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Our Story - Our Handmade Shoe Partner

Spotlight: Meet Adriana Crocco

Adriana Crocco's Italian grandfather started making handmade shoes in Peru when he came to the country after World War II. (He had a Peruvian grandparent, so he was returning to his roots.) Eventually, Adriana's father took over the business. He often brought young Adriana into the factory. "I grew up around shoes," she says with a laugh.

After earning her college degree in business management, Adriana joined forces with her father and re-envisioned the business, turning it into what it is today: an artisan footwear manufacturing company called D'Art Cuero. Based out of Lima, the company works with responsible brands around the globe—brands that appreciate expert craftsmanship and products built to last.

Reinvigorating a dying art

As Adriana says, "Making shoes by hand is amazing, but it's really hard." Shoemaking is also a dying art, yet one that Adriana and her team of expert shoemakers keep alive in Lima.

And we're so grateful that they do.

Did you know each sole of a handmade shoe is carved specifically for that shoe? Adriana explains, "Here, they get the sole as raw as you can get it, and the person does all the work—all the sanding, all the crafting—and on the shoe. Not like separated and at the end you kind of stick it on, like a sticker. No! They actually carve the sole according to the shoe. So that's something special that not everyone does."

The quality of work is indeed unparalleled. It's also more expensive because it's done right. And by "right," we don't simply mean in terms of the craft itself. We also mean in terms of the shoemakers' welfare.

Adriana says, "What we have is special, but what we have is also expensive. Because we can't sell cheap shoes if you have all these responsibilities of the life of your workers. So if someone comes and wants a $40 shoe, I'll be like 'I'm sorry, I can't do it.'... I have to do everything I do to make sure my workers have a job and are well paid."

A people first approach and formal payroll

Adriana is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to protecting her workers. She explains that the people are the most important aspect of her business. "We can't make handmade shoes without the people."

Before Adriana came on board, many of the shoemakers were accustomed to a more informal approach to business. Barter and cash are still popular among artisans in Peru, even today. Known as "informality," this approach has been shifting over recent years to "formality." But like any other change, it takes time.

A proponent of formality, Adriana established a formal approach that follows Peru's rigorous labor laws and is designed to protect workers. This approach includes a formal payroll that directly deposits employee wages into their bank accounts and includes other benefits, such as company retirement contributions, paid holidays, and health insurance not just for workers, but also their family.

A factory with heart & soul

Adriana re-envisioned the concept of what a modern factory could be as well. Several years ago, the company opened a new factory, one that makes everyone proud with great lighting (including naturally lit space for people to eat lunch) and spacious work stations. (So you won't see images of people squished on top of one another.)

This also made it easier for the company to work during the pandemic, since the spacing between workers was already naturally socially-distanced.

A match made in shoe heaven

When Anna Wallack first started Misha & Puff, shoes weren't on her radar. But as the brand grew, the idea surfaced. The question became: Was this even possible? Would we be able to find a shoemaking partner in Peru as wonderful as our other partners? A shoemaking partner who shared our values for slow fashion, high quality, and strong ethics?

One of our knitting partners told us YES and made the introduction to Adriana and her team. Based on everything we described above about Adriana and her company, you can probably understand why it quickly became clear to us that Adriana would make an EXCELLENT partner. Luckily, the feeling was mutual.

Adriana says, "Misha & Puff is amazing. I like that they are not a fast fashion brand. They already loved what Peruvians can do. So it was just closing the chapter on having the whole thing... the clothes and the shoes! Plus, Misha & Puff know what they want to do. But they really appreciate when you give them suggestions. And they know how to listen. And that's something really nice to have as a client... it's a two-way street when you listen to the other. And I think Misha & Puff is really good at doing that."

Why should you buy handmade shoes?

Honestly, Adriana sums it up best: "Buy handmade shoes. Because eventually it's going to be a dying art. It's important to do it. It's also a philosophy. It's important to have something that is unique, and it's special, and it has a meaning. Because if we start buying cheap stuff online all the time, with no caring about what's behind the product, I don't know how the world is going to be in the future."

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