In a world of luxury men’s shoes, there are a few brands I consider heavy-hitters, who have been creating shoes and gained recognition over a century or so, and some small brands who are established but nascent in comparison.
An example of the former is Salvatore Ferragamo, the 90-year-old Italian fashion house that maintains a traditional approach to luxury, both in terms of design and production. 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 luxe at the same time. Both Ferragamo and Esquivel make a quality pair of shoes, but we each put our twist on things. Here are some of the main differences.
Ferragamo: A grand and enduring luxury brand with staggering price points
Ferragamo is a heritage brand, and as such, it charges heritage brand prices. To give you a bit of background on how the label originated, it was founded in 1927 by the late Salvatore Ferragamo. Earlier in the decade, the Italian shoemaker had developed a following among Hollywood stars like Joan Crawford and Gloria Swanson. After working in the United States for some time, Ferragamo decided to return to Italy to launch his label, which burgeoned over many years.
The company experienced its share of struggles during the Great Depression and World War II, but it ultimately endured and flourished thereafter. According to Forbes, Ferragamo expanded its workforce to 700 craftsmen producing 350 pairs of handmade shoes per day during those years.
Ferragamo died in 1960, which left his wife Wanda at the helm of the company. Since then, the company has grown multifold. “When my husband died, his dream was a House of Ferragamo where you could buy shoes and everything else for elegant dressing,” Wanda once said. “So little by little, [my children and I] followed that dream.”
Today, the label offers everything from handmade shoes, both off-the-rack and made-to-order, handbags, accessories and ready-to-wear apparel, with most of its prices sitting above $500, except for some small items like belts and sunglasses.
Of course, Ferragamo’s heritage brand status shouldn’t take away from the fact that its products are made with high-quality leather, fabric and synthetic materials. As I’ve mentioned before, high-quality, not necessarily Italian, but certainly European, skins elevate the look and feel of leather goods, and those come at a premium price, particularly because such refined materials are 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.