Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — In recent years, sustainability and support for local makers have become top priority for buyers, especially millennials. Nowadays, we’re seeing a new wave of local shoe businesses (mostly operating online) that have either drawn inspiration from or tapped the artisans of what was once a thriving shoe industry here — one that floundered years ago due to cheaper imports from China. New world sensibilities and old world style come together in these emerging brands, proving that the local shoe game has gotten exciting again.
Below are some of Manila’s most up and coming leather shoe brands and their stories.
El Marikeño is the brainchild of Alec Delos Angeles, Rico Agbulos, Nemo Gonzaga, and Jean Patrick Centeno. The three entrepreneurs had a single goal in mind: to provide Filipino men with shoes that are versatile and stylish. Their first visit to Marikina introduced them to the world of local sapateros, their craft, and the rich history of the city.
Their most popular products include classics like Chelsea boots, penny loafers, and brogues — all of which are made with genuine cow skin leather and a lightweight rubber material for the sole. Their shoes retail for around ₱3,500 to ₱4,000 depending on the style. Each shoe is made by and credited to the sapatero — either Fernando, Ambrosio, or Niño — who create the pair with their very hands. This practice is El Marikeño’s way of thanking each of their skilled artisans and abiding by their advocacy of uplifting the local industry and their craftsmen.
Marquina Shoemaker pays homage to its namesake city through timeless shoes that are made with comfort and durability in mind.
Originally a passion project by founders Juancho Del Rosario, Kayne Litonjua, and Patrick Kahn, Marquina Shoemaker now has its own brick and mortar store in Makati.
They also have a “Walk this Way” campaign, which aims not just to promote their brand, but to also promote their advocacy. “The campaign doesn't only focus on the way you walk when you're wearing a pair of Marquina but a choice that you firmly support the [industry in] Marikina,” says Litonjua.
Men can check out their bestselling Grand Penny Loafer Line, which includes designs like the classic grand penny loafer (₱5,450), Grand Horsebit Loafer (which includes a buckle design), and the Grand Tassel Loafer (both for ₱5,650).
Marquina Shoemaker also produces shoes for women. The Posh Penny Loafer, which retails for ₱3,450, is a no-frills kind of shoe, perfect for everyday use. Their Mod Flats, which can be bought for ₱2,950, are a great faux vintage find, perfect for your next themed party.
Andanté puts a fun, young twist on your classic loafer shoe, and a lot of what the founders — Audrey Parreño, Bea Campomanes, and Larica Lim — rely on is local talent. The focus isn’t simply on selling a product, but taking the time to slowly and carefully design, create, and ensure the quality of something that can last the test of time.
Their bestselling Modern Loafer, which comes in black, dark brown, dijon, tan, and white, retails for ₱2,890. Their Balmore Oxfords, which received a lot of attention even before its official launch, can be bought for the same price.
Sapatero Manila is on a mission to bring back Philippine shoemaking while veering away from stiff and plain designs of yesteryears. You can see it in their catalog online, where their oxfords, wingtips, and suede boots are sold in different colors and types of material.
Check out their Blue Snakeskin Penny Loafers if you’re looking for a fun, new way to spice up your outfit. Their Spectator Shoes are also cool little throwback to the olden days; show them to your lolo and even he might want to get a pair. Sapatero Manila is what the local industry looks like if it takes a shot of youthful energy.
Spiffy. That’s what you might think of when you first lay eyes on shoes from Godfather. The details on each of these are beautifully crafted, with a sleek finish; shining almost, from that perfect finish. The brand’s founder, Aaron Angeles, said that the goal of Godfather shoes would be to produce leather goods that are on par with foreign imports — the very ones that had brought Marikina down to its knees in the mid-‘90s.
Their online catalog consists of smart-looking shoes perfectly designed for the modern man. Check out their GS 4 Double Monk Straps + Leather Soles, which retails for ₱6,500. They also have a GS8 Semi Brogue Oxfords + Lightweight Soles being sold for ₱5,500.
One of the things that sets Godfather Shoes apart is customizability. You choose your preferred color for the leather and you can also choose the color for your shoe’s sole and midsole (the thin line on top of the sole, below the leather). You can also get your initials or your name engraved on the sides or undersides of your shoe.