resistant, seriously threatened the simple espardenya, the esparto espadrille. The famous chirucas were all the rage. Also, peasants left the country to go to the city and become laborers, and they no longer wanted their espadrilles, but wanted a different type of shoe.
In the 1960s, the business passed into the hands of his eldest son, Llorenç, who was a lawyer by trade and took over the business from his father. He was accompanied on this adventure by his wife, Isabel Sauras, who at the time was destined simply to be the wife of a local small business owner and to take care of the household. Her husband’s accident made her the central axis of the great changes that the company was beginning at that time.
EARLY FOREIGN APPOINTMENT
The decision was quite radical. They knew they had to switch customers. If they didn’t sell in Spain, they would look for other markets. Finally, many tourists who traveled to the Costa Brava seemed to like their espadrilles. Supported by the image of Dalí, the hippie movement and the image of comfort they remembered from their vacations, they started buying them in their countries.
At the moment Export to a total of 35 countries. Half of foreign sales are consumed in Europe, followed at some distance by Japan, the United States and China. Among the European countries, Italy stands out, which also has a great tradition in shoemaking and where 23% of the production is sold. France is second with 21% and Spain third with 19%.
ABOVE THE WEDGE
Another of his strategies was to go to international trade fairs. At the end of the 1960s they met Yves Saint Laurent in a Parisian house. He asked them a simple question: “Can we put a heel on this espadrille?” Thus was born the first wedge espadrille, the Campesina model, and the launch of the brand, which has transformed a country espadrille into a glamorous fashion piece capable of is to share space with the most important luxury fashion companies. It was to combine Castañer’s know-how with the design of luxury companies. This model is still produced today, albeit in a symbolic number of 1,000 pairs per year.
Manufacturing for other luxury brands accounts for 25% of sales. “They make their creations and bring in their material suggestions, they sit down with our design team and we both finish the product and modify whatever is needed,” explains Castañer. They currently produce for Hermès, Louis Vuiton, Balenciaga, Fendi, Gucci, Lanvin, Clhoe, Paul Smith and Yves Saint Laurent.
DESIGN AND SALES
But Castañer has its own recognized brand. “Our product is not a high-end product. It is quite demanding and if you want a shoe of this style, you will find the most luxurious ones with us. We want to be the cheapest of the expensive,” he clarifies.
The house brand aims to create a product where design reigns supreme in search of portability and comfort. There is a team of designers led by Isabel Sauras. “We want to keep our personality in the designs where jute is a differentiator,” says Castañer.
The prototypes that later become part of the pattern book are made in his factory in Banyoles. There are models and materials that are tested in our own stores before going on sale: “We only test the riskiest and most innovative”. The new collections are a mix of the economic situation, the sales history of the previous year and the opinions that they systematically collect from customers.
SELECTION OF POINTS OF SALE
Castañer is available in around 1,000 points of sale, many in corners of multi-brand stores. you also have 13 own shops where their complete collections can be found. Brand image is important and the stores reflect it with a minimalist design where the lighting tends to emphasize what is essential: the shoes.
In Spain there are three in Madrid and one in Barcelona, Seville and Girona. In France, one of their big markets, they have two in Paris and one in Saint Tropez and Avignon. On the other hand, the growing Japanese market has led them to open two stores in Tokyo and one in Osaka. They also have two important corners in the English Court and the Galeries Lafayette.
“We care a lot about our customers, we want our product to be exclusive, and for this we cannot do large-scale distribution, but by carefully selecting points of sale. We are very picky about the stores,” adds Castañer.