As Beckett Simonon’s pattern designer, Giovanni is effectively a shoe architect who marries art with mathematics. The process consists of producing a physical three-dimensional template of a shoe directly from a last.
He begins by covering the shoe with a thin layer of masking tape. Afterwards, he draws the design on just one side of the shoe. Once satisfied, he uses a scalpel to carefully remove the entire tape and places it flat on a thin sheet of cardboard.
From this, he calculates the pieces of leather needed his measurements must also include just enough additional leather for where the pieces overlap. After the design has been drawn onto the carboard, Giovanni cuts it out with a scalpel.
He then uses this piece to design the other side, which produces a completely symmetrical shoe. Once the cardboard pieces have been completely cut, they are glued to sheets of metal. These are then trimmed by hand to create precise metal templates for the clickers.
Pedro Guevara, Esperanza Nova, and Orlando Chicaiza are some of Becckett Simonon’s most senior assemblers. Both Esperanza and Orlando have been leather assemblers for 30 years. Meanwhile, Pedro has been assembling them for over 40 years!
Pedro learned to stitch when he first started as an assistant. As for Orlando, he was taught how to make shoes by his brothers, uncle, and aunt at home.
Esperanza loves handicrafts and so she enjoys the attention to detail needed for her work. She is particularly proud that her work is both seen and recognised by people around the world.
Similarly, Pedro is particularly fulfilled by challenging work. Indeed, he’s satisfied when his skills are put to the test by complex designs.
As Orlando highlights, the process is quite artisanal in Colombia and they must individually undertake every process of the assembly by hand.
Occasionally, they are supported by assistants. For instance, Orlando’s assistant, Leidy, applies the glue, folding, and lining. This is the way shoemakers develop the skills of their craft. Indeed, despite multiple decades of experience, Pedro says that he only now feels like a true professional!
However, Esperanza specialises in boots and often assembles them from scratch herself. Not only will she stitch and line them, but she also undertakes the first glueing step as well.
Once the shoes have been assembled, they are then handed to mounters like Henry below.
Before Hector receives the shoes, Henry Reyes will first mount the sides, counters, and toe caps. He was injured in a natural disaster at a young age and he attended a workplace adjustment centre for the less abled.
He was then enrolled to learn how to make shoes where he fell in love with the trade. Today, Henry now has 33 years of experience in the craft and is very familiar with the shoemaking process.
He believes that shoemaking has given him everything in life. While there are indeed machines that can do his job instead, Beckett Simonon prides itself in its handmade process. Therefore, Henry undertakes the process himself, which is very labour intensive.
Although a physically challenging job, Henry loves it and regards shoemaking as beautiful. Not only does he adore the craft, but he also cherishes his family of colleagues.
You may have already seen photos of Hector Moreno and his iconic moustache in our main Beckett Simonon review. Hector has a jovial disposition and exudes great pride in his work and his achievements as a shoemaker.
He started making shoes as an assistant when he was 18 and although he won’t divulge his age, he’s now technically a pensioner. Hector perceives shoemaking as an art form and has dedicated his life to learning it.
He loves to imagine how the final result of the shoe looks when worn by an elegant gentleman in a suit. At Beckett Simonon, Hector mounts the shoes onto the lasts after they have been assembled as it’s one of his greatest strengths.
Nevertheless, he has a rich knowledge of the entire shoemaking process thanks to his long experience.
Iván Darió Jojoa Herrera is Beckett Simonon’s assistant mounter. His job consists of pre-mounting the shoe with Henry and Hector. In short, the Italian grade leather upper is prepared on the last by glueing it to the midsole.
Additional leather pieces are then affixed to the upper during this process. As a result, the shoe remains stable when the last is removed. Herrera comes from a shoemaking background.
His father had a workshop and he would often help him with the leather cutting from the age of 10. At 35 years old, Herrera has now been making shoes for 25 years!
Gloria Castaño prepares the soles before they’re assembled onto Beckett Simonon’s shoes. With many years of experience, she’s familiar with the whole process. However, Gloria has spent the last 8 years specialising in this particular step.
Her role combines quality control with craftsmanship. She begins by checking the soles for any flaws and then adds their colour and buffs them to a high shine. She then organises them so they’re ready for the next artisans.
Marisol produces the insoles for Beckett Simonon. Before adding the insoles, she thoroughly cleans the shoe interiors to remove any traces of glue. Indeed, Marisol is very meticulous and takes pride in quality work.
Thanks to her 25 years of experience, she’s intimately familiar with the whole finishing process. She loves working with her team and so often helps on these steps if the workshop is short on staff.
Sonia Muñoz is an artist who will give the shoes their final look. This process involves colouring, shining, and burnishing the leather. Sonia will also lace up the shoes and give them their final shine before they’re packaged.
Throughout her career, she has specialised in finishing shoes. She started when she was in primary school by helping a woman who had a workshop. As she has now been working in shoemaking for over 35 years, she thoroughly enjoys the diversity of her speciality at Beckett Simonon.
Jorge Octavio Salazar Vasquez is Beckett Simonon’s production supervisor who is responsible for the workshop’s quality control. As this position requires comprehensive and in-depth shoemaking knowledge and craftsmanship, he is one of the workshop’s most experienced artisans.
Jorge first started as an assistant soler and continued to expand his knowledge of every step throughout his career. Like Hector, he views shoemaking as an art and has loved it since he was but a child. Unlike many artists, he has been proud to earn a living from it.
Meanwhile, Mauricio Barajas has worked in shoemaking for a quarter of a century. At Beckett Simonon, he supervises a team of 10 artisans who craft its slippers. Mauricio has a passion for manual craftsmanship and takes great pride in watching his team learn.
As you probably know, Beckett Simonon shoes just make dress shoes but sneakers, too. They are manufactured by a separate team in a nearby workshop. While the processes are similar, there are some key differences.
Cristian Amaya is a leather cutter or “clicker” for Beckett Simonon’s sneakers. Clicking has been his speciality for the past decade but he first started as an assistant soler. When he was an assistant, he learned the entire shoemaking process.
Throughout his career, he worked on different footwear from women’s boots to men’s dress shoes. He sought greater responsibility in the final quality of the shoes. Therefore, he gravitated to clicking, which is the very step!
Ernesto Beltrán Urrego has worked in shoemaking for 30 years and now specialises in assembling Beckett Simonon’s sneakers. However, he is also a clicker as he cuts the leather alongside Cristian into the necessary pieces beforehand.
Having started as an assistant since he was 18 years old, he believes that the learning process depends on yourself. His own assistant first places the pieces together before he then glues and stitches them in place.
Ernesto also adds the lining and finishes the whole upper before then giving it to an artisan like Javier Buriticá below. Ernesto reveals that he stitches between 24 and 30 shoes a day. He takes particular pride in seeing the final result assembled on the last and says that he plans to continue his job for as long as he is able.
Javier Buriticá specialises in sneakers and focuses on stitching the soles. He is supplied with the stitched uppers and mounts them on the last so it takes the correct shape. Like many of the other artisans featured in this article, Javier also comes from a family of shoemakers.
However, while his parents had other professions, it was their siblings that introduced him to the trade. Starting as a child, he first helped with small jobs and quickly took a liking to the craft. Today, Javier has been making shoes for 40 years.
Charles-Philippe's work has covered a broad range of subjects from cigars and fragrances to wine and spirits. Fascinated by how history and culture together form the unique contemporary identities of alcoholic beverages, his articles follow an in-depth exploration of their development through a combination of tradition and innovation.