Black Wing Shoes: A Shoemaker’s Principle

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.

driving loafer bws

brown loafer by black wing shoes

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.

bws- driving loafer

bws- driving loafer

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.”

Black Wing Shoes Staff

Black Wing Shoes Staff

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.”

Black Wing Shoes Staff

Black Wing Shoes Staff

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.

blackwing shoes

To check more of their creations, you may visit their instagram or facebook account.

instagram_black wings

black wings shoes_instagram

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Black Wing Shoes: Bringing Back the Best of Marikina

black wing shoes cover

Photo courtesy of Black Wing Shoes

Finally, I came to realize that all my working shoes have reached the end of their productive life. The heels are worn out, leather overly scratched, my feet start to hurt, and all signs I needed new pairs. While I was looking through arrays of RTW shoes in a fancy mall, I heard a guy bragging to his friend about a pair of shoe he bought from a friend that was made of an old airplane tire. They caught my attention, so I snooped a little more to their conversation pretending I was busy eying on a popular overly-priced-brand shoe. I’m neither a spy nor has a supersonic hearing, so I only got some verbal cues like “Marikina”, “custom-made shoes”, “quality (matibay daw)”, and “locally made”. I like all I heard. And lucky me I was able to locate them instantly in Facebook and Instagram. Out of excitement, I immediately set an appointment on the next weekend.

I’ve known Marikina to be an institution in the shoe making industry, appropriately dubbed as shoemaking capital of the country. I lived in Marikina for quite some time while I was working in a government agency supporting the cottage industry (CITC) in Marikina. Marikenos are known for their ingenuity, their skills in shoemaking unparalleled. Believe me, they really know what they are doing. Quality was once the industry priority, but to survive the effect of globalization, these craftsmen tend to go the route of a more profitable business and went on mass production or import raw materials (or the finish product) which most often sacrifices quality. But against all odds, a guy started to stand for what is supposed to be right- to promote local custom-made quality shoes.

Buddy and his wife started Black Wing Shoes just a year ago. According to him, shoemaking was just experimental and not his main business -which is shoemaking supplies. He is responsible for all aspects of the shoe’s design and pattern, while the rest are done by his handful staff. His wife takes care of marketing and inquiries. I’ve asked him couple of questions as to why he ventured into this kind of business; his answers enthralled me so much so that I wasn’t able to put them in black and white.

The things that impressed me the most were his attention to details, his desire to explain what he can do, what he can’t, and what he thinks is best for you.  In his modest office, he painstakingly took my measurements of my toe, sole, instep and the heel. I am not a shoe or leather expert, so I was thankful that he proactively walked me through the different shoe designs they have and the materials they use. He also suggests the best material to use in the design you wanted. He also mentioned that they usually use old airplane tires for the shoe soles, which I was fascinated about.  They must be durable.

black wing shoe custom

loafer with an old airplane tire sole

You may bring the design you want, but don’t expect too much.  Apparently, they don’t have a shoe pattern for my 2nd boots design – a flat tip one. Buddy was frank enough as to what shoe pattern they can only do at this point, they specialized in Italian shoes, he explained. Don’t fret if you don’t have a design in mind, they have portfolio and sample of past projects you can choose from. I’m more into casual and comfortable shoes so I decided to order a driving penny loafer.  So I skipped the boots with another driving loafer without the side lace. It normally takes about 4 weeks to complete the project as they have a queue of orders to make. They have full trust with their clientele, so they don’t collect deposits for your orders, at least for now. Prices range from Php3000 to Php4500, pretty affordable for bespoke quality shoes.

These are what I ordered:

order loafers

my picks (photo from Black Wing Shoes)

The custom-made shoe industry paved by the likes of Buddy should be worth patronizing. I’m not sure if Buddy and I have the same opinion but here are the reasons why we can’t go wrong with bespoke. Compared to factory made shoes, its benefit list is endless -you can customize your style, no issues with sizes, you can even embed your own logo or initials, local industry means jobs, and undeniably made by the hands of a craftsman and not a machine.

