Wednesday, 26 September 2012
Flamenco Shoe Shopping
You didn't think I went to Sevilla without doing some shoe shopping did you? Okay officially I am still on a self imposed shopping ban (now five days into my second month), but this is really only on frivolous fashion related purchases and not items that may be necessities. And my flamenco dancing pursuits give me the most wonderful excuse to call flamenco shoes necessities. This shop may well look like a candy store to any shoe lover but it is shoe heaven to dancers who are required to buy flamenco shoes in order to practise their art properly. These shoes have form and function, often two mutually exclusive concepts in fashion footwear.
This is the Senovilla shop in Sevilla which is the brand I almost exclusively wear now. Years ago big brands like Gallardo and Menkes were my preferred shoemakers, but over time they either outsourced production or changed management and the quality of the shoes really suffered. A pair of shoes went from lasting me a year to six weeks before the leather would look shabby, the heels would crack or in some spectacular cases (including mortifyingly for me, once on stage) fly right off mid dance.
Around this time Senovilla came onto the scene and their unique selling point was using a different type of wood for the heel which makes a much crisper, brighter sound. Their marketing slogan is that they are not just shoes but musical instruments! In addition they offered to custom make shoes in a range of colours, finishes and types of leather and suede unheard of from other manufacturers. They were one of the first I became aware of to offer an attractive design option in which the wooden heel was exposed rather than covered in suede or leather. In a world where there was previously a very limited set of designs for your dance shoes, suddenly the sky was the limit.
Other brands followed suit in terms of the range of customisation of design, but what makes Senovilla superior to me, apart from the wonderful sound they make, is the length of time the shoes last. I still have pairs from two or three years back that haven't fallen apart despite getting a regular beating. They are not cheap. A professional pair which has reinforced arches and a stitched sole to give it extra sturdiness will set you back between one hundred and sixty to one hundred and seventy five euros, but the cost per wear is certainly worth it. And no, the company is not paying me anything to say any of this - they really were noticeabley more durable.
There are men's boots and shoes as well. All the shoes are either made in suede, a finer nubuck or leather. Some of the groovy special finish leathers include patent, glittery patent, metallic leather and leather stamped with mock croc or pony skin finishes. These leopard print pony skin babies nearly came home with me (except I didn't really have a matching costume to justify their purchase!).
You can custom make your own shoes and small swatch sample books are on hand in the shop to help you choose a colour. You can then match that up with the type of shoe you want, the type of heel (cuban, fluted, classic), the height of heel and the width across the foot. Oh the hours of fun! They usually make it up within a month and post worldwide. I'm looking at this colour palette for a pair to match a specific costume. Choices, choices...
I have about fourteen pairs of old flamenco shoes in various states of disrepair and from various brands that have been retired out of service. I can't bear to part with them as they feel like old friends, or a kind of battered trophy gained on your journey as a dancer, their state of damage a testament to your own efforts. A bit like a ballerina and her nostalgic collection of old pointe shoes (funnily enough I have some of those as well). My Senovillas however, have yet to join the pile as they are happily still all in service.