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  • French Canadian Chic Week: Authentic espadrilles, handmade & forever stylish. Plus, a little history too!

    My espadrilles: Custom designed tan & black lace worn at the St. Suplice Hotel in Montreal, the Lola black platform wedge, and my red wedge espadrilles that started my obsession.

    I’ve had a bee in my bonnet to find a replacement pair of handmade authentic espadrilles for some time. The kind that are brimming with history as timeless classics for runaround French Chic and usually made in France (think back to Brigitte Bardot in St Tropeze) or Spain (Penelope Cruz in Volver) by villagers who have been handcrafting these shoes for years.

    There are a few shops in Paris where I could pick them up, but I’m in New York where all points were leading to manufactured espadrilles from super cheap to  designer espadrilles as they’ve been a hot runway trend for a few seasons.

    All, a riff on what I was after, but not the real deal.

    Tabitha Simmons designer espadrilles- lovely, for sure but not the real deal that I was after.

    Tabitha Simmons designer espadrilles- lovely, for sure, but not the real deal that I was after.

    Determined, I took to the Internet and came upon The Espadrille Store where I found the perfect red ankle wrap wedge espadrilles (called alpargata in Spanish) and ordered them. They arrived. I was in love. So in love that I was going to reach out to the web site after I returned from vacation for a story on FocusOnStyle.

    >> MORE: French Canadian Chic Week

    But here’s the serendipitous twist, even those these handmade, authentic espadilles are made in Spain in a village near Rioja (the wine I know, the espadrilles not so much), I realized that the shop is located in MONTREAL, Canada. And, I was leaving for my vacation there the next day!

    French Canadian Chic, who knew?

    espadrilles store

    On my visit, I spent some time in the store chatting with the shop’s owner, Diego Arnedo and his mother Helena about the making of authentic espadrilles and its history.

    Espadrilles date back to 4,000 year old primitive versions to the 1960’s when Yves St. Laurent commissioned a pair with the very first heel which quickly became the rage and led to the ankle wrap versions still very chic and in style today. Besides the wedge styles, the shop also carries traditional styles from the “Medievel” to the “Dali” based on the heavily laced style worn by the artist Salvatore Dali. Yes, they even carry the open toe wedge style worn by Penelpe Cruz in Volver.

    Getting a head start on the custom design option that will launch in the fall, I customized a pair of classic tan wedge espadrilles (Diego is making them in the photo above & I’m wearing them on balcony at the Saint Suplice Hotel in the photo at the top) with black “Pamplona” crossed lacing based on the style worn during the San Fermin running of the bulls. I also bought the classic higher heel platform “Lola” espadrilles to add to my repertoire while chatting with Diego on how you can tell what makes a Spanish authentic espadrilles.

    >> Watch how traditional soles of the espadrilles (Alpargatas) are made by hand

    Sharon Haver:  How are authentic espadrilles different from the styles commonly found in most stores?

    Helena Arnedo: Espadrilles are for the person who looks for comfort and natural products that are handmade. They’re not made in massive Chinese factories, but by our little grandmothers working in tiny villages in Spain. They’re affordable. They put a smile on your face. You put on an espadrilles and you always smile.

    >> Watch Teresa Amillo, known in the Village as “La Reina,” (the Queen) for her handstiching prowess.

    SH: How can someone tell that the espadrille is handmade?

    Diego Arnedo:  In order to recognize the real espadrilles, for one, it has to be hand stitched and not glued.  It has to be hand-stitched. They can be stitched by machine, but it’s not the same thing as stitched by hand. When they’re stitched by hand, you can see that the stitches are very compact and uneven. You see that this stitch is longer than that stitch there.

    This shows that it’s hand-crafted. So, there is this stitch down the front. The round part that we call the nose, is where you can tell the handcrafting the most. You see espadrilles in every single store that are made in Bangladesh or that are made in China, they copy this because the style of the espadrilles is what really makes you recognize the espadrille. They don’t know how to do this in Asia. So, they do a fabric that looks like this and they glue it on top.

    Now, they do this in order for it to look like it, but the reason that it’s there is to lift the fabric so you have space for your toe. So, on fake ones, it doesn’t lift. It’s just flat. There’s no space for your toe. So, “made in Spain” should be written on the stitching on the front and on the sole and the price should be reasonable.

    I’ll give you an example. In most stores like Gap and Aldo and places like those, espadrilles are $40, $50, $60, or sometimes even more.  You find fake ones in most stores that are made in Bangladesh for $50. I sell authentic ones [flat, slipon styles] for $26.50 and they’re handmade in Spain.

    … But available to you online and in Montreal. Don’t miss yesterday’s post, The Stylecentric Montreal + Quebec City Travel Guide. More French Canadian Chic Week coming tomorrow.

    Where to buy:

    L’Espagne à vos pieds
    4518 Rue Saint-Denis (in the Plateau area)
    Montreal, QC, H2J 2L3

    >> MORE: French Canadian Chic Week 

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