Behold: The loafers I’ve been excited about for the past couple of weeks are now alternately sprucing up and comforting my feet. It’s been days and I can’t get over it. For those who have no clue as to why I am this thrilled, a month ago, I ordered two pairs of loafer from Black Wing Shoes and blogged my expectations. I also promised to do a follow up post that will focus more on the thoughts of the man behind the business. But first, let me share my current bliss.
Out of excitement, I braved the stormy weather last weekend just to get my orders. I’d say they’re chic and timeless. As I examined them, they are made extremely well, the quality of materials is superb, the stitches look sturdy, the soles made of old plane tires that made them very light and durable. I was delighted by their embedded logo at the soles. And because I understand they can loosen up a bit as you use them, I requested if they can tighten them a little, to which one of the staff gladly worked on right away. I decided to wear the brown one as I head home, and believe me, they’re probably the most comfortable pair of shoes I’ve ever worn (I rarely rave on anything except for products that exceed my expectations). At first, I thought they’re not that cheap, P3,000 a pair, but for a quality bespoke created by skillful hands, ‘twas a steal.
Black Wing Shoes makes Italian inspired oxfords and brogues if you are into classy and formal attire, while the nonchalant derbys and chukkas are equally gorgeous too. Though I am not a fan of formal shoes like oxfords (yet), I had a chance to examine some prototypes and other client’s orders and I saw that the construction is honorable and the designs are overall pleasant. And oh, they can get modern by infusing your own contemporary design if you will. I plan to get my first Oxford from them soon as I’m under pressure walking close to the likes of Tim Yap wannabes everyday along the alleys of Bonifacio High Street with my rather casual-comforty-me attire.
Buddy, together with his wife Anna, is clearly establishing a firm segment of the market through Black Wing Shoes showing a steady growth in the number of bespoke niche patronizing their collections. Unanimously hailed by their skill-set, passion and dedication. Their unpretentious shop is located at the heart of Marikina along E Rodriquez Ave.
Let’s talk about the business shall we? By business I mean to look at the bigger picture and the future of Black Wings Shoes. And this has to come from the owner himself – Buddy. So, I prepared some few offline questions which (hoping he can squeeze on his busy schedule) he apparently managed to answer swiftly.
When and why did you put up Black Wings Shoes? “Black Wing started out as a hobby experiment. We wanted to make upscale sandals and entry level canvas shoes and sneakers 3 years ago. Since then we let the market dictate which direction to take the brand so we ended up making mid-priced shoes using all local materials. It eventually became a proof-of-concept that Marikina can still compete using locally available materials if the focus becomes quality instead of quantity.”
As noticed, your business is growing. What are your challenges and in what ways can you surpass these? “The challenge basically is how to address and sustain demand. We can only achieve this through proper strategy and investments. To maintain our quality, we have to continuously invest in people. That means training apprentices who will eventually become shoemakers. It takes a specific type of person to become an exceptional shoemaker so proper training is required to weed out those who can be excellent in their work. This is also key to sustaining the demand. We offer quality handcrafted shoes which is a meld of the old and the new. The story of how our shoes came to be and how everyone is part of the effort to revitalize and show the world that Filipino made shoes still has what it takes to become worthy of attention.”
How do you differentiate your business from other competitors? Competitive advantage perhaps? “We just do what we need to do with due diligence. We are not perfect and we make mistakes but we admit our mistakes and always strive to become better. We let our clients see that and that makes them feel that they are part of the brand instead of trying to serve up fast-products. The advantage that we have is the brand and its positioning. The brand experience is vital since our clients are not only “buying a shoe” but have become part of the whole process of “how their shoes are made”.”
What’s the most important thing you’re working on right now, and how are you making it happen? “Right now its our phase 2. We are currently trying to set up our first community based workshop which will cater to lower-end and entry level pairs. Using the knowledge that we have gained from making shoes, we aim to teach and train people from far-flung communities to setup and start working on shoes which is an alternative to trying to work as sales clerks and resto chain staff in the Metro. Most of them live in Montalban and San Mateo wherein if they had to commute to work most of their earnings will just be spent. We have run a couple of tests recently but have yet to refine the process.”
Do you plan on expanding your business locally and internationally? If so, how do you see Black Wings Shoes 5 years from now? “We target international but we have no plans to stray from our identity by selling out. We want to adhere to our handcrafted products and would just work around that premise. If we do come out with an RTW line it would all be handcrafted and hopefully be made in communities where they would be available as well to help the local economy at least. I hope that in 5 years that Black Wing will become a premium brand which clients know that will give them great value. We will obviously branch out to other business models to continue growing but the brand itself will remain intact and would share its story so other smaller workshops will be inspired to build their own brands which aims to compete with all the foreign brands that are being introduced into our local market.”
With this kind of principle, without a doubt, Black Wings Shoes will go big time, and I am proud to be one of the first few who believed its premise. I can’t wait to see them on the limelight- in a good way.
I am glad to tirelessly advocate hand making craftsmanship and encourage people to support our local shoe industry. Like Black Wing Shoes, I hope so too that more and more cottage industries will thrive doing what they love doing and offer products out of passion and dedication.
To check more of their creations, you may visit their instagram or facebook account.