In a world of luxury apparel and leather goods, there are a select number of brands I consider heavy-hitters, who have been creating and gaining recognition for nearly a century, and some small brands who are established but proportionately new.
An example of the former is Celine, the French fashion house founded by Céline Vipiana and her husband Richard in 1945 as a made-to-measure children’s shoe boutique. (It took the couple 20 years to branch into ready-to-wear clothing, shoes, fragrances and leather accessories; and their aesthetic was distinctly European.) The latter is my brand, which I established and built over the last two decades as a brand that channels a casual Californian aesthetic but is still luxe. Both Celine and Esquivel make shoes and accessories of the highest quality, but we each put our twist on things. Here are some of the main differences.
Celine: A fashion-forward and lasting luxury brand with staggering price points
Celine is a heritage brand, and as such, it charges heritage brand prices. To give you a bit more background on how the label originated, the founders used their success in children’s footwear to launch its other branches, for which it’s known today. Advocating for practicality in women’s clothing, they launched a sportswear-centered line of wool skirt suits, fitted shirts and leather vests, according to CR Fashion Book. The label burgeoned over many years, so much so that the Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) group sought to acquire it before the end of the 20th century.
Vipiana helmed the brand until her death in 1997, and her successors have included legendary designers Michael Kors and Phoebe Philo, with the latter leaving a major impact on fashion to date.
Today, Hedi Slimane, former designer of Saint Laurent, leads Celine with Vipiana’s ideal in mind. As Vogue’s Sarah Mower wrote of the designer’s third-ever collection for the brand, Slimane’s approach was and has remained since Fall 2019, “old, old Celine—exactly the kind of politely classy merchandise originally sold under the label before LVMH acquired it, long before even Phoebe Philo’s predecessor, Michael Kors, was drafted to make runway shows out of it.
All of that said it should be clear that Celine is much less niche than a luxury shoe and accessory brand; its ready-to-wear runway collections define the label, with most of its prices sitting above $500 for footwear and well into the thousands for apparel.
Of course, Celine’s products are made with high-quality leather, fabric and synthetic materials. And as I’ve mentioned before, high-quality, not necessarily Italian, but certainly European, materials propel leather goods into the luxury category, because such refined materials must be handled with care by knowledgeable craftsmen.
Esquivel: A 21st-century brand channeling casual sophistication and fair pricing
I started my brand about 20 years ago because I fell in love with the handmade and made-to-order shoe processes. Esquivel Shoes started small and grew steadily, as I was hyper-aware of the fact that growing could mean losing the integrity of the business, which was handcrafting shoes for select retailers and private clients throughout the world.
We may not have scaled the way Ferragamo did, but that’s mostly because we love the personalized experience that comes with specializing primarily in made-to-order shoe-making. To keep and enhance that experience, we opened Esquivel House during the pandemic, which, similar to what Ferragamo once described as a dream for his business, serves as the perfect place to order shoes and everything else for casual yet sophisticated dress. We employ far fewer craftsmen than Ferragamo once did, which is purposeful because it allows me to design with a hands-on approach and work closely with my team of craftsmen.
The materials we use are on par with other luxury brands, but at Esquivel, we don’t charge heritage brand prices. Our shoes, particularly our sneakers, run less than our competitors without sacrificing a modern aesthetic or supreme comfort.
As I mentioned in an earlier article, other companies (not necessarily Ferragamo) use less refined materials, like cardboard and sponge, for insoles. However, this sacrifices comfort and quality for the consumer. We use leather to provide maximum comfort, supreme quality and, as a result, the best possible value for a pair of shoes.
For some items, like our tote bags, prices are more comparable to Ferragamo, but that has a lot to do with the fact that our products are handmade in Los Angeles. There are countless steps the cobblers must follow to handmake leather goods, and this time spent inevitably impacts cost. But when products are made by skilled shoemakers from start to finish there is an assurance of exceptional quality and unique details. That’s the promise we make and fulfill day in and day out.
Each brand has its appeal and value. Something I say pridefully is that these respective brands are very well-made, as they (we) use handmade techniques cultivated over many years. From an aesthetic perspective, we each have our own, though I like to think we’ve both bred our brands from our senses of innovation. Today, Ferragamo is classic, sophisticated Italian, while I still tend to take a more playful approach to shoe design. In purchasing a pair of luxury handmade shoes, you can’t go wrong with either brand, if I do say so myself, as both are designed with timelessness and longevity in mind.
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As always, this is a guide to help you make the best buying decisions for you. With over 20 years in the fashion industry, Esquivel Shoes takes pride in being a valuable resource for shoppers. To learn more about our handmade shoe collection or any other products we offer, send us a message through this link.
George is a Southern California-based designer and craftsman who designed his first pair of shoes in 1994 and began honing his craft thereafter. For over 20 years, he’s operated his namesake brand, Esquivel, which specializes in handmade shoes and accessories. In the last decade, George served as Creative Director of renowned luxury bag and luggage brand Tumi Inc. and as Creative Consultant for Italian heritage brand Fratelli Rossetti, and has collaborated with many others for his own brand. George was a 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist, and has been a CFDA member since 2010. When he’s not working alongside his team of artisans at his atelier, Esquivel House, in Downtown Los Angeles, George is enjoying time with his wife and high school sweetheart, Shelley, and their three grown children. He also loves mountain biking and hosting good friends for dinners and fêtes.