Groom Shoes with Initials

Groom Shoes with Initials – Courtesy of Black Wing Shoes

I feel that this post is inadequate in capturing and sharing all the good stuff about Buddy’s craft and business. I really love their business philosophy – something noble, 100% Filipino-made, definitely something to be proud of.  Once I received my orders, I promise I’ll make a full review including excerpts from the Owner.

They have Chukka Boots, Loafers, Oxfords, Brogues, Classic Boat shoes and what have you. These are some of what they offer. All photos courtesy of Black Wing Shoes Instagram/facebook.

Classic Boat Shoes

Loafers

Boots

Weaved Derby

Woven Derby

Woven Derby

Oxfords

oxford

oxford (photo from Black Wing Shoes)

 

 

If you have questions, you may contact Buddy on their Facebook account.

My love Affair with Farmers’ Market

Farmers Market

Farmers Market

Anyone who hates farmers’ markets may never be my friend.  Yes, visiting farmers’ markets is one of my ultimate sources of amusement.  For me, this place is a reliable source of fun and excitement.  How can someone be not fascinated with the buzz, the people (and our furry friends are welcome too), the variety of fresh produce, the smell of food, the festive feeling and the whole atmosphere?  That my friend is how I love Farmers Market, if it’s still not obvious yet why this blog was created.

Dallas Farmers Market

Dallas Farmers Market

In Manila, we also have some weekend/farmers market that operates just the same like the one in Salcedo, the Legaspi Sunday weekend market and the one in Eton, QC. I had a chance to visit 3 Farmers market in the US, just maybe a grain representation of Farmers Market in the country but enough for me to observe as a visitor.  I visited 2 in Dallas (Downtown Dallas, Whiterock Lake Farmers Market and Fort Mason in San Fran). Imagine my excitement comparable to a kid visiting Disneyland for the first time.

Fort Mason Center Farmers' Market

Fort Mason Center Farmers’ Market

So, I took a moment to note the things I like about it and why I became an avid Farmers Market fan.

  • Great Food. As you walk through the market, you’ll be greeted by the smell of roasted corn, baked cookies, hotdogs and what have you. Who doesn’t want free samples of freshly picked strawberries, blueberries, mangoes and the likes?
farmers' market food

farmers’ market food

  • Festive. You may bring your kids and pets and have it as a family bonding activity. There are usually special events for the kids like music and dancing, pet shows, face painting etc. They get to also meet new friends, excited to pet a dog or just learn something new. The market is usually set up outdoors, so you usually enjoy the good sunny weather while shopping.
Farmers Market Pets

Farmers Market Pets

family events

family events

  • Learning. There’s an opportunity for us to learn things like the importance of farming, nutrition/healthy living, social skills and entrepreneurship. It’s always good to know where our products came from and how well they were treated.  Were the animals free-ranged, from the wild, or were they fed organic food too?
farmers market

farmers market

  • Freshness. You can buy organic and healthy products like vegetables, pickles, honey, fruits and different artisan products. The produce are usually fresh from a local’s backyard or from just around the town. Although some produce maybe expensive because of some costs to farm organically, they’re usually in season so most are cheaper compared to imported/shipped produce.
local produce

local produce

  • Win-win. Good for the environment, good for you as a consumer, and good for the farmer and community.  So cutting down on chemicals is beneficial to the environment, while we are consuming healthy, fresh and safe food.  Purchasing in a farmers market helps the farmers business sustainability, and eventually contributes to the local economy.
local farmers market/ whiterock lake

local farmers market/ whiterock lake

Dallas and Whiterock Lake Farmers’ Market

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Port Mason/Bay Area Farmers’ Market 

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Supporting the Farmers Market  is good for us, for our health, for the farmers and the community.  I tell you, it’s way better to shop here than in the big groceries.  Don’t miss the fun- visit your local farmer’s market today! We have a couple of them on weekends here in Metro Manila.